Hindu elder approaches UK High Court over right to open-air cremation

March 24th, 2009 - 5:48 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Mar.24 (ANI): An elderly Hindu man has said that he will be going to the High Court in a bid to win the right to be cremated on a traditional open-air funeral pyre when he dies. In a test case on religious burials, Davender Ghai, aged 70, is challenging a refusal by Newcastle City Council to permit him to be cremated according to his Hindu faith, The Telegraph reports. His human rights application is being supported by a wide range of Hindu organisations. The local authority contends that the 1902 Cremation Act prohibits a pyre outside a crematorium. 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”. 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. 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.” “I have lived my entire life by the Hindu scriptures and they have inspired me to charitably serve this country for over 30 years. In the frailty of my twilight, I now yearn to die by them,” he said. (ANI)

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