An Indian judge in Britain’s High Court has ordered a London coroner to give priority to Jews and Muslims instead of white British people when determining the order in which bodies can be buried, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has triumphantly reported.
According to a JTA report, the court case arose when London Senior coroner Mary Hassell announced that she would not prioritize Jewish and Muslim burials over others.
The High Court on Friday called Hassell’s “cab-rank rule” policy (which means a first-come, first-served policy) was “unlawful, irrational” and “discriminatory,” according to the London-based Jewish Chronicle.
Hassell is the senior coroner at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Office in central London. Her jurisdiction covers the largest concentration of haredi Orthodox Jews in Europe and the United Kingdom’s biggest “Muslim community.”
The London-based Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS) took Hassell to court alleging “widespread distress” among the two faith communities.
“The fundamental flaw in the present policy adopted by the defendant is that it fails to strike any balance at all, let alone a fair balance,” Lord Justice Singh wrote in his majority opinion.
“What on its face looks like a general policy which applies to everyone equally may in fact have an unequal impact on a minority. In other words, to treat everyone in the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally. Uniformity is not the same thing as equality,” the decision said.
The Jewish Chronicle reported in December that one woman made 210 phone calls to the St. Pancras Coroner’s Office before being assured that her father would be buried four days after his death. Another family was told it would have to wait two weeks for an autopsy to be performed before a funeral could be held.
Following a meeting with Hassell in January, Jewish leaders called for her removal.
Following the court’s decision, Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, in an interview with the BBC called on Hassell to resign if she could not adhere to a policy that allowed for preferential treatment of Jews and Muslims.
“She has previously said that she does not believe that using her discretion to order cases, which she needs to do to uphold the religious freedom of the diverse communities she is meant to serve, is ‘fair.’ If she cannot carry out this basic function of her role, she must vacate her position,” Zyl said, according to the BBC.
The Jewish Chronicle quoted Jewish lawyer Trevor Asserson, which acted for the AYBS, said that Hassell “knew she was causing anguish to people, but was too ignorant of the law to understand that her conduct was not only lacking in any compassion, but was also discriminatory and unlawful.
“This victory by AYBS is a victory for the cause of diversity throughout British society,” Asserson added. ““Everyone interested in pluralism, and intent on defeating discrimination, in all its forms, must rejoice at the court’s firm and clear ruling.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The High Court ruling that the ‘cab rank’ approach is unlawful, irrational and discriminatory is very welcome and will be a huge relief to the Jewish and Muslim communities who have suffered significant and unnecessary anxiety.
* Jewish and Muslim law demands that both members of that Semitic community be buried separately from Christians, as they do not even want to be seen dead in the company of gentiles.