Cremation law review in UK
The high court here will review British cremation laws that prohibit natural open-air rites.
Hindus, Sikhs and Jains cremate their dead in gas crematoriums and the ashes are often taken to India for immersion in rivers. Community elders here have often expressed unease over the inability to follow their traditions.
The Newcastle-based Anglo-Asian Friendship Society (AAFS) launched a campaign for open-air cremations in 2007. The campaign, which has now reached the high court, included a series of petitions and demonstrations.
Justice Andrew Collins of the high court declared that a judicial review petition submitted by Devendra Ghai of the society to establish natural cremation sites in Britain was of “considerable importance” and a full hearing in the court was “in the public interest”.
“Hindus believe open-air funeral pyres are essential for the peaceful reincarnation of one’s soul,” Ghai said. “We are voicing the views of people who believe that such practices in the UK are not adequate. This will be a landmark case.”
The society will be represented by lawyers Rambert de Mello, Vijay Tony Muman and Satvinder Juss.
One of the arguments in favour of open-air cremations is that they do not endanger public health or the environment.
Some Sikh organisations in England have joined the case, saying that though it is not a strict religious requirement for them, they would prefer open-air cremation. The AAFS has also received letters from the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.