No, mass burials or cremations are not legal in India. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has upheld that the right to life, fair treatment and dignity, derived from the Constitution of India,1 is not only limited to living persons but also extends to their dead bodies.2 In response to several complaints about mishandling of dead bodies, the NHRC has issued an advisory notice to the Central and State governments to protect the rights and dignity of the dead3.
The NHRC also gave 11 recommendations to be implemented by the authorities for the handling of dead bodies with dignity. One of these recommendations specifically states that mass burial or cremations should not be allowed to take place, as they violate the right to dignity of the dead. Courts have also held that disposal of human bodies, whether by burial or cremation, should be done with due respect and solemnity.4
- Article 21, Constitution of India 1950.
- armanand Katara v Union of India, 1989 AIR 2039.
- Sparsh Upadhaya, ‘COVID Affected Dead Bodies’ Mishandling: "Duty Of The State Is To Protect Rights Of The Deceased": NHRC To Centre, State Govts’, LiveLaw, 14 May 2021, accessed at: https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/covid-affected-dead-bodies-mishandling-duty-of-the-state-is-to-protect-rights-of-the-deceased-nhrc-to-centre-state-govts-174159.
- Vineet Ruia Vs The Principal Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal & ors., WP. 5479 of 2020.
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