The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Bureau of Immigration that arrival of corpses and remains of Indian nationals/OCI cardholders from foreign countries are allowed. However, this also depends on directions issued by various departments in relation to COVID-19 management. Additionally, the Office Memorandum declared that the Standard of Procedure issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should be followed closely. The Office Memorandum was passed on April 25, 2020.
PIL on the Stranded Dead Bodies
Concurrently, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court with regard to the corpses of Non-Resident Indians (NRI) lying abandoned in foreign airports; after Indian Embassies started demanding a no-objection certificate from the MHA even for non-COVID-19 deaths. Advocate Jose Abraham filed the plea on behalf of organisation Pravasi Legal Cell. The petition states that such bodies of Indian deportees from Gulf countries like Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia cannot be brought back.
“Indian embassies earlier issued clearance certificates, and now they are insisting on production of NOC from the MHA, even for those who have died of accidents or non-COVID-19 related problems.“
“There was suspension of immigration clearance for dead bodies and check posts closed on March 23. The Airlines are forced to approach the MHA to obtain separate permission to carry the mortal remains into India. This is inconvenient and can lead to unwillingness by the Airlines to transport mortal remains in the future.”
Contents of the Plea
Some cases mentioned are of Varghese Philip, who passed away on April 16 because of sudden cardiac arrest; and of Vinod MV, who passed away to bleeding in the brain because of high blood pressure. The Ministry of Public Health, Kuwait, registered the deaths on April 18 and 21 and issued certificates of the bodies. A Qatar Airways cargo plane brought the remains to Chennai International Airport on April 21. But now, the Indian Embassy in Kuwait is not issuing ‘clearance certificate’ in absence of a NOC from the MHA. The petitioners asked to overturn directions issued to the Indian Embassies or High Commissions and the airlines seeking NOCs.