MOHAMMAD LATIEF MAGREY VERSUS THE UNION TERRITORY OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR & ORS.

MOHAMMAD LATIEF MAGREY VERSUS   THE UNION TERRITORY OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR & ORS.

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6544 OF 2022
   (@ SLP (C) NO.12743 OF 2022) 
MOHAMMAD LATIEF MAGREY  …..APPELLANT
VERSUS  
THE UNION TERRITORY OF  …..RESPONDENTS
JAMMU AND KASHMIR & ORS. 
J U D G M E N T
J.B. PARDIWALA, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. “The dead are to rest where they have been lain unless reason
of substance is brought forward for disturbing their repose.”
­ Justice Cardozo 
Yome v. Gorman, 152 N.E. 126, 129 (N.Y. 1926).
1
3.     The   leading   case   on   disinterment   in   the   United   States   is
Pettigrew   v.   Pettigrew,   56   A.   878   (Pa.   1904)   which   was
decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1904:
“The   presumption   is   against   a   change.   The
imprecation on the tomb at Stratford, “Curst be he
that moves my bones,” whether it be Shakespeare’s
own   or   some   reverent   friend’s,   expresses   the
universal sentiment of humanity, not only against
profanation,   but   even   disturbance.   When   a   case
comes   into   court,   the   chancellor   will   regard   this
sentiment,   and   consider   all   the   circumstances   in
that connection.”
4. This appeal is at the instance of the original writ applicant
(father of the deceased, whose son, namely, Mohd. Amir Magrey
was killed in an encounter between the police and militants)
and is directed against the judgment and order passed by the
High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Srinagar in
Union Territory of J & K and Others v. Mohammad Latief
Magrey and Another, 2022 SCC OnLine J&K 516 (the Letters
Patent Appeal No. 99 of 2022 dated 01.07.2022) by which the
Appeal Court modified the judgment and order passed by the
learned   Single   Judge   of   the   High   Court   in
Mohammad Latief Magrey v.   Union   of   India   and   Others,
2
2022 SCC OnLine J&K 433 (the Writ Petition (C) No. 11 of 2022
decided   on   27.05.2022)   &   thereby   permitted   the   appellant
herein and his family members (maximum up to 10 persons) to
perform   the   Fatiha   Khawani   (religious   rituals/prayers   after
burial) of the deceased at the graveyard while declining to grant
permission to disinter the body of the deceased for the purpose
of religious rituals. 
Factual Matrix
5. It appears from the materials on record that on 15.11.2021,
there was an encounter between the militants and police at
the Hyderpora area of Budgam in Kashmir. Four militants
were shot dead including the son of the appellant herein. In
connection with the said incident, a First Information Report
No. 193/2021 was registered at the Saddar Police Station for
the offences punishable under Sections 307/120­B IPC, 7/27
of the Arms Act and 16, 18, 20 resply of the ULA (P) Act.
During the course of the investigation, the Investigating Officer
recovered four bullet ridden unidentified dead bodies at the
site of the encounter. The dead bodies were shifted to the
3
Police Hospital at Srinagar for the medico­legal formalities.
After conducting the post­mortem etc., the dead bodies were
identified as that of a foreign terrorist viz. Bilal Bhai @ Hyder
@ Saqlain R/O Pakistan, Aamir Latief Magrey S/O Mohammad
Latief   Magrey   R/O   Seeripora   Tehsil   Gool   Ramban,   Altaf
Ahmad   Bhat   S/O   Abdul   Rehman   Bhat   R/O   Old   Barzulla
Srinagar   and   Dr.   Mudasir   Gull   S/O   Ghulam   Mohammad
Rather R/O Parraypora Srinagar. All the four dead bodies were
shifted to the Handwara Zachaldara for burial. 
6. The material on record further reveals that the bodies of the
two out of the four persons killed in the encounter were later
exhumed and handed over to their relatives for performing
their last rites at the place of their choice. The bodies of the
other two persons killed in the encounter i.e. Bilal Bhai @
Hyder and the son of the appellant herein buried through the
Auqaf Committee, Wadder Payeen were not disinterred and
handed over to their respective family members. 
7. It appears that so far as the deceased, namely, Bilal Bhai, a
resident of Pakistan is concerned, nobody claimed his body
4
nor was there any demand for handing over of the dead body
from any quarter. However, it is the case of the appellant
herein   that   so   far   as   the   dead   body   of   his   son   Amir   is
concerned,   he   had   approached   various   authorities   with   a
request to hand over the body but none listened to him and
ultimately the body of his son (deceased) was buried at the
Wadder Payeen Graveyard. It is his case that he was informed
by the Police Station at Gool on 16.11.2021 that his son Amir
had   been   killed   in   an   encounter   in   Kashmir   and   that   he
should   proceed   to   Kashmir   to   identify   the   body.   On
16.11.2021,   the   appellant   along   with   his   family   members
reached the Police Station at Saddar, where he was told that
his son Amir Magrey was a militant and was killed along with
three other associates at the Hyderpora and the dead body of
Amir had been buried. 
8. In such circumstances referred to above, the appellant herein
preferred the Writ Petition (C) No. 11 of 2022 in the High Court
and prayed for the following relief: 
“In view   of  the  submissions  made  herein  above  and
those to be urged at the time of hearing, this Hon’ble
5
Court is humbly requested to direct the respondents to
handover the body of Late Mohammad Amir Magray,
who   was   killed   in   a   joint   encounter   by   them   on
15.11.2021 at Hyderpora area of Budgam in Kashmir to
the petitioner who happens to be his biological father on
the facts and grounds mentioned above.”
9. A learned Single Judge of the High Court adjudicated the writ
application and allowed the same directing the respondents
herein to make necessary arrangements for the disinterment
of the body/remains of the deceased Amir Magrey from the
Wadder Payeen Graveyard in the presence of the appellant
herein. 
10. The learned Single Judge while allowing the writ application
filed by the appellant herein, held as under:  
“15. The right of the next of kin of the deceased to have
their dear one cremated or buried as per the religious
obligations   and   religious   belief   that   the   dead   person
professed during his life time, is part and parcel of right
to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of
India. The parents and close relations of the deceased
are well within their right to demand the dead body
of their dear one to be cremated or buried as per their
traditions, religious obligations and religious belief. This
right would also include the choice of the relatives to
have the dead body cremated or buried at his native
place. It is not uncommon that the graves of the dead
are maintained by their relatives and are visited by their
relations and close friends to pay respect and homage
on certain occasions.
6
16. Without dilating much on the issue, it can be said to
be well settled that right to life and liberty guaranteed to
a   citizen   by   Article   21   of the   Constitution   of
India includes   right   of the   citizen   to   live   with   human
dignity and this right to live with human dignity even
extends after death though in a limited extent. Viewed
thus, the right of the petitioner to claim the dead body
of his son for performing last rites in his own way and
in accordance with local traditions, religious obligations
and   religious   faith,   which   the   deceased   professed
during his life time, cannot be disputed. But the question
that needs to be addressed in the context of present
controversy is whether the State can deny this right in
the name of preventing law and order situation going
out of hand.
17. It is vehemently contended by the respondents that
the decision not to hand over the body of the deceased
to the petitioner for performing his last rites, was taken
in the larger public interest and to prevent the situation
of law and order going out of hand. It is submitted that
respondents have witnessed such situations in the past
and, therefore, have decided not to handover the dead
bodies of the terrorists killed in encounters to their next
of kin for cremation or burial to prevent the law and
order   situation   getting   worsened.   The   respondents,
however, have not come clear as to why the dead bodies
of two of the four killed in the encounter, namely, Altaf
Ahmad Bhat and Dr. Mudasir Gul were exhumed and
handed over to their relatives for their last rites in the
graveyards   of their   choice   and   why   the   similar   right
claimed by the petitioner was denied. The respondents
have tried to draw distinction by submitting that as per
the investigation conducted by the SIT, the deceased
son of the petitioner was a confirmed terrorist whereas
the other two killed, namely, Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr.
Mudasir Gul were only associates of the terrorists. I do
not find any logic or sense in distinction so made by the
7
respondents. It transpires that due to public pressure
and   demand   by   the   relatives   of the   two   deceased
namely, Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr. Mudasir Gul, the
respondents relented and permitted their dead bodies to
be exhumed and handed over to their relatives. Since
the petitioner was a resident of Gool, a remote village in
Jammu Province and did not much say in the Valley
and, therefore, his request was arbitrarily turned down.
The action of the respondents is not traceable to any
procedure established by law which is just, fair and
equitable. At least none was brought to the notice of this
Court. The decision of the respondents not to allow the
petitioner   to   take   away   dead   body   of his   son   to   his
native village for last rites was per­se arbitrary and falls
foul of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
18. Much has been said by the respondents with regard
to the status of the body lying buried since 15.11.2021.
While it cannot be disputed that the body of Amir Latief
Magrey buried   on   15.11.2021   in   Wadder   Payeen
Graveyard may have putrefied by now but that alone
cannot be a reason not to handover the remains of the
dead body to the petitioner who is clamoring at the top
of his voice to get even the remains of the dead body
of his   son   so   that   he   could   bury   him   in   his   native
graveyard   in   the   presence   of relatives   and   after
following   all   religious   obligations.   The   apprehension
of law and order getting vitiated at this point of time
also appears to be illusory. When the respondents could
maintain the law and order situation when the dead
bodies   of two,   namely,   Altaf   Ahmad   Bhat   and   Dr.
Mudasir Gul were exhumed and handed over to their
relatives for last rites on 18.11.2021, it is not difficult for
the respondents to make necessary arrangements for
exhumation of the dead body of Amir Latief Magrey, the
son of the petitioner and transport the same in proper
escort to Village Thatharka Seripora Tehsil Gool District
Ramban.   The   respondents   can   make   appropriate
arrangements to ensure that law and order situation
8
does not get vitiated in any manner. The petitioner, as is
fervently contended by his counsel, is even ready to
undertake   that   he   will   abide   by   all   the   terms   and
conditions   that   may   be   imposed   by   the   respondents
with   regard   to   exhumation,   transportation   and
according of burial to the dead body.”
11. The learned Single Judge issued the final directions in para
19, which reads thus: 
“19. For the foregoing reasons, I am inclined to allow
this petition of the father of the deceased Amir Latief
Magrey   and   direct   the   respondents   to   make
arrangements for exhumation of the body/remains of
the   deceased   Amir   Latief   Magrey from   the   Wadder
Payeen   graveyard   in   presence   of the   petitioner.   The
respondents shall also make appropriate arrangement
for transportation of the dead body to the village of the
petitioner for according burial in his native graveyard in
accordance with the traditions, religious obligations and
religious faith which the deceased professed during his
life   time   provided   it   is   in   deliverable   state.   The
respondents are free to impose any reasonable terms
and conditions in respect of exhumation, transportation
and burial of the dead body of Amir Latief Magrey, the
son   of the   petitioner.   Since   the   dead   body   of the
deceased must be in advance stage of putrefaction, as
such, it would be desirable that the respondents act
with promptitude and do not waste any further time.
However, if the body is highly putrefied and is not in
deliverable state or is likely to pose risk to public health
and hygiene, the petitioner and his close relatives shall
be allowed to perform last rites as per their tradition
and religious belief in the Wadder Payeen graveyard
itself.   In   that   situation,   the   State   shall   pay   to   the
petitioner a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for deprivation
of his right to have the dead body of his son and give
him   decent   burial   as   per   family   traditions,   religious
9
obligations   and   faith   which   the   deceased   professed
when he was alive.”
12. Thus, the learned Single Judge addressed himself essentially on
the following issues: 
a. The State could not have denied the right of the appellant
to claim the dead body of his son for performing the last
rites in accordance with his religious faith on the ground
of likelihood of disturbance of public order. According to
the learned Single Judge, such right as asserted by the
father is enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
b. Why   the   dead   bodies   out   of   the   four   killed   in   the
encounter were permitted to be exhumed and handed
over to their relatives for their last rites?
c.  The action on the part of the respondents in not allowing
the appellant to take away the dead body of his son to his
native village was violative of Article 14 & 21 resply of the
Constitution. 
10
13. The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and others being
dissatisfied and aggrieved with the aforesaid order passed by
the learned Single Judge of the High Court challenged the
same by filing the Letters Patent Appeal No. 99 of 2022. The
Appeal Court disposed of the appeal holding as under: 
“15. Learned   Advocate   General   while   making   his
submission   in   line   with   the   contentions   raised   and
grounds   urged   would   contend   that   the   impugned
judgment is not legally sound and that writ petitioner
was   not   entitled   to   any   of   the   reliefs   prayed   in   the
petition including the reliefs sought now. According to
the learned Advocate General, the writ court misdirected
itself   while   considering   the   controversy   and   did   not
consider the matter in its right and correct perspective,
warranting   as   such,   setting   aside   of   the   impugned
judgment   and   dismissal   of   the   petition.   The   learned
Advocate General, however, would fairly contend that
having regard to facts and circumstances of the case,
respondent   no.   1   and   his   family   members   can   be
allowed   to   perform Fatiha   Khawani (prayers   after
burial) at the grave of the deceased subject to security
measures as may be required to be put in place by
appellants,   as   according   to   him,   the   last   rites   of
deceased had been performed as per Islamic Religious
practices by giving a washing/cleaning of dead body,
shrouding/systematic wrapping of the body with two
white pieces of cloth, covering the whole body followed
by Janaza prayers   and   consequent   burial   of   the
deceased  in the  grave,  reciting verses  from  the Holy
Book Quran.
16. Learned counsel for writ petitioner/respondent no.
1, however, would controvert the contentions raised and
grounds urged by learned Advocate General inasmuch
11
as   the   aforesaid   offer   made   by   learned   Advocate
General, and would insist for exhumation of the body of
the deceased for performance of last rites by the writ
petitioner/respondent no. 1 herein.
17. In view of giving up of the relief of exhumation of the
body of the deceased for performance of last rituals by
writ petitioner/respondent no. 1 before the Apex Court
inasmuch   as   in   view   of   uncontroverted/unopposed
stand taken by appellants before the Writ Court, that
last rites of deceased stand already performed while
burying   deceased   at   Wadder   Payeen   Graveyard,   the
contention of the counsel for respondent no. 1 in fact
pales into insignificance and is not acceptable.
18. The prayer of counsel for respondent no. 1 made
during the course of arguments that respondent no. 1
and his family members be permitted to see the face of
deceased by opening the grave of the deceased, cannot
be accepted and permitted, firstly, in view of pleading of
writ   petitioner   that   the   dead   body   would   start
decomposing immediately after burial, and secondly in
view of the statement made by the writ petitioner before
the Apex Court while giving up the prayer of exhumation
of the dead body of the deceased.
19. The   aforesaid   offer   made   by   learned   Advocate
General seemingly is fair and reasonable in the facts
and circumstances of the present case.
20. Insofar as alternative relief, pressed by respondent
no.   1   before   the   Apex   Court   qua   payment   of
compensation   as   granted   by   the   Writ   Court   is
concerned, it needs to be appreciated that appellants
admittedly did not provide opportunity to respondent no.
1   and   his   family   to   associate   in   the   burial   and
performance   of   last   religious   rites   of   the   deceased.
Appellants prima facie have acted unfairly inasmuch as
unreasonably   in   this   regard   notwithstanding   the
allegation of appellants that person of deceased was a
12
terrorist even if it may be assumed, as such, that the
deceased   relinquished   his   right   to   be   buried   after
performance   of   last   rites   performed   by   his   family
members in accordance with the faith professed by him,
yet   the   said   right   of   burial   and   performance   of   last
religious rituals of deceased available to respondent no.
1 and his family members could not have been denied.
Admittedly, respondent no. 1 and his family manifestly
has   been   subjected   to   emotional   and   sentimental
melancholy. Respondent no. 1 and his family have been
deprived by appellants of the right to perform last rites
and rituals of deceased by the appellants admittedly
without   there   being   any   policy/guideline,   as   such
cannot be endorsed in law, in that, ours is a Welfare
State acknowledged by the whole globe. The appellants
herein also could not have overlooked the background of
the family of respondent no. 1 and his family's role in
fighting terrorism. The Writ Court having regard to the
aforesaid   position   has   rightly   awarded   the
compensation   to   the   respondent   no.   1   for   such
deprivation   and   the   award   of   said   compensation
seemingly is appropriate.”
14. The Appeal Court issued the following directions in para 21, as
under: 
“21. For all what has been observed, considered and
analysed above, and having regard to the peculiar facts
and   circumstances   of   the   present   case,   the   instant
appeal is disposed of as follows:
(i) Appellants to allow respondent no. 1 and his family
members (maximum 10 persons) to perform Fatiha
Khawani (religious   rituals/prayers   after   burial)   of
deceased   at   Wadder   Payeen   Graveyard,   on   the
date and time to be decided in consultation with
respondent   no.   1,   subject   to   taking   into   account
13
security measures which may be required to be put
in place inasmuch as the COVID­19 guidelines.
(ii) Appellants to pay compensation of Rs. 5.00 Lakhs,
awarded by the Writ Court, to respondent no. 1 is
maintained. It is made clear that the payment of
said compensation by appellants to respondent no.
1 shall not form a precedence for future in view of
the   fact   that   the   said   compensation   stands
awarded to the writ petitioner/respondent no. 1 in
view of the peculiar facts and circumstances of the
instant case.”
15. Thus, from the aforesaid, it is evident that the Appeal Court
did not approve the decision of the learned Single Judge to
direct   the   respondents   herein   to   exhume   the   body   of   the
deceased and thereby permit the family members to shift and
bury at their native graveyard in accordance with the religious
practice. 
16. The appellant (father of the deceased) being dissatisfied with
the order passed by the High Court is here before us with the
present appeal invoking Article 136 of the Constitution. 
Submissions on behalf of the Appellant
17.  Mr. Anand Grover, the learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of the appellant, at the outset, submitted that he would
14
like   to   confine   his   prayer   to   the   extent   of   directing   the
respondents to disinter the body so as to enable the appellant
as   a   father   and   other   family   members   to   perform   the
prayers/rituals to their satisfaction. Mr. Grover submitted that
the body is now buried past almost more than eight months.
In such circumstances, the family members of the deceased
would not like to disturb the remains of the dead body and
once the prayers are offered, the body may be once again
buried. However, Mr. Grover clarified that the appellant would
like to wash the body with water and wrap it up with a new
white cloth. 
18. Mr. Grover further submitted that the Appeal Court ought not
to   have   disturbed   the   order   passed   by   the   learned   Single
Judge   directing   the   respondents   to   exhume   the   body.   He
would submit that the appellant as a father still believes that
his son was not a terrorist or a militant and was killed in a
fake encounter. Mr. Grover would submit that assuming for a
moment without admitting that the deceased was a militant,
the   police  should  have  handed  over  the  dead body  to  the
15
family members and could not have buried the body discreetly
at the Wadder Payeen Graveyard. 
19. The entire line of argument of Mr. Grover is that the appellant
has a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution
to perform the last rites of his dead son in accordance with the
rituals prevailing in Islam. The appellant as a father could not
have   been   deprived   of   such   fundamental   right.   He   would
submit that as the appellant was not permitted or rather given
an opportunity to perform the last rites of his dead son, there
is no other option but to pray for exhumation of the dead
body. 
20. In support of his aforesaid submissions, Mr. Grover seeks to
rely upon the following decisions: 
(1) Pt.  Parmanand  Katara,  Advocate  v.  Union  of  India,
(1995) 3 SCC 248, 
(2) S.   Sethu   Raja   v.   The   Chief   Secretary,  The   Chief
Secretary,   Government   of   Tamil   Nadu   and   Ors.,
WP(MD) No.3888 of 2007 decided on 28.08.2007, 
(3) Ramlila Maidan Incident, In Re, (2012) 5 SCC 1, 
16
(4) Jakir Sk. v. The State of West Bengal & Ors., 2017
SCC OnLine Cal 3354, 
(5) Vineet   Ruia   v.   Principal   Secretary,   Ministry   of
Health   and   Family   Welfare,   Government   of   West
Bengal, AIR 2020 Cal 308, 
(6) Ram   Sharan   Autyanuprasi   v.   Union   of   India,  AIR
1989 SC 549, 
(7) Ashray Adhikar  Abhiyan v. Union of  India, (2002) 2
SCC 27, 
(8) Pradeep Gandhy v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC
OnLine Bom 662.
21. In such circumstances referred to above, Mr. Grover prays
that there being merit in his appeal, the same may be allowed
and appropriate relief may be granted.
Submissions on behalf of the Respondents
22.  On the other hand, this appeal has been, vehemently, opposed
by Mr. Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad, the learned counsel
appearing for the respondents submitting that no error, not to
17
speak of any error of law could be said to have been committed
by the High Court in passing the impugned order. The learned
counsel would submit that the impugned order passed by the
High Court is a balanced order keeping all the relevant aspects
of the matter in mind, more particularly, the issues relating to
public order etc. and no interference is warranted at the end of
this Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 136 of the
Constitution. 
23. The learned counsel would submit that the appellant as a
father   of   the   deceased   cannot   assert   that   he   has   a
fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution to seek
exhumation of the body for the purpose of performing the
necessary rituals. 
24. The learned counsel invited the attention of this Court to the
averments made in the affidavit in reply filed for the purpose
of   opposing   the   present   appeal.   We   quote   the   relevant
averments, as under: 
“4. It is respectfully submitted that in the previous round
of before this Hon'ble Court in SLP(C) No. 10760 of 2022,
the Petitioner submitted that he does not press for the
relief   regarding   exhumation   and   handing   over   of   the
18
body remains of his deceased son. Relevant extract of
the   order   dated   27.06.2022   passed   by   this   Hon'ble
Court in SLP(C) No. 10760/2022 are reproduced herein
below:
"Learned counsel for the petitioner at the outset
states that he does not press for the first relief
granted   by   the   learned   Single   Judge   of   the
High Court regarding exhumation and handing
over of the body remains of his deceased son." 
5. Pursuant to the above, the Hon’ble High Court after
considering the said submission of the petitioner herein
passed the present Impugned Order. Relevant extract of
the Impugned Order dated 01.07.2022 passed by the
Hon’ble High Court is reproduced herein below:
"7. Indisputably, Respondent No. 1 herein has
given up first relief, granted by the Writ Court,
before the Apex Court as regards exhumation
and  handing  over  of   the   body­remain  of  his
deceased son. As such, the appearing counsel
for parties were heard on the rest of the reliefs
identified in the order of the Apex Court."
6. Further, the Hon’ble High Court whilst passing the
present   impugned   order   was   pleased   to   allow   the
petitioners herein and his family members (maximum 10
persons)   to   perform   Fatiha   Khawani   (religious
rituals/prayers after burial) of the deceased at Wadder
Payeen Graveyard, on the date and time to be decided
in consultations with respondent no. 1, subject to taking
into account security measures which may be required
to   be   put   in   place   in   as   much   as   the   COVID­19
guidelines. 
7. It is submitted that the respondent is agreeable to the
abovementioned   relief   granted   by   the   Hon'ble   High
Court   with   regards   to   performing   Fatiha   Khawani
(religious   rituals/prayers   after   burial)   subject   to
19
reasonable conditions being imposed by the concerned
District   Magistrate   in   the   interest   of   public   health,
security and maintenance of law and order.
8. It is humbly submitted that further relief sought by
the   Petitioner   before   this   Hon'ble   Court   regarding
exhumation of the body of the deceased and offering
prayer thereat is opposed by the answering respondent
authorities   on   the   ground   of   state   security,   law   and
order, public health & hygiene apart from the fact that
the same will open a floodgate of similar requests and
will raise serious security concerns and threat to public
order   and   health.   In   this   regard   detailed   averments
have   already   been   submitted   by   the   answering
respondent before single bench and Divisional Bench of
JK High Court. 
9. It is respectfully submitted that the deceased was a
hard core terrorist associated with a terrorist group and
was killed in an encounter with the security forces on
15.11.2021   along   with   Pakistan   based   terrorist   with
whom he was hatching different terror conspiracies. 
10.  That   pursuant   to   the   fierce   gun   battle/encounter
that led to killing of the deceased terrorist, authorities
have performed the last rites of the deceased as per his
religious beliefs and practices and buried the dead body
as per the religious customs. It is respectfully submitted
that the Hon'ble High Court has nowhere observed that
there   has   been   any   violation   of   practice   of   religious
customs during the last rites of the deceased.
11.  It is respectfully submitted that it has been more
than 8 months from the date of burial of the dead body
and as of now the same would have decomposed hence,
no purpose would suffice by exhuming the same as the
same may lead to adverse public health issues. This
factual   position   is   also   elaborately   admitted   by   the
petitioner  in  its  pleadings  as  well  before  the Hon'ble
High Court of J&K, Srinagar. 
20
12. That,   it   is   further   respectfully   submitted   that
pursuant to the encounter of terrorist namely Burhan
Wani, a disturbing trend of glorification of the deceased
terrorists   was   witnessed   in   the   valley   wherein   antinational emotions were stoked in the youth and they are
instigated against the Indian Republic to join various
terror   groups.   It   is   respectfully   submitted   that   in
exhuming the remains of the deceased, such emotions
may be flared and such activities shall be revived which
may lead to a further threat to national security and
glorification of terrorism.
13. It is respectfully submitted that the valley is affected
by   terror   activities   and   there   are   regular   gunbattle/encounters   between   the   security   forces   and
terrorists. Any direction of exhumation of the body will
lead to similar requests from the family of other killed
terrorists, which may adversely affect security of nation
and public order in the entire Union Territory of JK, as
mentioned   above   and   averments   already   submitted
before the Honourable High Court. 
14. Therefore, in light of the submissions made hereinabove,  it  is  respectfully  submitted  that  the prayer  of
exhumation of the mortals of the deceased may not be
granted   and   the   direction   of   allowing   the   petitioners
herein   and   family   (maximum   10   persons)   to   perform
Fatiha Khawani (religious rituals/prayers after burial) of
the deceased at Graveyard, on the date and time to be
decided in consultations with respondent no. 1, subject
to taking into account security measures which may be
required to be put in place in as much as the COVID­19
guidelines   may   be   allowed   and   the   present   Special
Leave Petition may be dismissed.”  [Emphasis supplied]
21
25. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned counsel
appearing   for   the   respondents   prayed   that   there   being   no
merit in this appeal, the same may be dismissed.
Analysis 
26. Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties
and having gone through the materials on record, the following
questions of law fall for the consideration of this Court: 
a. Whether the appellant (father of the deceased) can pray
for exhumation of the dead body of his son from the
graveyard asserting that it is his fundamental right as
enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution to perform
the last rites of his slained son?
b. Will it be in the fitness of the things, more particularly,
having regard to the fact that the body is now buried past
more than eight months to order, exhumation so as to
enable the appellant and his family members to perform
the rituals as followed in Islam?
c. Assuming for a moment that it is the fundamental right
of   the   father   under   Article   21   of   the   Constitution   to
22
perform the last rites and rituals of his son with dignity
before being buried in a graveyard, should this Court in
exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 136 (1) of the
Constitution disturb the impugned order passed by the
High Court at the risk & peril of public order, health etc.
and   grant   the   relief   of   exhumation   after   almost   nine
months?
d. Whether   the   High   Court   in   appeal   committed   any
substantial error in passing the impugned order?
Exhumation of Body
27. Exhumation involves opening up a grave (or occasionally a
vault) and removing the human remains already buried there.
Also known as ‘disinterment’, exhumation is controversial –
even if the intent is usually to rebury the displaced remains
elsewhere. Most societies and cultures that embrace burial as
a means of bodily disposal exhibit an entrenched reluctance to
disturb the dead’s earthly repose mainly for two reasons. The
first   is   public   health   concerns   around   the   potential
transmission of disease from the decaying corpses. Secondly,
23
and more fundamentally, exhumation offends the basic moral
premise of allowing the dead to ‘rest in peace’ and is generally
regarded as a forbidden or sacrilegious act. 
28. Ordinarily,  the  request  for exhumation  would  fall  into  two
broad categories: “public interest and personal reasons.”
29. The lawful authority for exhumation is contained in Section
176(3), CrPC, 1973. This activity is permitted for the purpose
of   crime   detection   and   other   such   pressing   situations.
Whenever   there   is   a   suspicion   of   foul   play   like   homicide,
criminal   abortion,   disputed   cause   of   death,   poisoning   etc.
exhumation   may   be   carried   out   for   the   purpose   of   postmortem examination. 
30. In   the   instant   case,   after   the   deceased   was   killed   in   the
Hyderpora encounter, the authorities performed the last rites
of the deceased with all dignity with the aid of the Auqaf
Committee   as   per   the   religious   beliefs   and   practices   and
buried him in J&K on 15.11.2021.
31. The stance of the State on oath is, that the dead body of
deceased was shifted and buried by the Auqaf Committee in
24
accordance with all the religious obligations at the Wadder
Payeen Graveyard, in presence of the Executive Magistrate,
Zachaldara. The last rites of the deceased had been performed
as   per   the   Islamic   Religious   practices   by   giving   a
wash/cleaning of dead body, shrouding/systematic wrapping
of the body with two white pieces of cloth, covering the whole
body followed by the Janaza prayers and consequent burial of
the deceased in the grave, reciting the verses from the Holy
Book Quaran. However, the appellant asserts that it was his
privilege to perform the last rites of his son as a father.
Scope of Articles 25 & 26 resply of the Constitution
32. In  Mohd.  Hamid  and  Another   v.  Badi  Masjid  Trust  and
Others, (2011) 13 SCC 61, this Court held that: 
“10.  …..Page 406 of Hanafi Law Relating to Wakf or
Trusts was also placed before the High Court and has
also been placed before us by the counsel appearing for
the respondents. Page 406 of the said law reveals a
fatwa   contained   in   Fatawa­e­Alamgiri   at   p.   556,   in
which it is stated under the heading “A burial ground”
in the following manner:
25
“When   a   body   has   been   buried   in   the   ground,
whether   for   a   long   or   short   time,   it   cannot   be
exhumed without some excuse. But it may lawfully
be exhumed when it appears that the land was
usurped, or another is entitled to it under a right of
pre­emption.”
xxx  xxx xxx
12. In this connection, we may also refer to the decision
of this Court in Gulam Abbas v. State of U.P. [(1984) 1
SCC 81 : 1984 SCC (Cri) 35] In the said decision, this
Court has considered the scope and ambit of Articles 25
and   26   of   the   Constitution   of   India   and   also   the
jurisdiction   of   this   Court   under   Article   32   of   the
Constitution of India. In the said decision, the question
which   arose   for   consideration   was   that   whether   two
graves   could   be   shifted   to   some   other   place   for   the
purpose of finding out some permanent solution to the
perennial problem of clashes between the two religious
communities.   While   dealing   with   the   aforesaid   issue,
this Court considered various fatwas issued by religious
heads,   namely,   Head   Muftis   and   Shahi   Imams   from
Delhi, Banaras and Patna stating the position of law for
shifting the graves under the Shariat law.
13. After   going   through   all   those   fatwas,   this   Court
in Gulam Abbas [(1984) 1 SCC 81 : 1984 SCC (Cri) 35]
found that: (SCC p. 86, para 6)
“6. … The common theme in all these fatwas is that
under the Shariat law respecting of graves is the
religious obligation of every Muslim, that shifting of
dead bodies after digging old graves in which they
are lying buried is not permissible and to do so
would amount to interference with their religious
rights.”
26
It was further found that such religious rights of every
person   and   every   religion   are,   however,   subject   to
“public order”, the maintenance whereof is paramount in
the larger interest of the society. It was also held that if
it becomes necessary to shift graves in certain situations
and exigencies of public order, the same would surely
provide   a   requisite   situation,   especially   as   the
fundamental   rights   under   Articles   25   and   26   are
expressly made subject to public order.”
    [Emphasis supplied]
33.   In  Gulam  Abbas  and  Others  v. State  of  U.P.  and  Others,
(1984) 1 SCC 81, this Court held that: 
“5. …..Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, on which
strong reliance was placed by counsel for the contesting
respondents representing the Sunni community in that
behalf,   undoubtedly   guarantee   (a)   to   all   persons
freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and
propagation   of   religion   and   (b)   to   every   religious
denomination or any section thereof freedom to manage
its   own   affairs   in   matters   of   religion   but   both   these
fundamental rights have been expressly made “subject
to public order, morality and health”. In other words, the
exercise of these fundamental rights is not absolute but
must yield or give way to maintenance of public order
and the impugned suggestion was mooted by the Court
and has now been found to be feasible by the Chairman
of the Committee in the larger interest of the society for
the   purpose   of   maintaining   public   order   on   every
occasion of the performance of their religious ceremonies
and functions by members of both the sects…..
6. Counsel   for   the   Sunnis   relied   upon   five   Fatwas
issued by their religious heads (Head Muftis and Shahi
Imams)   from   Delhi,   Banaras   and   Patna   stating   the
position under Sheriat Law. The common theme in all
these Fatwas is that under Sheriat Law respecting of
27
graves is the religious obligation of every Muslim, that
shifting of dead bodies after digging old graves in which
they are lying buried is not permissible and to do so
would amount to interference with their religious rights.
True, this position under Sheriat Law cannot be doubted
but   as   explained   earlier   the   religious   rights   of   every
person and every religious denomination are subject to
“public order”, the maintenance whereof is paramount in
the   larger   interest   of   the   society.   For   instance,   the
ecclesiastical edict or right not to disturb an interred
corpse   is   not   absolute   as   will   be   clear   from   Section
176(3)   of   Criminal   Procedure   Code   which   permits   its
exhumation for the purpose of crime detection and this
provision is applicable to all irrespective of the personal
law governing the dead. In fact, quoting a Hadit, one of
the Fatwas relied upon by the contesting respondents
states   “unnecessary   shifting   of   graves   is   also   not
permissible”…..”
      [Emphasis supplied]
34. In Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sangam and Others v.
Government of Tamil Nadu and Another, (2016) 2 SCC 725,
this Court held that:
“43. …..The rights guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26,
therefore,   are   circumscribed   and   are   to   be   enjoyed
within   constitutionally   permissible   parameters.  Often
occasions will arise when it may become necessary to
determine whether a belief or a practice claimed and
asserted is a fundamental part of the religious practice
of a group or denomination making such a claim before
embarking upon the required adjudication. A decision on
such claims becomes the duty of the constitutional court.
It is neither an easy nor an enviable task that the courts
are called to perform. Performance of such tasks is not
28
enjoined   in   the   court   by   virtue   of   any   ecclesiastical
jurisdiction conferred on it but in view of its role as the
constitutional   arbiter.   Any   apprehension   that   the
determination   by   the   court   of   an   essential   religious
practice   itself   negatives   the   freedoms   guaranteed   by
Articles   25   and   26   will   have   to   be   dispelled   on   the
touchstone of constitutional necessity. Without such a
determination   there   can   be   no   effective   adjudication
whether the claimed right is in conformity with public
order,   morality   and   health   and   in   accord   with   the
indisputable   and   unquestionable   notions   of   social
welfare   and   reforms.   A   just   balance   can   always   be
made by holding that the exercise of judicial power to
determine essential religious practices, though always
available   being   an   inherent   power   to   protect   the
guarantees   under   Articles   25   and   26,   the   exercise
thereof must always be restricted and restrained.”
       [Emphasis supplied]
35. Thus, from the aforesaid, it is evident that the religious rights
of every person and every religion are, however, subject to the
“public order”, the maintenance whereof is paramount in the
larger interest of the society. Both these fundamental rights
have been expressly made “subject to public order, morality
and health”. The exercise of these fundamental rights is not
absolute but must yield or give way to maintenance of public
order, morality and health.
29
Right to have a decent burial as enshrined under Article 21 of
the Constitution
36. In Pt. Parmanand Katara (supra), this Court observed that: 
“3.  …..right to dignity and fair treatment under Article
21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a
living man but also to his body after his death…..”
37. In Ashray Adhikar (supra), this Court held that: 
“1. ..…On the basis of that letter, an important question
as to the right of homeless deceased, to have a decent
burial, as per their religious belief and the corresponding
obligation   of   the   State   towards   such   people   having
arisen, the letter was treated as a writ petition and was
listed for hearing. The letter prayed for an intervention
by this Court and to issue necessary directions to all
those concerned, so that a person dying on the road,
can at least claim for a decent burial or cremation as a
person belonging to the society. On the basis of that
letter,   notices   have   been   issued.   The   Deputy
Commissioner   of   Police   (Headquarters)   has   filed   a
counter­affidavit, indicating the role of the police in such
matters. On behalf of Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Dr
Satpal,   Deputy  Municipal   Health  Officer   has   filed   an
affidavit, indicating therein that when a person dies on
the streets and the dead body remains unclaimed, it is
handed over to MCD by the Delhi Police and thereafter
the dead body is cremated at electric crematorium, Bela
Road by the Health Department of MCD, free of cost. In
case the dead body is that of a Muslim, then the same is
buried in a burial ground near Delhi Gate by the Waqf
Board   and   Municipal   Corporation   of   Delhi   bears   the
expenses. On behalf of the Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, a
rejoinder­affidavit was filed. In course of hearing, the
30
Court wanted from the petitioner, as to what guidelines
the petitioner wants from the Court and pursuant to the
same, the proposed guidelines were submitted by the
petitioner. On going through those guidelines, we find
that apart from claiming a decent burial, the proposed
guidelines   cover   a   vast   field,   which   we   apprehend,
would   not   come   within   the   purview   of   the   original
prayer.….”
38. In  Ram   Sharan   Autyanuprasi  (supra), this   Court   opined
that:
13. …..It is true that life in its expanded horizons today
includes all that give meaning to a man's life including
his tradition, culture and heritage and protection of that
heritage in its full measure would certainly come within
the compass of an expanded concept of Article 21 of the
Constitution. Yet, when one seeks relief for breach of
Article 21, one must confine oneself to some direct, overt
and tangible act which threatens the fullness of his life
or the lives of others in the community.”
39.  In Vineet Ruia (supra), the Calcutta High Court held that: 
“20. By and large, whether it is for a theist or atheist,
freedom of conscience and free profession and practice
of religion is protected under Clause (1) of Article 25 of
the Constitution. The term “religion” in that Clause need
not necessarily be linked to any particular religion as is
understood as a religious denomination. It is a matter of
faith and of one's own conscience which could trigger
the profession and practice of what may be religion in
the   larger   sense   to   a  particular   individual.   With   this
concept in mind, it needs to be delineated that it is not
the   religious   practices   of   the   different   religious
denominations which matter in such instances. It is a
31
matter of connectivity with the person who has died and
the   near   relatives   may   be   in   whatever   degree   of
relationship.   Fundamentally,   human   relationship
between   the   parent   and   child,   husband   and   wife,
grandparent and grandchild, etc. is not based on any
religious tenet. It is a matter of faith and conscience of
every individual. If such a person is to take recourse to
any practice and free profession on the foundation of
freedom of conscience in terms of Clause (1) of Article 25
of the Constitution of India, it could get abridged only by
the   reciprocal   covenant   that   such   activity   should   be
subject to public order, morality and health and to other
provisions   of   Part   III   of   the   Constitution.   This   is   the
inbuilt mode of controlling such activities even in terms
of Clause (1) of Article 25. The eligibility of a person to
perform the funeral rites, be it connected to cremation or
burial, may be sometimes guided by factors which may
be   akin   to   accepted   practice   even   in   religious
denominations. If we were to look at the varied practices
among   the   Hindus   as   a   whole   or   different
denominations of Hindus, one thing is clearly certain;
the   facility   to   provide   ritualistic   offerings   by   way   of
water,   flowers  or  even  certain  grains  are  quite  often
seen as fundamentally for the satisfaction of the person
making such offer to the dead before burial/cremation,
as   the   case   may   be.   Post   cremation   rites   including,
receiving the mortal remains in the form of ashes and
bones which are treated as sacred to the near relatives
of the departed and further handling of those materials
in accordance with faith and belief also stands accepted
in such communities (profitable reading in this regard
can be had from Garuda Purana, Vishnu Purana and
other ancient Hindu texts and scriptures). In so far as
Christians are concerned, if one were to look at different
denominations, it can be seen that there are practices,
which may with slight variations, generally provide for
prayers   before   the   dead   bodies   are   disposed   of   by
burial and by offering prayers even after disposal on
different   dates   and   times   depending   upon   the   faith,
belief and practice in different Churches. A perusal of
32
canons would show that different ritualistic processes
are delineated for such matters. We have mentioned it
only   to   indicate   that   there   are   different   practices
available.   In   so   far   as   the   Muslims   are   concerned,
whatever   be   the   difference   in   beliefs   and   practices
among the Hanafis, who are treated as a majority group
of Sunnis in India, on one hand, and the Shias on the
other hand, one clear thread of connectivity is the faith
and belief that the disposal of human remains is a must
as well as post Kabar (Burial) rituals (Certain passages
from   Al­Bahr­ur­Raiq   will   buttress   this   aspect).   The
family also intends to have its own practices carried
forward to the extent it relates to their faith and belief.
We refer to all these only to demonstrate that by and
large the Indian community always has the desire for
intricate   practices   in   the   form   of   rituals   with   the
participation of near relatives of a deceased, following
what   could   be   permissible   under   given
circumstances…..
xxx xxx xxx
23. …..the right of the family of a Covid­19 victim to
perform the last rites before the cremation/burial of the
deceased person is a right akin to Fundamental Right
within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of
India. While exercising their power to impose restrictions
on citizens in their way of life in the wake of outbreak of
an endemic like Covid­19, a fine balance must be struck
by the State and the local self­government institutions
so that the aforesaid right of a citizen to perform the
obsequies of his near and dear ones does not stand
abridged   or   abrogated   excepting   for   very   compelling
reasons…..”
      [Emphasis supplied]
33
40. In Anandhi Simon v. State of Tamil Nadu, Represented by
Chief  Secretary to  Government and Others,  (2021) 3 Mad
LJ 479, the Madras High Court held that:
“16. The protection of life and personal liberty which is
guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India
has been interpreted by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in
many cases. There are lot of rights which are included
in   Article   21   such   as   right   to   privacy,   right   against
solitary confinement, right to legal aid, right to speedy
trial etc. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in many cases has
also   observed   and   interpreted   that   right   to   have   a
decent   burial   is   also   included   in   Article   21   of   the
Constitution of India. The right to human dignity is not
restricted to living human being but is available even
after the death also…..
xxx xxx xxx
34. Insofar   as   the   exhumation   for   the   purpose   of
enabling the family members of the deceased to perform
their religious ceremonies and to bury the dead body at
an appropriate place of their choice is concerned, there
is a legislative vacuum. Even though under Section 176
Cr.P.C. and Section 174(1) Cr.P.C, the Magistrate and
the Officer­in­charge of the Police Station are having the
powers to order for exhumation, those cases do not deal
with the case on hand, where the buried person or his
family members are not involved in any criminal offence.
35.(d)   In Common   Cause v. Union   of   India reported
in (2008)   5   SCC   511,   the   Hon'ble   Supreme   Court
observed that if there is a buffer zone unoccupied by the
legislature   or   executive   which   is   detrimental   to   the
public interest, judiciary must occupy the field to subserve public interest.
34
36. The   case   on   hand   also   falls   under   the
aforementioned   category   where   there   is   a   legislative
vacuum.  There is no legislation in India dealing with
cases where family members seek for exhumation of the
dead body for the purpose of burying the same and for
performing the ceremonies in the place meant for their
religious faith.”
        [Emphasis supplied]
41. In  Pradeep   Gandhy  (supra), the Bombay High Court held
that: 
“38.  …..In the system of governance prevailing in our
country,   it   is   highly   unlikely   that   a   Governmental
decision   would   please   each   and   every   citizen.   While
dissent   on   valid   grounds   could   contribute   to   newer
developments   in   the   matter   of   framing   of   policies,
resentment of the nature put forth by the Petitioners in
WP­I leaves a bad taste in the mouth. We have found
the petitioners to be rather insensitive to others' feelings.
The founding fathers of the Constitution felt that the
people of India would strive to secure to all its citizens
FRATERNITY, assuring the dignity of an individual. That
is the preambular promise….. we find little reason to
deprive the dead of the last right, i.e., a decent burial
according to his/her religious rites…..”
42. In S. Sethu Raja (supra), the Madras High Court held that:
“18. The fundamental right to life and personal liberty
guaranteed   under   Article   21   of   the   Constitution   has
been   given   an   expanded   meaning   by   Judicial
pronouncements.   The   right   to   life   has   been   held   to
include   the   right   to   live   with   human   dignity.   By   our
tradition and culture, the same human dignity (if not
more), with which a living human being is expected to be
35
treated, should also be extended to a person who is
dead. The right to accord a decent burial or cremation to
the dead body of a person, should be taken to be part of
the right to such human dignity...”
43. In Vikash Chandra @ Guddu Baba v. The Union of India &
Ors., 2008 SCC OnLine Pat 905 : (2008) 2 PLJR 127, the
Patna High Court held that: 
“5. …..It   is   expected   that   Patna   Medical   College   &
Hospital Officials or the State Officials will see to it that
the disposal of unclaimed and unidentified dead bodies
are done in accordance with law with utmost respect to
the dead and in case it is verifiable the last rites may be
in accordance with known faith of the deceased.”
44. In  Ramji   Singh   @  Mujeeb   Bhai   v.   State   of   U.P.  &   Ors.,
(2009) 5 All LJ 376, the Allahabad High Court held that: 
“17. We thus find that the word and expression ‘person’
in Art 21, would include a dead person in a limited
sense and that his rights to his life which includes his
right to live with human dignity, to have an extended
meaning to treat his dead body with respect, which he
would have deserved, had he been alive subject to his
tradition culture and the religion, which he professed.
The State must respect a dead person by allowing the
body of person to be treated with dignity and unless it is
required   for   the   purposes   of   establishing   a   crime   to
ascertain   the   cause   of   death   and   be   subjected   to
postmortem or for any scientific investigation, medical
education   or   to   save   the   life   of   another   person   in
accordance with law, the preservation of the dead body
and disposal in accordance with human dignity.”
36
Scope and Powers  of the Supreme Court under Article 136 of
the Constitution
45. Article 136 of the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court
to grant special leave in its discretion against any judgment,
decree,   determination,   sentence   or   order   in   any   cause   or
matter passed or made by any court or tribunal except by any
court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to
the armed forces. It reads as under:
“136. Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court.—(1)
Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme
Court   may,   in   its   discretion,   grant   special   leave   to
appeal   from   any   judgment,   decree,   determination,
sentence   or   order   in   any   cause   or   matter   passed   or
made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.
(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to any judgment,
determination, sentence or order passed or made by any
court   or   tribunal   constituted   by   or   under   any   law
relating to the Armed Forces.”
46. The jurisdiction conferred by Article 136 is divisible into two
stages: the first stage is upto the disposal of prayer for the
special   leave   to   file   an   appeal   and   the   second   stage
commences if and when the leave to appeal is granted and the
37
special leave petition is converted into an appeal. The legal
position   as   summarised   by   this   Court
in Kunhayammed v. State   of   Kerala,   (2000)   6   SCC   359;
affirmed in Khoday  Distilleries  Ltd. v. Sri  Mahadeshwara
Sahakara   Sakkare   Karkhane   Ltd.,   (2019)   4   SCC   376,
regarding the scope of two stages reads as under:
“(a)  While   hearing   the   petition   for   special   leave   to
appeal, the Court is called upon to see whether the
petitioner   should   be   granted   such   leave   or   not.
While   hearing   such   petition,   the   Court   is   not
exercising   its   appellate   jurisdiction;   it   is   merely
exercising its discretionary jurisdiction to grant or
not to grant leave to appeal. The petitioner is still
outside the gate of entry though aspiring to enter
the appellate arena of the Supreme Court. Whether
he enters or not would depend on the fate of his
petition for special leave.
(b)  If the petition seeking grant of leave to appeal is
dismissed,   it   is   an   expression   of   opinion   by   the
Court that a case for invoking appellate jurisdiction
of the court was not made out.
(c)  If   leave   to   appeal   is   granted,   the   appellate
jurisdiction of the court stands invoked; the gate for
entry in appellate arena is opened. The petitioner is
in and the respondent may also be called upon to
face him, though in an appropriate case, in spite of
having   granted   leave   to   appeal,   the   Court   may
dismiss the appeal without noticing the respondent.
(d)  In   spite   of   a   petition   of   special   leave   to   appeal
having been  filed,  the  judgment,  decree  or order
against which leave to appeal has been sought for,
continues   to   be   final,   effective   and   binding   as
38
between the parties. Once leave to appeal has been
granted,   the   finality   of   the   judgment,   decree   or
order appealed against is put in jeopardy though it
continues to be binding and effective between the
parties unless it is a nullity or unless the Court may
pass   a   specific   order   staying   or   suspending   the
operation or execution of the judgment, decree or
order under challenge. [ Id, 372, para 14.]”
47. In Pritam Singh v. State, AIR 1950 SC 169, the Constitution
Bench of this Court has explained the scope and powers of
this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution in detail: 
“9. On a careful examination of Article 136 along with
the   preceding   article,   it   seems   clear   that   the   wide
discretionary power with which this Court is invested
under it is to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional
cases   only,   and   as   far   as   possible   a   more   or   less
uniform standard should be adopted in granting special
leave in the wide range of matters which can come up
before it under this article. By virtue of this article, we
can grant special leave in civil cases, in criminal cases,
in income tax cases, in cases which come up before
different kinds of tribunals and in a variety of other
cases. The only uniform standard which in our opinion
can be laid down in the circumstances is that Court
should grant special leave to appeal only in those cases
where special circumstances are shown to exist. The
Privy Council have tried to lay down from time to time
certain principles for granting special leave in criminal
cases,   which   were   reviewed   by   the   Federal   Court
in Kapildeo v. King. It is sufficient for our purpose to say
that though we are not bound to follow them too rigidly
since   the   reasons,   constitutional   and   administrative,
which sometimes weighed with the Privy Council, need
not   weigh   with   us,   yet   some   of   those   principles   are
39
useful as furnishing in many cases a sound basis for
invoking the discretion of this Court in granting special
leave.  Generally   speaking,   this   Court   will   not   grant
special leave, unless it is shown that exceptional and
special circumstances exist, that substantial and grave
injustice has been done and that the case in question
presents   features   of   sufficient   gravity   to   warrant   a
review   of   the   decision   appealed   against.  Since   the
present case does not in our opinion fulfil any of these
conditions, we cannot interfere with the decision of the
High Court, and the appeal must be dismissed.”
       [Emphasis supplied]
48. A three­Judge Bench of this Court in the case of  Hem  Raj,
Son   of   Devilal   Mahajan   of   Bijainagar,   Condemned
Prisoner, at Present Confined in the Central Jail, Ajmer v.
State of Ajmer, AIR 1954 SC 462, held as under: 
“2. Unless   it   is   shown   that   exceptional   and   special
circumstances exist that substantial and grave injustice
has   been   done   and   the   case   in   question   presents
features of sufficient gravity to warrant a review of the
decision appealed against, this Court does not exercise
its   overriding   powers   under   Article   136(1)   of   the
Constitution   and   the   circumstance   that   because   the
appeal has been admitted by special leave does not
entitle the appellant to open out the whole case and
contest all the findings of fact and raise every point
which could be raised in the High Court. Even at the
final hearing only those points can be urged which are
fit to be urged at the preliminary stage when the leave
to appeal is asked for. The question for consideration is
whether   this   test   is   satisfied   in   either   of   these   two
appeals. After hearing the learned counsel in both the
40
appeals we are satisfied that none of them raise any
questions which fall within the rule enunciated above.”
      [Emphasis supplied]
49. The Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of  P.S.R.
Sadhanantham   v.   Arunachalam   and   Another, (1980)   3
SCC 141, has explained the Article 136 of the Constitution as
under:
“7.  …..In express terms, Article 136 does not confer a
right of appeal on a party as such but it confers a wide
discretionary power on the Supreme Court to interfere in
suitable   cases.   The   discretionary   dimension   is
considerable but that relates to the power of the court.
The   question   is   whether   it   spells   by   implication,   fair
a procedure as contemplated by Article 21. In our view,
it   does.   Article   136   is   a   special   jurisdiction.   It   is
residuary power; it is extraordinary in its amplitude, its
limit, when it chases injustice, is the sky itself. This
Court   functionally   fulfils   itself   by   reaching   out   to
injustice wherever it is and this power is largely derived
in the common run of cases from Article 136. Is it merely
a power in the court to be exercised in any manner it
fancies? Is there no procedural limitation in the manner
of exercise and the occasion for exercise? Is there no
duty to act fairly while hearing a case under Article 136,
either in the matter of grant of leave or, after such grant,
in the final disposal of the appeal? We have hardly any
doubt that here is a procedure necessarily implicit in the
power   vested   in   the   summit   court.   It   must   be
remembered that Article 136 confers jurisdiction on the
highest court. The founding fathers unarguably intended
in the very terms of Article 136 that it shall be exercised
by   the   highest   judges   of   the   land   with   scrupulous
adherence   to   judicial   principles   well   established   by
41
precedents in our jurisprudence. Judicial discretion is
canalised authority, not arbitrary eccentricity. Cardozo,
with   elegant   accuracy,   has   observed:   [Benjamin
Cardozo   :   The   Nature   Of   The   Judicial   Process,   Yale
University Press (1921)]
“The Judge, even when he is free, is still not wholly
free. He is not to innovate at pleasure. He is not a
knight­errant roaming at will in pursuit of his own
ideal of beauty or of goodness. He is to draw his
inspiration   from   consecrated   principles.   It   is   not   to
yield   to   spasmodic   sentiment,   to   vague   and
unregulated   benevolence.   He   is   to   exercise   a
discretion   informed   by   tradition,   methodized   by
analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinated to
‘the primordial necessity of order in the social life’.
Wide enough in all conscience is the field of discretion
that remains.”
8. It   is   manifest   that   Article   136   is   of   composite
structure, is power­cum­procedure — power in that it
vests jurisdiction in the Supreme Court, and procedure
in   that   it   spells   a   mode   of   hearing.   It   obligates   the
exercise of judicial discretion and the mode of hearing so
characteristic of the court process. In short, there is an
in­built prescription of power and procedure in terms of
Article 136 which meets the demand of Article 21.
9. We may eye the issue slightly differently. If Article 21
is telescoped into Article 136, the conclusion follows that
fair procedure is imprinted on the special leave that the
court may grant or refuse. When a motion is made for
leave   to   appeal   against   an   acquittal,   this   Court
appreciates the gravity of the peril to personal liberty
involved in that proceeding.  It is fair to assume that
while considering the petition under Article 136 the court
will pay attention to the question of liberty, the person
who seeks such leave from the court, his motive and his
locus standi and the weighty factors which persuade
42
the court to grant special leave. When this conspectus of
processual   circumstances   and   criteria   play   upon   the
jurisdiction   of   the   court   under   Article   136,   it   is
reasonable   to   conclude   that   the   desideratum   of   fair
procedure implied in Article 21 is adequately answered.
xxx  xxx xxx
11. The wider the discretionary power the more sparing
its exercise. Times out of number this Court has stressed
that   though   parties   promiscuously   “provoke”   this
jurisdiction, the court parsimoniously invokes the power.
Moreover, the court may not, save in special situations,
grant leave to one who is not eo nomine a party on the
record.   Thus,   procedural   limitations   exist   and   are
governed by well worn rules of guidance.”
[Emphasis supplied]
50. Thus, the principles of law discernible from the aforesaid are
that   unless,   it   is   shown   that   exceptional   and   special
circumstances exist; that substantial and grave injustice has
been done and the case and question presents features of
sufficient gravity to warrant a review of the decision appealed
against, this Court would not exercise its overriding powers
under   Article   136   (1)   of   the   Constitution.   The   wide
discretionary power with which this Court is invested under
Article 136 is to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional
cases   only.   Keeping   these   principles   in   mind,   we   need   to
43
decide whether the relief prayed for by the appellant should be
granted or not?
Condition of the Body after Burial
51. Even the writ court had allowed disinterment subject to the
condition that the body should be found to be in a deliverable
state. It further stated that if the body is found to be highly
putrefied then it may pose a risk to public health and hygiene.
In such a situation the family of the deceased would only be
allowed to perform the last rites in the graveyard itself. 
52. It   has   been   argued   on   behalf   of   the   appellant   that   the
respondents themselves had disinterred the dead bodies of two
persons, who were killed along with the appellant’s son. One of
them was shot dead by a foreign militant, while the other was
killed during the crossfire and they were disinterred within two
days of burial on the directions of District Magistrate Kupwara
and handed over to their next of kin for performing their last
rites in their own way. It can be easily assumed that the
bodies must not have decomposed much in two days thereby
leaving them in a deliverable state.
44
53. The appellant himself has relied on an expert, namely, Dr.
Arpad   A.   Vass,   a   Senior   Staff   Scientist   at   the   Oak   Ridge
National Laboratory and Adjunct Associate Professor at the
University of Tennessee in Forensic Anthropology, who has
stated that decomposition of the human body begins around 4
minutes after a person dies. The expert has said that the body
starts to liquify after one 1 month of decomposition. As each
day passes by, more putrefaction is undergone by the body.
Even the learned Single judge by order dated 27.05.2022, had
mentioned that the dead body of the deceased must be in
advanced stage of putrefaction. Almost 9 months have passed
post burial which is suggestive that the body may not be in a
deliverable state. It will be too much at this stage to disinter
the body. The dead should not be disturbed and some sanctity
should be attached to the grave.
54. It goes without saying that the right to live a dignified life as
enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution is not only
available to a living person but also to the “dead”. Even a dead
person has the right of treatment to his body with respect and
45
dignity   which   he   would   have   deserved   had   he   been   alive,
subject   to   his   tradition,   culture   and   religion   which   he
professed. These rights are not only for the deceased but, his
family members also have a right to perform the last rites in
accordance with the religious traditions. We are of the view
that it would have been appropriate and in fitness of things to
hand   over   the   dead   body   of   the   deceased   to   the   family
members, more particularly, when a fervent request was made
for  the  same.  It  is  of  course  true  that  for  any  compelling
reasons or circumstances or issues relating to public order
etc. more particularly in cases of encounter with the militants
the agency concerned may decline to part with the body. These
are all very sensitive matters involving security of nation and
as   far   as   possible   the   court   should   not   interfere   unless
substantial & grave injustice has been done. Although, for
some reason or the other, the body of the deceased was not
handed over to the family members yet the same was buried
with respect & dignity, with the help of the Auqaf Committee
at the Wadder Payeen Graveyard. We are convinced of one
46
thing that the body was buried with dignity. There is nothing
on record to indicate that the dead body was dealt with in any
manner insulting or hurting the religious feelings of the family
members. 
55. However,   what   is   not   appealing   to   us   is   the   vociferous
submission on behalf of the appellant that with a view to
remedy the wrong, as alleged, this Court should direct the
respondents to exhume the body and permit the appellant and
his family members to thereafter perform the rituals. It is for
this very wrong as alleged that the High Court has awarded a
monetary compensation of the amount of Rs. 5,00,000/­. 
56. After a body has been buried, it is considered to be in the
custody of the law; therefore, disinterment is not a matter of
right.   The   disturbance   or   removal   of   an   interred   body   is
subject to the control and direction of the court. The law does
not favour disinterment, based on the public policy that the
sanctity of the grave should be maintained. Once buried, a
body should not be disturbed. A court will not ordinarily order
or permit a body to be disinterred unless there is a strong
47
showing of necessity that disinterment is within the interests
of justice. Each case is individually decided, based on its own
particular facts and circumstances. 
57. The respondents have stated on oath that the body of the
deceased   was   buried   with   all   honour.   The   body   was   first
washed and thereafter wrapped in a fresh white cloth. The
prayers were also performed at the time of the burial. There is
nothing to indicate that the deceased was not given a decent
burial as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. The
right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the
Constitution is not only available to a living man but also to
his body after his death. We, as a court of law, respect the
emotions and sentiments expressed by the appellant as the
father of the deceased. However, the court of law should not
decide the rights of the parties considering their sentiments.
The court of law has to decide the matter in accordance with
law, more particularly, keeping in mind the doctrine of Rule of
Law.
48
58. We take notice of the fact that India has no legislation relating
to exhumation except Section 176(3) of the CrPC. As noticed
by the Madras High Court in the case of  Anandhi   Simon
(supra), very few countries are having a legislation in regard to
exhumation. One such legislation available is in Ireland under
Section 46 of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act,
1948 as amended by Section 4 (2) and the Second Schedule of
the Local Government Act, 1994.
59. The   Union   of   India   may   consider   enacting   an   appropriate
legislation on exhumation so as to tackle the situations like
the one on hand. 
60. We are of the view that the relief granted by the High Court as
contained in para 21 of the impugned judgment can be termed
as just, proper and equitable. We direct the respondents to
comply   with   the   directions   issued   by   the   High   Court,   as
contained in para 21 of the impugned judgment and order. 
61. In the result, this appeal fails and is hereby dismissed with no
order as to costs.  
49
62. Pending application, if any, also stands disposed of.
…………………………J.
(SURYA KANT)
…………………………J.
(J.B. PARDIWALA)
New Delhi;
September 12, 2022
50

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Questions on Indian Constitution for UPSC 2020 Pre Exam

संविधान की प्रमुख विशेषताओं का उल्लेख | Characteristics of the Constitution of India

भारतीय संविधान से संबंधित 100 महत्वपूर्ण प्रश्न उतर