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An elderly Hindu man is going to the High Court in a bid to win the right to be cremated on a traditional open-air funeral pyre when he dies.

In a test case on religious burials, Davender Ghai, 70, is challenging a refusal by Newcastle City Council to permit him to be cremated according to his Hindu faith.

His human rights application is being supported by a wide range of Hindu organisations.

The local authority contends that a pyre outside a crematorium is prohibited by the 1902 Cremation Act.

Mr Ghai's lawyer, Andrew Singh Bogan, said a successful challenge would "create a precedent for all local authorities to grant open air funeral pyres if there was demand in their area".

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

His legal team will argue at a three-day hearing before Mr Justice Cranston, sitting in London, that the law does not prohibit a religious cremation outside a crematorium.

They will contend that, if it does, it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

They will ask the judge to declare it is discriminatory and breaches Mr Ghai's right to protection for his private life and religious and cultural beliefs.  continues here

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