7 Sep 2023 8:15 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has come to the aid of a woman by directing the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to issue death certificate of her husband, an excavator operator with BBMP who was washed away in heavy rain while working in a stormwater drain in 2017. A single bench of Justice Suraj Govindaraj allowed the petition filed by Mrs Saraswathi S P and directed the Corporation to...
The Karnataka High Court has come to the aid of a woman by directing the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to issue death certificate of her husband, an excavator operator with BBMP who was washed away in heavy rain while working in a stormwater drain in 2017.
A single bench of Justice Suraj Govindaraj allowed the petition filed by Mrs Saraswathi S P and directed the Corporation to issue the death certificate within 30 days.
The bench rejected the contention of the civic body that if the husband of the petitioner were to return alive at a later point of time, the death certificate would amount to a false death certificate. It remarked,
“The corporation is clutching at straws to try and justify its inaction. If at all the husband of the petitioner were to return alive, the respondent can always cancel the death certificate. Merely because there is such an apprehension, a living person cannot be deprived of the benefit of a death certificate of a person who is dead.”
After the petitioner’s husband was washed away, the Deputy Commissioner (Administration) of BBMP had ordered payment of compensation of Rs.10 lakhs which was paid to the petitioner. An FIR was registered with Mahalakshmipuram Police Station. The police on 27.03.2018, issued an endorsement that the body of the husband of the petitioner was not found.
The petitioner said death certificate of her husband was not being issued by the authorities. Thus she approached the court.
The counsel for BBMP opposed the plea saying there is a procedure which is required to be followed for the purpose of issuance of death certificate inasmuch as in terms of Rule 7 of Karnataka Registration of Births and Deaths Rules 1999, a certificate as to cause of death is required to be issued under Section 10(3) of the Rules in Form No.4 where the death occurs in hospitals and in Form No.4A in case of death occurring in other places. It is only on that basis that an application for the issuance of a death certificate can be considered.
The bench referred to Form 4A and noted that information relating to immediate cause of death is required to be furnished "There is a certification required to be made by a doctor and for that purpose, the cause of death has to be stated. Without such certification, Form 4A cannot be submitted to the respondent – authorities,” it noted.
Court said the case of the petitioner was however peculiar, where her husband was washed away in heavy rain while carrying out work for BBMP. It noted the respondent officials had themselves searched for the body of the petitioner's husband but it was not found. Therefore, it held that the insistence now being made on the basis of Rule 7 of the Rules for a certificate issued by a doctor indicating in terms of Form 4A is "completely unsustainable and would amount to injustice being caused to the petitioner.”
"A perusal of Form 4A would indicate that the doctor would have to certify if the deceased was under his treatment, the cause of death, significant conditions contributing to the death, the time of death and interval between on-set of the cause of death and the death. These are all aspects which could have only been certified by a doctor if the husband was under his treatment and if there was a body available," Court said.
It added, “When there is no body which is available, the question of respondent insisting for a certificate in terms of Form 4A would be completely illogical, the same can never be satisfied. Insistence on the same knowing fully well that it can never be satisfied has caused grave injustice to the petitioner (no pun intended).”
The court opined that the authorities cannot act in a pedantic manner giving high preference to procedure when substantial injustice is being caused to the Petitioner. "Procedure has been often said is only an handmaiden of justice and as such all procedures are to yield to the greater cause of justice and not cause injustice.”
It suggested that necessary institutional mechanism could be put in place to have a check and balance system for issuance of death certificates where a body is not found, by taking approval of higher authorities and while granting such permission record the reasons for doing so.
Further it remarked “The Corporation authorities cannot choose to keep quiet and do nothing and thereby deprive the petitioner of the death certificate of her husband.”
Case Title: Mrs Saraswathi S P And The Commissioner & Others
Case NO: Writ Petition No. 26850 OF 2018
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 348
Date of Order: 08-08-2023
Appearance: Advocate Keshava Murthy B for Petitioner.
Advocate K.V.Mohan Kumar for Respondents.
Click Here To Read/Download Order