Hindu cremations in the Court of Appeal
Davendar Ghai has won his case against Newcastle City Council in the Court of Appeal. We blogged about it previously here. It will now be possible for Mr. Ghai to be cremated on a Hindu funeral pyre – in a structure with walls but no roof – in England after he dies. Lord Neuberger in the judgment said that:
“Contrary to what everyone seems to have assumed below, and I am not saying it is anyone’s fault, it seems to us that Mr Ghai’s religious and personal beliefs as to how his remains should be cremated once he dies can be accommodated within current cremation legislation.”
The judgment is now available here.
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council today summarised the legal position on Hindu cremation as follows:
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: “Following a decision by the city council to refuse permission for traditional open-air funeral pyres, Mr Davender Ghai took the matter to the Court of Appeal.
“On appeal, however, Mr Ghai agreed his religious beliefs could be satisfied if the cremation process took place within a building, and produced examples of proposed buildings. The Court of Appeal’s judgment, which is of national importance, advised that buildings of open-air design can fall within the definition of crematoria under the terms of the Cremation Act 1902.
“However, the judgment goes on to state that the difficulties which may be thrown up by planning and public health legislation, should an application be submitted, have not been considered as part of this judgment.
“Furthermore, the method of burning associated with funeral pyres is not covered by any regulations which currently only apply to cremators powered by gas or electricity which are designed to maintain environmental standards, in particular air quality.
“Following the judgment, all local authorities will await further guidance from the Home Office and Defra as regards any proposed regulations or legislation which may control the proposed manner of cremation to ensure environmental standards and public health are protected.”
The Times explains that:
The Court of Appeal ruling is thought likely to make the UK the only country in western Europe to allow natural cremations, which are permitted in 27 countries, including 15 where neither Hindus or Buddhists — who also traditionally use funeral pyres — form the majority of the population.
Funeral pyres are permitted for Aboriginal cremations in Australia and also in two American states, Colorado and Vermont.
The Times also comments:
Mr Ghai’s campaign won equal measures of support and hostility from within Britain’s Hindu and Sikh communities.
The National Council for Hindu Priests called it “the most significant campaign to promote Hindu religious freedom in British history”.
But a Hindu academic, Jay Lakhani, said it was “a horrendous idea” promoting antiquated practices that made Hinduism look “completely irrational”.