The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the state government to provide adequate facilities and staff in all the Government Medical Colleges to facilitate the conduct of autopsies after 5 p.m.
Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan said, Article 21 of the Constitution will not only apply to a living person but will continue till his/her body is cremated.
“The right to dignity and fair treatment is not only available to a living man but also to his dead body. A decent burial of a dead body of a human being immediately after the death, if intended by the kith and kin of that person, is far more important than certain legal formalities to be conducted if it is an unnatural death. The obligation of the state to do the needful in such a situation is paramount,” ruled the judge.
The court also pointed out that from time immemorial, there is a belief that autopsy cannot be conducted during the night and should be conducted in broad daylight.
But after going through medical jurisprudence and textbooks, the Bench found that it has been suggested that as far as possible the post-mortem examination should be performed in daylight and not in artificial light since verification of colour matching is more accurate in natural light.
However, it was also stated that technology had undergone quite a change and there exists infrastructure to provide artificial daylight.
Incidentally, the Kerala Government in 2015 came out with a Government order (GO) according sanction to conduct night autopsy in five Government Medical Colleges namely, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Trissur, and Kozhikode and also in the General Hospital Kasargod as a pilot project.
But the Kerala Medico-Legal Society approached the court against the government’s decision to start night autopsies without improving facilities and argued that the GO was impractical for several reasons and the court stayed it in 2016.