Hindu Seeks Court Ruling on Open-Air Cremations

September 5, 2008

Author: Riazat Butt

Source: The Guardian


A Hindu man is to ask the high court to overturn a ban on open-air cremations to allow the ancient religious ritual to take place in Britain.

Davender Kumar Ghai, 69, is challenging Newcastle city council's decision to deny him an open-air cremation when he dies. In 2006 the local authority blocked his attempt to establish Britain's first approved site for burning bodies in the open, ruling it would breach cremation laws.

Human rights lawyers will argue that open-air pyres fall outside the 1902 Cremation Act, which regulates what happens inside a crematorium, defined as "any building fitted with appliances for the purpose of burning human remains".

The burning of a human body in the open air, they will say, is an offence only if it causes a public nuisance, which would be avoided because the sites would be in secluded locations. The hearing in November is expected to last three days.

Indic religions allow open-air cremations, although these are not compulsory nor universal.