Hindus win right to open-air cremation
The Telegraph reports that Davender Ghai has won the right to be cremated in accordance with his religious beliefs, that is upon an open-air pyre in order that his atman (spirit) might be released into the afterlife of perpetual samsara (reincarnation).
Cranmer knows a thing or two about open-air cremations: he thought the macabre public appetite for watching people burn slowly had long passed.
His Grace reported on this increasing trend years ago. And he noted the original challenge made by Mr Ghai back in 2008.
Newcastle City Council had denied him his request, but the Appeal Court has ruled that he may be slowly roasted upon a pile of wood instead of blasted to charcoal in a gas furnace.
This is not, of course, only a matter for Mr Ghai. But the ruling now sets a precedent which will permit over a million Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to be cremated on an open-air pyre.
The Ministry of Justice had opposed the case, arguing that the law stipulated that cremations must be within a building which in this case meant a structure bounded by walls with a roof.
But passing judgement, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, said: "Contrary to what everyone seems to have assumed, 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 appeal judges said that the aims of the Cremation Act were to ensure that cremations were subject to uniform rules throughout the country and carried out in buildings which were appropriately equipped and away from homes or roads.
'The judges accepted that Mr Ghai was willing to be cremated within existing rules with his funeral pyre "enclosed in a structure" and ruled that the Ministry of Justice definition of a building was too narrow.
'All Mr Ghai wanted was a traditional fire and for the sun to be able to fall on his body and this could be carried out in a purpose-built crematorium within the law, they ruled.'
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said that whilst the Appeal Court’s ruling sided with Mr Ghai, it had not considered the 'difficulties which may be thrown up by planning and public health legislation should an application be submitted'.
Cranmer has pointed this out before, but the cost of a cremation is around £2000, while the cost of funeral pyre is a snip at £500.
It is highly likely that there may be one or two (thousand) death-bed conversions to Indic spirituality over the coming years, if only to ease the financial burden of dying.
After all, surely it is unacceptable religious discrimination if it be more expensive for Christians and Jews to dispose of their loved ones?