A thorough review of the 117- year-old British era lawgoverning post mortem procedures appears to be on the cards with the Centre taking note of a comprehensive report prepared by a leading medico-legal expert from Maharashtra.
According to Dr Indrajeet Khandekar, in-charge of Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit (CFMU) at Mahatma GandhiInstitute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) and Kasturba Hospital at Sewagram in Wardha district, the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the Law Commission to look into the matter and make suggestions, so that amendments to the existing law could be considered.
Khandekar, who drew up the report voluntarily, said the existing law and procedures of post mortem infringed on the rights of the next of kin of the deceased and, in cases of criminal cases, failed to ensure cent per cent conviction in courts of law.
The Law Commission has been asked to prepare a report on the matter so that comprehensive amendments can be made to relevant laws in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Indian Evidence Act (IEA), he said.
The whole concept is to increase the conviction rate in criminal offences by using forensic medical and scientific investigation as well as to minimise unnecessary post mortems being done.
According to Khandekar, since 1898, doctors have been following the same British colonial era rules and procedures, which have been discarded in Britain itself.
In India, even these archaic procedures are not fully and correctly followed, he said.
Even after 117 years not a single amendment has been effected to the law to reverse the “pitiable quality” of medico-legal death investigation by police and the horrendous quality of post mortem examination in India, Khandekar told PTI.
Khandekar has submitted a detailed report to the PMO
and sent its copies to minsters of Home and Law Minister and also to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis.
He said the PMO has forwarded it to the Judicial Division of Home Minister and asked the Law Commission to take necessary steps.
Khandekar’s study is backed with a rich body of materials including nine reports related to CrPC.
Failure to amend the 1898 Act has led to unscientific, improper death investigation and incomplete post mortem reports – one of the main reasons behind low conviction rate in the country, he said.
Khandekar has prepared his report after in-depth study of Law Commissions report, Supreme Court and High Court judgements, related laws in other countries and relevant information collected through RTI.
It argues that the present practice of police officials ordering post-mortem and taking organs from the dead body without the consent of kin of the deceased is not permissible under law.
These infringed on the rights of family of the deceased without any established procedure of the law, hence, unconstitutional and deprivation of liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the report said.
Khandekar, who is also a law graduate, has urged the PMO to issue necessary directions to the Police to stop the practice of ordering post-mortem of dead bodies and collection of organs from them without the consent of next of kin till amendments to the law concerned are effected.
He has also made a strong case for removal of flaws in the existing law and enactment of a special law for forensic medical death investigation or amendment to the present law so as to make scientific forensic death investigation effective and foolproof.
He also suggested that views of the Police and other departments concerned, public, legal experts, judiciary, NGOs, bar councils, forensic science and medicine experts be elicited before drafting the law in this regard.
Khandekar has offered his services for efforts in this direction, noting that the government has taken positive steps on his previous studies as well.