A 55-year-old neurosurgeon, Dr Simon Hercules, was the first Doctor victim of COVID-19; he breathed his last at Apollo Hospital, Vanagaram, Chennai on April 19. His family, after taking over the body in the night around 9 pm, planned to bury the victim at TP Chatram Christian cemetery in Kilpauk. As per protocol, a JCB was engaged in digging a 12-foot-deep pit to bury the body. Hearing the sound, hundreds of anti-social elements armed with sticks and stones attacked them, leaving the corporation staff and ambulance drivers bleeding. Dr K Pradeep Kumar, a friend and colleague of Simon accompanied the body. According to Dr Pradeep, corporation officials had run away because of the attack and his ambulance was then diverted to the Velangadu cemetery to avoid any disputes. He along with two ward boys managed to bury the body at Velangadu Hindu burial ground. Wife Anandhi Simon, in a video message, said that it was his last wish to be buried at the Kilpauk cemetery. “We had obtained permission to bury him at the Kilpauk cemetery, but he was buried in Velangadu due to a few incidents. We could not witness his burial. He has been buried in a sealed casket and this can be shifted to the Kilpauk cemetery. It will not create any trouble for anyone,” she said. “It was his last wish to be buried as per our rituals. Please fulfil his last wish,” she appealed to the Chief Minister. The mortal remains of Dr Simon Hercules cannot be exhumed and reburied in the Kilpauk cemetery due to safety reasons and according to the advice of the expert committee, transferring the body of someone who had been affected with COVID-19 was not deemed safe,” the Greater City Corporation statement said. CM Edapadi Palaniswamy immediately announced Rs 50 lakh relief to the families of doctors, nurses, policemen, or sanitation workers in the event of their death fighting Covid-19. Anandhi Simon filed a case in Madras High Court pleading to shift the mortal remains of Simon from Velangadu Hindu burial ground to TP Chatram Christian cemetary. Allowing her writ petition, Justice Abdul Quddhose directed the officials to exhume the mortal remains from Velangadu burial ground and re-bury it at the Kilpauk Cemetery. Look beyond the letter of the Law, your honour! Justice Abdul Quddhose of Madras HC has ordered the Chennai City Corporation to exhume the body of Dr.Simon Hercules, who died of Covid on April 19 last year; it revealed that the Bench has failed to appreciate the ground reality prevailing during Pandemic. Then the nation was passing through a very difficult situation caused by lack of health infrastructure, PPEs, medicos/paramedics, even while the influx of cases and deaths soared. In fact, unconfirmed news say, it was not the people around the Kilapuk cemetery who resisted, but the cemetery authorities. Unlike late Dr.Simon, two of his peers who died while really treating the Covid 19 patients were cremated under resistance from locals near the cremation ground. In fact the state govt was very generous to grant Rs 50 lakhs, while his peers were not that fortunate. Thousands who died of the deadly decease were cremated / buried by the local govt authorities only. Many of the kith and kin were never allowed to have a look at the bodies. In many cases the proper customary rituals would not have been followed. How would the HC act if some of the affected approach the bench with similar plea/petition? HC should have rejected the petition , reminding their social responsibility and how fortunate petitioner was. The minorities in India should appreciate how fortunate they are. Srilanka passed an order, during the pandemic, irrespective of their faiths all Covid 19 deaths should be cremated only. Even in US and many European countries resorted to “mass” burial without proper rituals. Actually the New York administration arranged mass burial elsewhere in an island due to space/practical constraints in the cemeteries. Yesterday’s HC ruling should have looked beyond the letter of the Law. Hope the Chennai Corporation will look into all legal possibilities to avoid the opening ofa Pandora’s box. Hope the deceased doctor’s family having won the case, keeping the generosity of the govt in mind, perform the rituals without exhuming the body.
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