New Delhi, June 11: The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s letter highlighting news reports about the undignified treatment and disposal of the bodies of COVID-19 patients.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan has been assigned by the Chief Justice to examine the issue, The Hindu reported.

Mr. Kumar wrote that indignity shown to the dead amounts to a “grave infraction of the citizen’s right to die with dignity”.

Mr. Kumar, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, has said the fundamental right to die with dignity embraces the right to decent burial or cremation. He has referred to a recent report of an elderly patient in Madhya Pradesh who was ‘chained’ to a hospital bed.

“The tragic and condemnable sight of a COVID-19 patient being chained to a bed in a hospital in Madhya Pradesh and another sight in Puducherry of a body being thrown in a pit for burial have shocked the conscience of the Republic committed to human dignity under the Constitution, which recognises dignity as a core constitutional value at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of non-negotiable constitutional rights,” Mr. Kumar wrote in his letter addressed to the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court judges. He drew attention to reports of bodies of patients “piling up” in hospitals and mortuaries in the Capital.

“Notified protocols for cremation in the capital city, reported piling up of bodies in hospitals and mortuaries, non-availability of adequate cremation/burial grounds and the reported non-functioning of electric crematoriums constitute distressing and an unacceptable violation of right to die with dignity,” Mr. Kumar wrote.

The senior advocate reminded the apex court that it was its duty to enforce the law declared by it in past judgments. “It is requested that the court takes suo motu notice of the matter in view of the shocking infraction of the fundamental right to dignity,” the letter had urged the court.

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