Madras High Court’s Justice Anand Venkatesh said that it is a “sorry state of affairs that the caste factor does not seem to leave, even at the time of death.”

File image of Madras High Court
news Courts Sunday, October 24, 2021 - 10:12

The Madras High Court on Friday condemned the ‘loathsome practice’ that is prevalent in many villages in Tamil Nadu where persons belonging to marginalised communities are not allowed to access common burial grounds. As a result, persons from the marginalised sections are forced to cremate the dead in some other places, which are not even notified as burial grounds, the Madras High Court noted. Taking a firm stance on the caste discrimination during burials, Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court observed that “it is unfortunate that even during the time of death, the caste factor does not seem to leave the person. It attaches itself till the person is ultimately cremated (or buried),” the court observed, adding that “we live in a sorry state of affairs.”

Following this, the court directed the Tamil Nadu government to take stringent action against such inhuman practices. “Such a practice should be immediately stopped and everyone must be given an access to the burial ground irrespective of the caste or community to which they belong,” the order passed by the Madras High Court reads. The order adds that if the cremation is prevented by anyone on the ground and if the person (being cremated) belongs to a marginalised community, immediate action must be taken according to the law and such persons should be punished. 

The court in the order said that it expects that stringent action will be taken by the authorities across Tamil Nadu “whenever they find that the cremation of bodies is not allowed based on the caste.”

The judge also observed that according to Article 21 of the Constitution, a decent burial is a fundamental right. The authorities must take stringent action against persons who follow such inhuman practices in order to bring about a complete “revamp in the minds of the people.” 

The issue came to light after a plea moved by S Amirthavalli which sought a direction from the authorities to prevent burial of dead bodies on the road track which is the only access to her patta land in Eripetti village near Pollachi.

During the hearing, the court was informed that the land in question belonged to the Highways Department and that people belonging to a particular community in Eripetti village have been using it to bury their dead for the past 25 years, as they were not allowed to use the common burial or cremation ground used by the dominant community in the village.  Passing the order, the judge directed the local authorities to ensure that the cremation of bodies be permitted at the burial ground which is notified as a burial/cremation ground in Eripetti village, Pollachi, irrespective of the caste or creed to which the deceased may belong.

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