The Bombay High Court on Friday said the Mumbai civic corporation has power to designate any cemetery or burial ground for disposal of bodies of COVID-19 victims and noted there was no scientific study to show that the novel coronavirus spreads through cadavers.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde made the observations while dismissing a bunch of petitions challenging an April 9 circular issued by the BMC designating 20 burial grounds and cemeteries here for disposing of bodies of persons who died due to COVID-19.
The court noted that the circular issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was in consonance with law and the civic agency had all authority and power to designate burial grounds and cemeteries to dispose of bodies of such patients.
The bench added the corporation and other authorities concerned shall have to follow the guidelines prescribed by the Government of India and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for safe disposal of bodies infected with COVID-19.
There is no scientific data to show that COVID-19 can spread through a dead body, the bench said while dismissing the petitions.
On one petition filed by a suburban Bandra resident, Pradeep Gandhy, challenging the BMC's decision to bury COVID- 19 infected bodies at the Bandra Kabrastan (burial ground), the court said this was a fit case to impose exemplary cost on the petitioner but it was refraining from doing so considering the ongoing pandemic.
The BMC had earlier this week told the court in an affidavit that the coronavirus does not spread through corpses and that it was scrupulously following the guidelines prescribed for disposal of such bodies.
Advocate Pratap Nimbalkar, appearing for Bandra Kabrastantrustees, had also opposed Mr Gandhy's plea and argued that due diligence is carried out before disposing of bodies and the petitioners have not set out any scientific reasoning to show the virus spreads through dead bodies.
Mr Nimbalkar had cited a March 15 notification issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Affairs on guidelines on COVID-19 dead body management which say that transmission of the viral infection is through droplets.
The notification says that there is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID-19 infection from a dead body to anyone if standard precautions are followed while disposal, Mr Nimbalkar had argued.