Rattled over unclaimed corpses piling up in city morgues, some of them even for four months, Delhi High Court today sternly told the police and other stakeholders to come up with solutions to the problem. "What is this nonsense? Why don't you (police) do something about it? It is shocking that the IO has to pay for it (cremation)," a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Jayant Nath said. The observation came when the bench was told that investigating officers (IO) have pay from their pockets to cremate these unclaimed bodies.
It expressed concern over the "decades old" practice of cops paying for such cremation. The bench said that in the absence of any legislation, once all stakeholders come up with proposals, the court will step in and issue directions to streamline the process of disposal of bodies in the mortuaries. The court also said that the problem was due to the lack of a proper system and added that since the Centre has decided not to proceed with a separate Coroners Act, it will issue directions till a legislation comes into place. The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it after a murder accused died in custody and one of his eyes was found missing when his body was kept in the mortuary. Amicus curiae Saqib and Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra told the court that the worst off among the morgues inspected by them was the one at Subzi Mandi area where there were over 85 bodies but its capacity was 65. Some bodies were also stacked on top of others. They said that 95 per cent of the bodies were lying there for over 72 hours, the stipulated time limit under a Delhi Police standing order for disposal of unclaimed or unidentified bodies. When Delhi Police counsel Avi Singh said overcrowding at Subzi Mandi morgue was due to a nearby electric crematorium not working, the court shot back, "apart from corruption, what works?" The court, in its order, sought to know the reasons for delay in disposal of such corpses after amicus curiae told the bench that some bodies have been lying in the morgues since August this year and were in a putrefied state. The bench asked the police to consider some manner of preservation of DNA samples of unclaimed and unidentified bodies for future reference and listed the matter for hearing on December 21.
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