Hindu man wins battle for funeral pyre

Feb. 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A 71-year-old Hindu living in Britain can have his last wish, to be cremated in the open air in a traditional ceremony, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The Court of Appeal ruled for Davender Kumar Ghai, reversing a Newcastle city ordinance and other court decisions, The Independent reported. The judges said the cremation on a traditional pyre would have to follow environmental rules and be within a walled building.

The decision "breathed new life into an old man's dreams," Ghai said. He now plans to supervise the building of a crematorium to accommodate his body when he dies and others who agree with him.

"I always maintained that I wanted to clarify the law, not disobey or disrespect it," he said. "My request was often misinterpreted, leading many to believe I wanted a funeral pyre cremation in an open field, whereas I always accepted that buildings and permanent structures would be appropriate. Now I may go in peace."

Many Hindus and Sikhs living in Britain accept standard cremation. Ghai had little support in his own religious community until Foreign Minister Jack Straw said last year most of the public would find open-air cremations "abhorrent."

The Court of Appeal did not decide the issue based on human rights. Instead, the judges ruled existing regulations can accommodate the traditional funeral pyre.

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