Take action against anyone hampering last rites of Covid-19 patients: Meghalaya HC

The Meghalaya High Court has directed authorities to take legal action against anyone obstructing the cremation or burial of Covid-19 victims in the state.

The direction came after a 69-year-old doctor, the first coronavirus fatality in Meghalaya, was buried a day after his death on Wednesday due to protests and denial of permission by a town body and a crematorium.

The order was given by a two-member bench of the high court while hearing a PIL on Thursday night through video conferencing.

Considering the seriousness of the issue, the court heard the matter in the night and passed the stringent order.

It said any person, local body, durbar, shnong or organisation which obstructs state authorities in the control of the pandemic or any matter connected to it such as “dead body management, cremation and burial shall be dealt with in accordance with law and cases be registered under appropriate provisions of law, said the order”.

The court also directed that state authorities will sensitise people, especially where the cremation or burial grounds are situated, to avoid repeat of the unfortunate incident as was witnessed on the night of April 15.

On Wednesday, the city crematorium had denied to perform Dr John L Sailo Ryntathiang last rites, citing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle coronavirus fatalities. Locals had also staged a protest.

Sailo’s body also could not be buried at his famrhouse in Nongpoh after the town’s executive committee of denied permission.

He was laid to rest on Thursday at the Riatsamthiah Presbyterian cemetery which had voluntarily given its space following the protests.

Sailo, who was the founder of the Bethany Hospitals in the state, died on Wednesday morning, while six members of his family, including his wife, tested Covid-19 positive.

The Shillong premises of the Bethany Hospitals, where Sailo was admitted, and its second campus at Nongpoh in Ri Bhoi district, were sealed and sanitised while all

occupants of the two facilities were quarantined inside the medical establishments, officials said.

Vice President M V Naidu on Friday expressed deep concern and agony over the incident.

Such incidents are a blot on the society’s consciousness and of great concern for all of us irrespective of party, religion and region, Naidu said on his Facebook page.

Meghalaya has eight active COVID-19 positive patients even as the test results of 127 primary contacts of the first patient, Sailo, and staff of the Bethany Hospitals are awaited.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who reviewed the preparedness of the COVID-19 hospital here along with Health Minister A L Hek, said 50,000 PPE for frontline workers is expected to arrive soon.

He informed that over 29,000 PPE are in stock and 10,000 more have arrived in Guwahati while 15,000 are on the way.

Last night, the chief minister tweeted, in the next 24 hours “we should have 50,000 PPE”.