In view of a recent High Court verdict, the Kerala government has issued fresh directives for the police personnel and investigating officers to conduct the inquest of bodies during night hours when an unnatural death case is reported at a police station anywhere in the southern state.
According to a latest circular in this regard undersigned by the state police chief Anil Kant, the instructions were compiled based on a meeting convened by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), to discuss the matter and take steps for implementation of the court direction. Among a set of instructions, the DGP asked all Station House Officers (SHOs) to ensure that the inquest procedures in unnatural death cases are completed within four hours in a case, before forwarding the corpse for autopsy.
"However, where the specific needs of the investigation require a prolonged or more detailed inquest, the same should be undertaken, after recording the reasons in writing," it said. Under no circumstances shall there be a delay or interruption caused in the conduct of inquest, and forwarding of the corpse for postmortem examination, for the reason that there is no sufficient light, for the proper conduct of inquest, it said.
The District Police Chiefs shall take steps to procure lights with sufficient intensity and other infrastructure facilities for the conduct of inquest during night hours, as per the circular. DCPs should also take necessary steps to meet the associated expenses incurred by the investigating officers, with regards to transportation of the dead body to the hospital, incidental expenses, etc, utilising appropriate budget allocation, following rules and norms, it said.
"The police shall take steps to forward the body of the deceased to the hospital for autopsy in unnatural death cases and to other places after autopsy, if found necessary, in extraordinary situations," it said. The circular further directed the District Police Chiefs to monitor and ensure that the Station House Officers and the investigating officers comply strictly with the instructions.
It also warned of stringent departmental action against those officers who show any laxity or commit any violation in its implementation. Based on a government order dated 26-10-2015, the state government had accorded sanction for conducting 24 hours autopsy in five government medical colleges in Thiruvananathapuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Thrissur, Kozhikkode districts and at the General Hospital in Kasargod. Subsequently, Dr. Hitesh Sankar, Secretary, Kerala Medico Legal Society and another filed a writ petition before the High Court challenging the directions in that order.
The court later disposed off the case by directing the state Chief Secretary to convene a meeting of the officials of the Home Department including the State Police Chief to take a decision and issued orders for completing the inquest and postmortem of dead bodies, involved in unnatural death cases, within a fixed time frame. As per the court directive, a meeting was convened by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) on April 26 to discuss the matter and take steps for its implementation.
(With PTI inputs)