The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response of the Centre on a petition against the policy of several airlines, including Air India, to allegedly charge "exorbitant" rates for domestic transportation and repatriation of mortal remains of migrant Indian workers who die abroad.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao issued notice to the ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation and Air India, seeking their stand on the issue by January 14, 2019, the next date of hearing.
The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO has sought guidelines be framed by the Centre for the same.
The NGO, Pravasi Legal Cell, has termed as "callous" the prevalent policy of weighing the mortal remains as mere cargo and fixing a rate according to the weight, saying it was "not only a gross inhuman practice but also violative of the dignity of the dead body".
"It is thus submitted that in absence of any guideline for domestic transport of human remains and international repatriation of mortal remains, the airlines charge exorbitantly high rates for the same, thus burdening the poor families of the emigrant with huge expense.
"Due to financial constraints, relatives of the deceased were unable to take the body back to their native place and on several instances these migrant workers who die far from their home town are buried or cremated in a foreign land without their kith or kin being present," the plea has said.
The NGO has also alleged that some airlines have stopped flying the remains of disadvantaged Indian workers without freight charges, even if recommended by Indian missions.
"Instead, the bereaved will now have to get the costs of repatriating the mortal remains reimbursed from the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), a critical support fund for distressed Indians set-up by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India," it has said.
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