Specific protocols for conducting medico-legal autopsies in cases of death in custody or following a violation of human rights: Indian perspective

AUTHOR(s) : Mahanta P, Yadav M
DOI No. : 10.31741/ijhrmlp.v9.i1.2023.1


This editorial is written to protect international standards set by the Minnesota Protocol regarding the potentially unlawful death investigation in 2016. Also collected are anecdotes from death investigation guidelines of 2013 in custody by the International Committee of Red Cross and the guidelines and protocols of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MH&FW), Government of India, for medico-legal care for survivors/victims of sexual violence. Autopsy, if done appropriately, reports of it can be adequate evidence to prove the allegation of police abuse in custody. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made efforts from time to time to formulate a proper mechanism for reporting the death in custody. It directed to the chief secretaries of all states in 1993 that all cases of custodial death and rape be reported to it within 24 hours of occurrence, failing which the NHRC would draw an “adverse inference. In 1995, the NHRC again directed to implement its earlier direction besides the autopsy of custodial death to be videographed. The Commission has raised concerns about the documentation of the autopsy reports referring to the doctor issuing reports under the pressure of police and maligning the reporting. Considering the importance of autopsy reports, the NHRC directed to send all the autopsy records of custodial death to the Commission. Finally 1997, the Commission endorsed a guideline for all custodial deaths nationwide. Over two decades have passed, but a definite discrepancy still existed nationwide. The gap is palpable even though NHRC continuously works for a uniform protocol. Therefore, a clear guideline is required for the doctor to follow to use this uniform protocol of NHRC. Forensic biases are seen while reviewing an autopsy report of the cases of young girls, including the examination and reporting rape victims, have still existed. In case of death in custody, the 2014 guidelines by the MH&FW for medico-legal examination of survivors/victims of sexual violence need to be followed. The troubling situation arises while examining lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons. So, the conflict and queries are still to be resolved.

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