While the hospitals receive several bodies of accident victims, murder and suicide cases on a daily basis, in a few cases the deceased is left unclaimed. Such bodies land at the Government Hospitals. While the mortuaries in government hospital were renovated to accommodate more number of bodies, forensic experts claim that the delay by the police in conducting an inquest over the death, leave the bodies to be kept at the mortuary for a prolonged time.
For instance, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) in Chennai receives higher number of unclaimed bodies than other hospitals. “Due to this, a separate section to preserve these unclaimed bodies was constructed. Now, we have 30 such unclaimed bodies,” said Dr R Jayanthi, Dean of the hospital.
Why does it take so long to clear these unclaimed dead bodies?
Talking to DT Next R Selvakumar, the Forensic Expert at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, said, “When it comes to medico legal cases, an intimation will be given to the police, who will advertise the details of the deceased in newspapers. The Tamil Nadu police will also post the information on their website. In case, no one comes to claim the body, the police are expected to conduct an inquest after which the hospital will conduct a post-mortem to identify the cause of the death.
However, in the process there is always a delay by the police department.” The doctor further claimed that if the death was found to be due to natural causes, the police refrain from conducting an inquest immediately. “They tend to delay the process, due to which the body is left in the mortuary. In a few cases, the body lies in the mortuary for over three months.” He said that according to an order of the Madras High Court, the police should complete investigation and dispose the body within three days in normal cases.
“In cases where decomposed bodies are found with maggots and worms that is brought to the mortuary and it tends to spread to other bodies as well,” explained Selvakumar. He further stated that on a daily basis, KMC receives two bodies at least. A doctor at KMC said as on Monday, KMC has 25 unclaimed bodies.
“After a lot of push from our side, the police conduct the inquest and the post-mortem examination is done. The bodies are then buried by the police with the help of NGOs or they are given to the anatomy department of the hospital or a medical institute (depending on the need),” the doctor said.
Admitting the delay, a police officer requesting anonymity, said, “Closing the inquiries in three days is not followed in most cases. This happens in cases, especially, where there is a sudden claim for the body on which the post mortem is already done.”