The Penal Debe Regional Corporation has to pay for a Barrackpore widow to have the remains of her four relatives exhumed and re-buried at the Monkey Town Public Cemetery.
Justice Frank Seepersad ordered the exhumation starts on Monday, as he criticised the corporation’s resistance to bearing the costs. Sixty-seven-year-old Savitri Sookram took the corporation to court after road works at the Barrackpore cemetery last month resulted in the graves of her loved ones, including her husband, being disturbed. On Tuesday Seepersad visited the cemetery and found that the graves were indeed disturbed.
He said, “The corporation seemingly may have acted with good intent but the execution leaves much to be desired with an outcome that is quite frankly outrageous, untenable, and completely inconsistent with the values that should be upheld in a sovereign democratic state. And instead of doing that which is right and trying to find a ground moving forward to at least put to rest those deceased persons who have been disrupted this court is quite shocked by the approach now taken by the corporation to advance overtly technical and misguided legal arguments as it relates to an interim payment application.”
The Corporation’s legal team argued that proper procedure was not followed and that it was not determined that the bone that was visible during Tuesday’s cemetery visit, was human.
“Whether or not that bone belongs to an animal, Mr Harrikissoon as he suggested, really is an argument that carries little weight in the court’s mind. This is a public burial ground for human remains not for animals. If an animal had died in the cemetery then one would think that a responsible corporation would remove the animal or the remains of the animal so that the argument that what appeared to be bones may not be human remains one which demonstrates why people quite frankly sometimes say that the law is an a- -. The likelihood is that whatever appears to be bones at that site may very well be human remains.”
Noting that at the cemetery the court saw what appeared to be a femur or a large bone “sticking up into the air,” the judge said Sookram would have suffered irreparable damage that could not be adequately remedied by compensation.
Justice Seepersad added: “The psychological and emotive impact upon the claimant must be significant and the wider public interest where bodies have seemingly been disrupted without the proper process of first exhuming and reinterring before the works were done, is a matter which if established at the trial, and consistent with what seems to be evident on the ground has to be rejected and decried in the strongest of terms.”
In compliance with the court’s order, the Rural Development and Local Government Ministry had granted four exhumation licenses to Sookram. The Ministry’s senior legal advisor Annalean Inniss said the internment has to take place within seven days of the exhumation.
Sookram’s attorney Satesh Emrit had provided the court with estimated costs from four funeral homes. Ordering that the exhumation be undertaken by Guide’s Funeral Home, the judge said the remains are to be reburied in plots identified by the cemetery keeper.
The court also formalized its previous order that permits the corporation to continue the construction of the roadway. However, Justice Seepersad said all activity must end within two feet from the existing edge of the two-block portion of the retaining wall. He gave deadlines for the filing and serving of documents and fixed the trial for June 4.
Costs with respect to the injunction matter were reserved.