The practice came to light after a news report said police was yet to carry out a post-mortem of an unidentified woman found dead near Shanti Van area here two days back.
Pulling up the police for the delay, the high court said the agency's decision to wait for 72 hours would have led to loss of valuable medical and forensic evidence.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the news report which said that according to norms if the body was not identified after 73 hours it would be cremated without an autopsy, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Delhi Police which law permits it to wait for so long without carrying out a post-mortem.
Senior police officers, including an Additional DCP, who were present in court said there was a September 2010 standing order of the Commissioner of Police which said that post-mortem of unidentified bodies can be conducted only after 72 hours.
Disapproving the practice and calling it unfortunate, the bench said it "fails to see how non-identification of a body can interdict investigation, especially in cases of murder or where sexual assault is suspected", as in the instant case.
It also said,"How can you rely on a standing order which is contrary to the criminal procedure code?"
The bench also directed the police to forthwith carry out the autopsy and forensic examination of the body and a status report be filed before the next date of hearing on May 31.
The court also ordered that the body will not be cremated without carrying out of the autopsy and collection of all necessary evidence.
The bench asked the police to indicate in its report whether it was possible to identify a person later by using her or his DNA imprint or would a DNA sample be required.
It directed the agency to also preserve DNA samples for identifying the woman, who was in her 20s, at a later date.
The police, meanwhile, said that an FIR for the offence of murder was registered at Daryaganj Police Station on the same day the body was discovered.
It also assured the bench that the post-mortem would be conducted today.
The agency also told the court that the victim appeared to be homeless person and it was questioning vagabonds in the area to ascertain her identity.
On May 14, the police were informed that a woman, with head injuries, was lying unconscious in the Shanti Van area. She was rushed to a hospital where she was declared brought dead.
The woman is yet to be identified. It is suspected that she was hit with a stone on her head and effort was also made to distort her face, the police had said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)