The Madras High Court has asked Tamil Nadu government to ensure that the COVID-19 victims get a dignified burial. Tamil Nadu government has made prevention of funeral rites for victims of "notified diseases", which includes COVID-19, a punishable offence.
As per the fresh ordinance, any move to prevent the burial or cremation of a coronavirus victim could lead to upto 3 years of jail along with a hefty fine to the state. This is now specified under the Section 74 of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act of 1939.
The move comes in response to the public protests against the burial of two doctors who died due to COVID-19 in Chennai recently. In one of the incidents, the agitators attacked the health workers and civic body staff. The protests arose due to fear of contracting the virus.
These attacks on the health officials and the obstructions in their funeral rites further led to the IMA demanding ordinance and security for the health officials from the government.
Earlier in April, a controversy had erupted after the swab test result of a 70 year old man two days after his burial, came positive for COVID-19. The relatives expressed concern over not having taken adequate precautions during the burial, alleging unawareness about the likelihood of the virus being the reason for the man's death.
After this over a 100 people who attended his funeral were home quarantined.
On April 19, the burial of a neurosurgeon, Dr Simon Hercules was obstructed when a mob threw bricks, stones, bottles and sticks when his body was being taken to the cemetery and chased them despite the presence of police. Two ambulance drivers and few health officials were injured.
The burial had to be performed by a fellow doctor and two ward boys as the undertakers fled after the mob protest. Dr K Pradeep Kumar, an orthopaedic surgeon told NDTV, "The policemen were reluctant to help as they did not have PPE. It's understandable. None of us knew how to operate an earth mower. The ward boys and I did the whole thing. I buried him with my own hands using the shovel there."
Chief Minister E Palani Swami had announced a ₹50 lakh compensation for those who died while battling the disease and assured them a dignified funeral. In light of that incident, Chennai police filed cases against 21 perpetrators.