Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Hindu funeral pyres judgment reserved

Davender Ghai
Davender Ghai says he wants be cremated with dignity

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on a bid by a devout Hindu for the legal right to be cremated on a traditional open-air funeral pyre.

Davender Ghai, 70, was seeking to overturn a decision by Newcastle City Council in 2006 preventing such pyres.

He believes they are essential to "a good death" and the release of the spirit into the afterlife.

Judges at the Court of Appeal said that all he had to show was that what he wanted fell within existing law.

In February 2006 Mr Ghai, from Gosforth, Newcastle, and the founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society (AAFS), was refused a permit for an open-air cremation site in a remote part of Northumberland.

Newcastle City Council said the burning of human remains anywhere outside a crematorium was prohibited under the 1902 Cremation Act, a ruling the Ministry of Justice agreed was correct.

'Industrial furnace'

Mr Ghai challenged this at the High Court in London, but in May it ruled that the council's decision was "justified".

However, he was granted leave to appeal and on Monday took the case to the Court of Appeal.

He said in a statement that he wanted to clarify and enforce the law over this sensitive issue, not disrespect it.

"I am the first to insist that natural cremations should be performed with absolute safety, respect and privacy," he said.

"I have tried to live with dignity my entire life, now I now yearn to die and be cremated with dignity too.

"I want my soul to arise from the flames like the mythical phoenix, not be incinerated in an industrial furnace."

Judgment is expected at a later date.

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