Hindus May Win Right to Open-Air Cremations

April 10, 2007

Author: Andrew Norfolk

Source: The Times Online


The open-air burning of human corpses may be permitted across Britain after a religious charity won a significant victory in its campaign to legalise traditional Hindu funerals.

An attempt to establish the first approved site for the 4,000-year-old spiritual ceremony in northeast England was blocked last year after a local authority ruled that it would breach cremation laws.

The decision was challenged by Davender Kumar Ghai, a 68-year-old devout Hindu who is in poor health and is demanding the right, when he dies, to be cremated on an open-air pyre.

A High Court judge has now approved his bid to seek a judicial review of Newcastle City Council’s refusal to permit a funeral rite that Hindus regard as essential for the successful liberation of the soul.

Mr Justice Collins ruled that it was in the public interest to allow the application because the issue was “of some considerable importance to the Hindu community”. He also noted that rulings in 1884 and 1907 “may mean that the burning of dead bodies in the open air is not necessarily unlawful”.