On Sunday, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was accorded a state funeral at Shivaji Park, Mumbai, as lakhs of his followers watched on teary-eyed.
Thackeray, who had never held a legislative position, received the honour usually reserved for prime ministers and ministers.
Going strictly by the rule book, only current and former prime ministers, current and former Union ministers and current and former state ministers are entitled to a state funeral.
Such a funeral entails an elaborate event for which arrangements are made by the state government with full police bandobast. The deceased person is honoured with a gun salute and the body is draped in the national flag.
But the rules have changed over time. Today, state funerals are accorded depending upon the stature of the personality.
"It is now on the discretion of the state government, which will decide who will be accorded a state funeral, depending on the stature of the deceased. There are no set guidelines," former law and parliamentary affairs minister M C Nanaiah told rediff.com.
The government takes into consideration the contribution made by the person to the state in various fields like politics, literature, law, science and cinema.
The chief minister of the concerned state takes a decision after consultations with his senior cabinet colleagues.
Once a decision is taken on the issue, it is conveyed to senior police officials including the deputy commissioner, the police commissioner and the superintendent of police, who have to make all the arrangements for a state funeral.
The first ever state funeral in independent India was held for Mahatma Gandhi.
State funerals were also organised for former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
A state funeral was also arranged for Mother Teresa, a non-political figure who was honoured for her immense contribution to her adopted nation.
Spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba, who had millions of followers, was also accorded a state funeral after his death in April, 2011.