The Delhi government has opposed installation of CCTV cameras inside the autopsy hall at mortuaries, stating that it amounts to a violation of constitutional rights of the dead. The government said it breaches privacy of the dead, and that the confidentiality of post-mortem findings will also be lost.
The statement was part of the minutes of the meeting held under the Chairmanship of the Delhi Chief Secretary on March 28 to discuss the proposed action on the High Court’s directions on management of mortuaries.
An amicus curiae was appointed to give his recommendations, which was forwarded to, among others, the Delhi government, Delhi Police, civic agencies and forensic department. One recommendation includes providing a facility to record post-mortem procedures and to install CCTV cameras at all mortuaries to check the practises being followed.
As per the minutes, the health department stated that “videography of post-mortem…in all cases is not possible due to time constraints”. “Currently, videography is done only in custodial death and medical board cases. A police officer can get videography (done) of any other case, if required. Complete videography of post-mortem may lead to delay in the procedure, which causes harassment (to next of kin) waiting to receive the body to complete the last rites.
“CCTV installation in the mortuary premises is a welcome move for… strengthening security. However, CCTV inside the autopsy hall will be a violation of the constitutional rights of the dead, as it breaches the privacy of the dead… and confidentiality of the post-mortem findings is lost,” said the minutes.
The minutes were annexed as part of the affidavit filed before a bench of Justice G S Sistani and Justice Jyoti Singh Wednesday, which was hearing a plea to frame guidelines on the disposal of abandoned bodies and to carry out complete videography and photography of last rites of the unattended bodies.
The petition filed by Ramanuj Pursotam, through advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, alleged that unidentified or abandoned bodies are disposed of mechanically, without performing mandatory formalities. Pursotam claimed that his son had gone missing on December 4, 2017, and that his body was recovered on December 8. He claimed that police disposed of the body two days later, after a post-mortem.
However, additional standing counsel (civil) Satyakam, on behalf of the Delhi government and police, opposed the contention that bodies are mechanically disposed without proper identification. He said they preserve such bodies in mortuaries for a minimum of 72 hours — which is even extended with an objective to ensure its identification.