Hindu man wins funeral pyre battle

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‘Verdict has breathed new life into an old man’s dreams’, says Davender Ghai

AN elderly Hindu man who won the right to be cremated on a traditional funeral pyre following a decision by the Court of Appeal today described the verdict as having “breathed new life into an old man’s dreams”.

Grandfather Davender Ghai feared his health would fail him following a four year long battle to allow open-air cremations in line with his religious beliefs.

The 71-year-oldwas refused a permit for an open-air cremation site in Northumberland, in 2006 by Newcastle City council.

He lost a challenge to the decision at the High Court in London last May but today the Appeal Court ruled Mr Ghai’s wishes could be accommodated within existing legislation.

Speaking after the verdict Mr Ghai said that while the case had left him “virtually penniless” he was “overjoyed” at the decision.

“I am overjoyed by the Court of Appeal’s verdict, which I consider a vindication of every struggle and sacrifice over the last four years,” he said.  

“I never doubted justice would be done but, in all honesty, I often feared that my health would fail me before the legal journey had ended. This case was truly a matter of life and death for me and today’s verdict has breathed new life into an old man’s dreams.”

Mr Ghai said his request for an open-air cremation had been “misinterpreted”, adding he had always accepted that the cremations would be surrounded by walls and the pyre covered with a roof with an opening

He said he was also “saddened by the insensitivity” of statements issued on behalf of Minister for Justice, Mr Jack Straw which claimed that “others in the community would be upset and offended… and would find it abhorrent that human remains were being burned in this way.”

Responding to the verdict Newcastle City Council said it would “await further guidance from the Home Office.”

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