Picture: Pixnio
Picture: Pixnio

Hindu couple take KZN mortuary to court over delay in releasing baby's body for burial

By Jolene Marriah-Maharaj Time of article published Nov 29, 2019

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Durban - A Durban couple devastated by the death of their firstborn daughter have won a court battle to have their child's body released from Gale Street Mortuary so that they can have a funeral for her. 

In court papers, Phoenix couple Avinash Ramdhany and his wife Alisha claim they were told that it could be another 3 weeks before they could prepare for the child's funeral. 

On Friday they launched an urgent application in the Durban High Court. The respondents in the matter are the KZN Health MEC, the head of the Gale Street Mortuary, the minister of police, Cato Manor Police Station and Warrant Officer Saradhambal Pillay. 

The couple's daughter was born on August 25, 2019, and died three months later on November 24, 2019. 

She suffered from a condition known as ventricular septal defect pulmonary atresia. 

In their founding affidavits, the couple - represented by attorney Rajesh Hiralall - said the father had contacted Gale Street Mortuary on two occassion this week to find out when their child's body would be released so that they could conduct religious rituals and also prepare for the funeral. 

"I was told that there is a number system regarding the autopsy and our daughter was number 72 and we would have to wait until it was our turn," Ramdhany said in the affidavit. 

"I was further informed that they attempt to perform at least 6 autopsies a day but recently they only have performed one a day due to the staff members refusing to work, being short-staffed and also extreme backlog."

He said he was given a time frame of two weeks before an autopsy would be done, and a further week more for the report. 

"I became extremely upset by this and informed the staff members that I had rituals to perform for my daughter so that her soul may rest in peace and also this was my first and only child. My family is distraught and we need closure. We are unable to wait up until 3 weeks just to perform rituals and bury my daughter," Ramdhany said.

The couple said they were Hindus, and in accordance with their beliefs, certain ceremonies and rituals had to take place as per the Hindu calendar. 

The couple said failure to conduct these ceremonies and rituals results in the soul being lost and unable to ascend. 

Judge Charmaine Bolton ordered that that Gale Street mortuary immediately perform the autopsy and release the child's body. 

Attorney Hiralall said the couple was relieved with that they were successful and would have their daughter's funeral this weekend. 


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