Recently, we have seen the lifeless bodies of Covid-19 patients being treated indecently and disposed of. This constitutes a serious violation of a person’s “right to die with dignity.” Instances like the throwing of a dead body into a pit for burial in Puducherry, reports of bodies piling up in hospitals and morgues in the capital, the lack of adequate crematoriums, and the discovery of nearly 200 unclaimed, uncounted, and unidentified bodies on the bank of the Ganga River all represent blatant and unacceptable violations of the right to die with dignity.
The rights of the dead are not specifically protected by legislation in India. However, the courts have emphasized numerous times that they must safeguard the respect and rights of the deceased. In the historic Parmanand Katara v. Union of India case from 1989, the Apex Court of India declared that a person’s right to life, fair treatment, and dignity extends not only to them while they are alive but also to their corpse. These rights are a result of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The dead now have enormous moral standing within our legal system thanks to the recognition of their posthumous legal rights. The goal of the legislation is to uphold a decedent’s desires and safeguard his interests.
Rights of a dead person under the Constitution of India
The Indian Constitution’s Preamble promises to uphold social fairness for all residents.
Through several judgments, the Supreme Court artistically demonstrated issues relating to human rights and dignity and heavily relied on Article 21 of the Constitution. No one “shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by the method prescribed by Law,” according to Article 21. Human rights, social justice, and dignity law are all founded on the Supreme Court’s progressive and dynamic interpretation of many key decisions.
Article 21 covers a lot more ground. Giving dead people the respect and dignity they were shown before their passing falls under the purview of this fundamental right.
According to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, the immediate family members of Covid-19 victims are allowed to conduct the funeral ceremonies of the deceased as long as they adhere to a few safety precautions. The close family and friends of a deceased person who has contracted Covid-19 should have the chance to see the deceased person’s remains and pay their respects to the soul who has passed on.
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Rights of a dead person under the Indian Penal Code
The Indian Penal Code’s Section 297 exempts from punishment any actions motivated by worldly or personal pride. A person charged with a violation of this provision may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term up to one year, a fine, or both. The right to a respectful burial is included in the scope and ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution, according to the Madras High Court, which recently made this observation in the instance of a doctor who had died from COVID-19 infection. The court also enforced and highlighted Section 297 of the IPC.
The Indian Penal Code’s Section 404 addresses dishonest misappropriation of a deceased person’s property. The goal of Section 404 of the IPC is to protect property that specifically needs to be protected when the person who can take care of it passes away, the person who is expected to take care of it passes away, and after the death of the aforementioned person, the person who must take care of the property is not present.
A person who is found guilty under section 404 of the IPC is subject to fines and imprisonment of either kind for a term that may not exceed three years. If the perpetrator was a clerk or other employee of the deceased, the term of imprisonment may be increased to seven years.
Section 499’s Explanation 1 explains that impugning anything to a deceased person may constitute defamation. The Indian Penal Code’s Section 499, which addresses defamation, also specifies that lying or slandering a deceased person also counts as defamation.
According to Section 503 Explanation, this section covers threats to harm the reputation of any deceased person in whose life the threatened party has an interest. Threats to harm the reputation of a loved one who has passed away are included in Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with criminal intimidation. Without genuine malice, ordinary intimidation cannot qualify as criminal intimidation.
It is impossible to classify verbal communication alone as illegal intimidation. Threats to harm the reputation of a loved one who has passed away are included in Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with criminal intimidation. It is impossible to classify verbal communication alone as illegal intimidation. Threats to harm the reputation of a loved one who has passed away are included in Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with criminal intimidation. Without genuine malice, ordinary intimidation cannot qualify as criminal intimidation. It is impossible to classify verbal communication alone as illegal intimidation.
Necrophilia is the term for a minority population’s sexual attraction or temptation toward the dead. This is categorized as paraphilia by the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association. Paraphilia is sometimes referred to as a deviation, an abnormal sexual attraction to unusual things, circumstances, etc.
In India, there are more cases of sexual offenses committed against corpses. One recent instance is the body of a 26-year-old woman from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, who was gang-raped and killed. The attackers removed her body from the grave, and it was discovered outside of it twenty feet away, naked. The serial killings in Noida in 2006 are another illustration of this. In this, a wealthy guy and a companion sexually assaulted some women’s and children’s dead bodies.
India lacks a clear regulation in this area despite all these horrifying cases. Although violators are held accountable under the Indian Penal Code Sections 297 (trespassing on corpses) and 377 (unnatural sex). It should be remembered that there are instances where women are murdered soon before passing away. These sections do not apply in such cases. Additionally, the severity of the punishment under the already-existing sections is quite low in comparison to the seriousness of these offenses. Therefore, India must enact particular legislation in this area.
The idea that deceased people have the right to rest and shouldn’t be disturbed in any way dates back to ancient times. This idea has been embraced by most civilizations, faiths, and cultures, and they all adhere to it. The right to a dignified life extends even after death. A person is guaranteed to be treated with respect at all times, including after death.