British court turns down Hindu’s funeral pyre plea (Lead)

May 8th, 2009 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 8 (IANS) An ageing Hindu campaigner was said to be “very very disappointed but indefatigable” after a British court Friday turned down his plea to be allowed to be cremated on an open-air pyre.
Davender Kumar Ghai, a multi-faith campaigner and founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society charity, had challenged a 2006 refusal by his local council in northern England for him to be cremated on an outdoor funeral pyre.

Justice Cranston Friday dismissed his High Court challenge, saying the denial by the Newcastle City Council was justified, prompting the campaigner’s supporters to declare they will appeal the ruling.

Ghai, 70, is “very ill” and in Delhi undergoing medical treatment, said his supporters, who call him Babaji.

“Babaji is of course very very disappointed. But he is indefatigable. We are going to go in for appeal and see this through until the very last,” Andrew Singh Bogan, a legal adviser to Ghai, told IANS, from his offices in Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Bogan said that the judge had accepted an unsubstantiated claim by the Ministry of Justice that outdoor cremation would be “abhorrent” and cause public offence.

“On the other hand, we provided substantial evidence to show that there was support not only among Hindus and Sikhs, but also among the general population.

“That evidence has not been acknowledged,” Bogan said.

Ghai argues that a funeral pyre is essential to “a good death” and the release of his spirit into the afterlife.

But the Newcastle City Council maintained the burning of human remains anywhere outside a crematorium was prohibited under the 1902 Cremation Act.

“For Baba, this is actually a matter of life and death,” Bogan said.

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