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Bodies should be handled in a dignified way, says HC

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The Bombay High Court rapped a hospital and the railways over the handling of bodies of 23 victims of the stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station that were numbered on foreheads with marker pens and called for a more humane approach.

A division bench of Justices N H Patil and N W Sambre was hearing a public interest litigation demanding that railway officials should be booked for ‘culpable homicide’ as their negligence had led to the incident.

During the hearing, the court noticed a mention in the petition that numbers were written with marker pens on the foreheads of deceased persons for identification and asked if there were any guidelines on handling the bodies of the victims in such situations.

“Certainly this is not the way such situations are to be handled. You have to treat a dead body with dignity and adopt a humane approach,” Justice Patil said.

“The first time a grief-stricken relative sees the body and it has such a mark on the forehead… common sense should prevail in such situations,” he said.

The court sought to know if there are any guidelines for medical officers and others as to how to handle victims’ bodies in such situations.

“Let us know if there are any guidelines. Even if there are not any, this is certainly not the way it should have been done,” Justice Patil said.

The court also observed that the government should set up a disaster management cell with officials equipped and trained specially to handle such situations.

The bench issued a notice to the railways authorities and adjourned the hearing to January 18.

The petition sought an inquiry into the deadly stampede which took place on September 29 this year.

Despite the issue of overcrowding on the narrow Elphinstone Road foot overbridge being flagged by many people, the government and railway authorities took no action, it said.

“A case under section 304 (II) of the IPC for culpable homicide needs to be registered against concerned railway officials,” the petition said.

It also demanded that the railways be directed to take action against illegal hawkers and encroachers on foot overbridges.

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