Friday, 12 February 2010

Hindu Funeral

Mr Devendar Ghai has won his Court of Appeal case for a Traditional Hindu Cremation Ghai v Newcastle City Council [2010] EWCA Civ 59 having lost the case earlier in the High Court [2009] EWHC 978 (Admin)

Cremation is, of course, legal in Britain but takes place in Crematoria which are enclosed and Mr Ghai wanted to have a Cremation in the open air which, he argued, would set hsi soul free. In fairness to Mr Ghai he was not asking to be allowed to have a cremation in his back garden. He was asking for special sites in the Countryside to be licensed for open air cremation.

Mr Ghai had claimed in the High Court that the present legal restrictions on Cremation breached his rights to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights but this argument was rejected in the High Court.

Interestingly Mr Ghai did not win in the Court of Appeal on the basis of his Article 9 argument but instead on the basis that what he was asking for was not illegal under the Cremation Act 1902. The Court discussed the meaning of "building" in s2 of the Act which is the sort of legal argument which has lawyers eyes lighting up and everyone else's eyes glazing over. In short the Court decided that a "building" for the purposes of Cremation did not have to have a roof on it and since Mr Ghai had already accepted that he was quite happy for the cremation to take place in an enclosed area provided that it was open to the sky the Court decided that what he was asking for would constitute a "building" for the purposes of the 1902 Act and was therefore already legal. On that basis the Court did not have to decide the Article 9 point

A bit of legal sleight of hand perhaps but a sensible decision which gives Mr Ghai the open air cremation he wants but respects the Cremation Act. I imagine there will eventually be a number of such open air cremation buildings dotted around the country wherever there is a significant number of Hindus or Sikhs, in fact who knows perhaps Non Hindus and Sikhs will be interested also.

Mr Ghai did mention that he wanted his open air cremation to take place in Northumberland which is an area I know well and I am tempted to wonder how practical open cremation will be in the Northumberland weather but that is a problem for others to work out. I am pleased for Mr Ghai because he wasn't asking for anything unreasonable, ultimately we all have to die and how one is dealt with after death is a very personal and highly cultural matter. I hope Mr Ghai has many happy years before he faces the open air cremation he wants.

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