Maha Sabha to withdraw cremation lawsuit, but covid19 victim’s daughter victim continues hers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


In this file photo three bodies burn on open-air pyres at the Caroni Cremation Site.

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) expects its judicial review claim which challenged the ban on open-air pyre cremations will be vacated, since the prohibition has now been lifted.

On Thursday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi announced the ban had been lifted.

The SDMS’s claim was one of two engaging the attention of two judges. The matter was before Justice Nadia Kangaloo and was expected to go to the trial stage on March 25.

A team consisting of the Prime Minister, the AG, the Ministers of Health, National Security and Energy, and the Chief Medical Officer met with the team from the SDMS to discuss the guidelines to funeral homes and hospitals which stopped open-pyre cremations.

New guidelines are being devised with the input of the Hindu organisation.

The other claim is the challenge brought by the daughter of a covid19 victim. That matter will be heard on March 5, before Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams. Attorneys for Cindy-Ann Ramsaroop-Persad, who could not cremate her father under Hindu rites, which was one of his last requests, said that case will progress despite the lifting of the ban.

Attorney Dinesh Rambally, the legal adviser for the Maha Sabha, said the issue was amicably resolved after “mature and cordial discussions.” He said, as a result, the SDMS believed the court matter was now academic.

“In addition, we consider it a victory that the timely resolution has saved taxpayers’ money as well as precious judicial time.

“We believe that the sustained conciliatory approach of the SDMS has paid off and, subsequently, negated the need for continued litigation.

“We are thankful that the merits of this sensitive issue were duly recognised and good sense has prevailed. The dignified handling of this issue in the public domain is no doubt an indication that much can be achieved in this country with goodwill and dialogue.”

Rambally said despite the out-of-court resolution, the Maha Sabha was cognisant that filing the action may have forced “proper introspection” and assisted in resolving it. He also thanked the court for facilitating its application.

Speaking on behalf of the legal team representing Ramsaroop-Persad, attorney Jayanti Lutchmedial said despite the lifting of the ban, her client fully intended to continue her legal challenge, in which she claims her constitutional rights were violated.

“This does not affect Ms Ramsaroop’s claim as her case is grounded in the violation of her rights.

Lutchmedial, who is led by Anand Ramlogan, SC, for Ramsaroop-Persad, said while they were happy Hindus were no longer forced to abandon their customs and traditions, “changing the policy when the infection rate is so high lends credence to the widely held view that there was no scientific basis underlying this policy to begin with.”

She said Ramsaroop-Persad’s case was now “all the more important…The rights of citizens cannot simply be trampled on without justification.”

This case comes up for trial on March 2.