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British Court Allows Argument in Favour of Open-air Funerals

A demand from British Hindus and Sikhs to be allowed to hold open-air funerals, which are banned in Britain, got a major impetus with a charity //fighting for the cause being allowed to present its case in court.

Davender Ghai, president of the Anglo Asian Friendship Society, has been given permission to present his arguments in court by Newcastle High Court judge, Justice Andrew Collins.

The development follows a legal row last year over the open-air funeral held of a young Indian-born Sikh, Rajpal Mehat, organised by the charity at a secret location in Northumberland, north east of England.

Justice Collins has declared that the burning of bodies in the open "is not necessarily unlawful" and that the subject was "an issue of considerable importance".

He said a full hearing should be held to establish the legality of the ceremony as a matter of interest, according to The Evening Chronicle newspaper.

Justice Collins added: "The point it raises is of some considerable importance to the Hindu community and will not go away. It is, in any event, in the public interest that this court should decide on its potential lawfulness."

The funeral of Mehat, who drowned in a canal in Southall, west London, had taken place in a remote field after police gave permission on humanitarian grounds.

But the local department for constitutional affairs said the ceremony was unlawful and police later admitted the service may have been illegal.

Open-air funerals have been illegal in Britain since 1930.

The Newcastle-based charity was founded to provide free help to all minorities in an effort to empower and assist them to integrate successfully into British culture.

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