Family and friends say their final goodbyes to their loved ones, as five funeral pyres burn at the Shore of Peace, on the Mosquito Creek in South Oropouche on Friday.

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) has signalled its intention to vacate its pending lawsuit over the short-lived prohibition against open-air cremations for COVID-19.

In a press release issued on Thursday evening, the SDMS admitted that the lawsuit had become academic after the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs announced the change following a meeting with its representatives.

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

The organisation suggested that the resolution of the issue was possibly helped by the filing of the lawsuit and the subsequent dialogue between the parties.

“Despite the out of court resolution, we are cognizant that the issuance of the court proceedings may have forced proper introspection and would have ultimately assisted in the resolution,” the release said.

The Maha Sabha’s lawsuit on the issue came late last year month after Cindy-Ann Ramsaroop-Persad sued the State in August.

Ramsaroop-Persad’s father Silochan Ramsaroop passed away five days after being admitted to the Couva Medical and Multi-Training Facility on July 20, last year.

Ramsaroop-Persad’s brother applied at the Chaguanas Police Station for a permit for their father to be cremated at the Waterloo cremation site on August 10 and it was granted.

However, hours later, a police officer contacted the family and claimed that the permit was revoked as it was issued in error because of the ongoing prohibition against open-air pyre cremations for COVID-19 victims.

As part of the lawsuit, Ramsaroop-Persad’s legal team is relying on the evidence of epidemiologist Dr Farley Cleghorn, who claims that the policy was unnecessary. They also claim that the policy was not supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the United States Centre for Disease Control, whose advice the ministry and by extension the Government has been relying on during the ongoing pandemic.

In response to the lawsuit, the State has relied on the evidence of Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, who claimed that an average pyre does not completely destroy a human body and that the eruption of bodily fluids from corpses presents “an uncertain risk” to mourners at an open-air cremation.

Ramsaroop-Persad’s lawsuit came up for hearing before Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams early this week and she set the trial for the case for early March. The trial of the SDMS’s case was also scheduled to go to trial in March.

Contacted on Thursday, Ramsaroop-Persad’s lawyer Jayanti Lutchmedial said her client’s lawsuit would continue as it is a constitutional claim over alleged breaches of fundamental rights.

“While we are happy that Hindus would no longer be forced to abandon their customs and traditions rooted in their spiritual beliefs, changing the policy when the infection rate is so high lends credence to the widely held view that there was no scientific basis underlying the policy to begin with, making it all the more important for Ms Ramsaroop-Persad’s case to be heard,” Lutchmedial said.