A division bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday stayed its order directing the Chennai Corporation to exhume the body of Dr Simon Hercules, who had succumbed to Covid-19 last year, from a burial ground at Velangudu and rebury it at a cemetery in Kilpauk, as requested by the family.
The bench comprising Justices M.M. Sundresh and R.N. Manjula passed the interim order on an appeal moved by the corporation against the single bench order of the court dated March 31.
The division bench said in its order, “The authorities are required to deal with much more serious issues than this during the second wave of the pandemic.”
It may be recalled that a single bench of Justice Abdul Quaddhose had on March 31 ordered to exhume the body of Simon Hercules following a petition filed by his widow, Anandhi Simon.
Justice Quaddhose had made it clear in the order that the dignity of the deceased should be maintained throughout the process.
The order stated, “The Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Central government and the WHO had made it clear that the infection would not be contracted from a dead body.”
With India not having a proper legislation on exhumation of bodies, Justice Quaddhose had after some research decided to rely on a statute of Ireland – the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act.
Quaddhose had said, “This court, after perusing and examining the safeguards adopted in Ireland for the purpose of exhumation, is of the considered view that till such time a legislation on exhumation comes in place in India, the same safeguards shall be followed while exhuming Dr Simon’s body.”
Simon Hercules was a neurosurgeon and MD of New Hope Medical Centre in Kilpauk who died of Covid-19 on April 19 last year. The locals had opposed the burial of the doctor’s body at the Kilpauk cemetery as they feared that it would spread the disease in the area.
The body was taken to a burial ground at Vellangadu where a mob had turned violent, resulting in damaging the ambulance in which the body was carried, and injuring the doctor who had driven the ambulance. Later, with the help of the police, the body was interred at Velliangadu.
His widow, Anandhi Simon, had requested the Chennai Corporation on April 25, 2020 to exhume his body and to bury it at the Kilpauk cemetery as per his last wish.
However, her plea was rejected by the corporation which had said that a committee of public health experts which it had constituted had advised it to not to permit reburial of the body to minimise risk to the public.