Indian Demands Open-air Funeral in UK

by Gopalan on  March 25, 2009 at 10:11 AM General Health News   - G J E 4
 Indian Demands Open-air Funeral in UK
An elderly Hindu has moved the High Court in London demanding the the right to be cremated on a traditional open-air funeral pyre when he dies.

Davender Ghai, aged 70, is challenging a refusal by Newcastle City Council to permit him to be cremated according to his Hindu faith.

The local authority contends that a pyre outside a crematorium is prohibited by the 1902 Cremation Act.

But for Mr.Ghai it is a matter of life and death! He claims his "soul is jeopardy.' Many Hindu organizations have rallied behind him.

Mr Ghai's lawyer, Andrew Singh Bogan, said a successful challenge would "create a precedent for all local authorities to grant open air funeral pyres if there was demand in their area".

Mr Ghai, founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society (AAFS), was refused a permit for an open-air cremation site in a remote part of Northumberland in February 2006.

His legal team will argue at a three-day hearing before Mr Justice Cranston, sitting in London, that the law does not prohibit a religious cremation outside a crematorium.

They will contend that, if it does, it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

They will ask the judge to declare it is discriminatory and breaches Mr Ghai's right to protection for his private life and religious and cultural beliefs.

Mr Ghai, who moved to Britain from Kenya in 1958, says he is seeking a judicial review to "clarify and enforce the law, not disrespect it".

He stated: "As a Hindu, I believe my soul should be liberated in consecrated fire, "Agni", after death - a sacramental rebirth, like the mythical phoenix arising from the flames anew.

"I will not deny my claim is provocative, least of all in a nation as notoriously squeamish towards death as our own.

"However, I honestly do not believe natural cremation grounds would offend public decency - as long as they were discreet, designated sites far from urban and residential areas."

As he had lived his entire life by the Hindu scriptures, he also would yearn to die by them, he asserts.

In July 2006, Mr Ghai and the AAFS escaped legal action for holding an illegal ceremony in Stamfordham, Northumberland, after the Crown Prosecution Service decided that a prosecution would not be in the public interest.

The charity had cremated the body of Rajpal Mehat, an Indian-born Sikh, on an open pyre in a remote field hired from an apparently unwitting landowner, Telegraph reported.

Source: Medindia

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