A petition has been moved in the Delhi High Court against the policy of several airlines, including Air India, that charge “exorbitant” rates for domestic transportation and repatriation of mortal remains of migrant Indian workers who die abroad.

The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO sought guidelines be framed by the Centre for the same. The petition is likely to come up for hearing next week.

The NGO, Pravasi Legal Cell, has termed as “callous” the prevalent policy of weighing the mortal remains as mere cargo and fixing a rate according to the weight, saying it was “not only a gross inhuman practice but also violative of the dignity of the dead body”.

The PIL, filed through advocate Jose Abraham, said transportation of mortal remains by air was always a “costly affair”, especially for the poor migrant workers.

“It is thus submitted that in absence of any guideline for domestic transport of human remains and international repatriation of mortal remains, the airlines charge exorbitantly high rates for the same, thus burdening the poor families of the emigrant with huge expense.

“Due to financial constraints, relatives of the deceased were unable to take the body back to their native place and on several instances these migrant workers who die far from their home town are buried or cremated in a foreign land without their kith or kin being present,” the plea said.

According to the petition, Air India charges 15 Dirhams per kg which comes to around Rs 300 a kg.

It claimed that the rates being charged would be “unbearable” to the unemployed Indian and low-paid workers, and a violation of their rights under the Constitution.

The NGO also alleged that some airlines have stopped flying the remains of disadvantaged Indian workers without freight charges, even if recommended by Indian missions.

“Instead, the bereaved will now have to get the costs of repatriating the mortal remains reimbursed from the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), a critical support fund for distressed Indians set-up by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India,” it said.