The Madras High Court on Wednesday asked authorities in Chennai to exhume the body of a doctor who died of Covid-19 last year, and bury it at another cemetery of the city, The News Minute reported. The doctor was refused a proper burial after some locals shunted his corpse from two cemeteries due to fears of contracting the coronavirus.
A bench of Justice Abdul Quddhose said that the body of doctor Simon Hercules will be exhumed from the Velangadu cemetery and will be buried at the one in Kilpauk area of the city. The court gave the direction on a plea filed by Hercules’ wife, Anandi Simon, who demanded that her husband be buried with dignity.
A prominent neurosurgeon from Chennai, Hercules had died on April 19 after a two-week battle with Covid-19. Civic officials granted permission for his body to buried at a cemetery in Kilpauk area. But outside the graveyard, an angry crowd afraid of being infected by the virus forced the ambulance to turn away.
The ambulance turned towards a burial ground in Anna Nagar, where protesting locals not only blocked its path but also attacked it with sticks and stones. They broke the vehicle’s windows and injured the driver, a sanitation worker and a civic official, forcing everyone in the ambulance to abandon the body for a while and seek safety.
Late into night, three of Hercules’ colleagues, dressed in complete protective gear, returned to the cemetery with a police escort and buried the doctor themselves. With just one shovel between them, they had to use their bare hands to dig the grave.
The police arrested 22 people for the violence and everyone from health workers to political leaders had expressed shock and anger at the incident.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the Madras High Court said that the death of the doctor was shocking, an incident that had “given a go-by to all human values”, according to NDTV.
The court gave instructions for conducting the exhumation process. It said that all coronavirus protocols will be followed by the authorities while shifting the body and during the religious ceremonies performed by the doctor’s family.
A health officer nominated by the Greater Chennai Corporation shall be present to supervise the exhumation. Sufficient police protection will be provided, both at Velangadu burial ground and Kilpauk Cemetery, to ensure everything goes smoothly, the judge added.
The High Court also noted that the exhumation should start as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy. “Screens should be placed around the existing grave/burial plot to protect the exhumation from public view and to guarantee privacy,” it added. “Workers must treat the neighbouring burial plots with care.”
Disinfectants and disposable protective clothing, including respiratory face masks, must be made available to the workers, the court said.