(Prayer: Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying to issue Writ of mandamus to direct the first respondent to register the death of the petitioner's wife viz., S.Jeyasri Selvi, aged 49, in the register of Births and Deaths on the file of the first respondent.)
1. By way of filing this writ petition, the petitioner seeks for a direction to the first respondent / The Commissioner, Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation, Thoothukudi, to register the death of his wife, namely, S.Jeyasri Selvi, aged about 49 years, in the register of Births and Deaths maintained by them.
2. Learned counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner is a native of Thoothukudi and also owns a house at Plot No. 46, Siva Bhavanam, Abirami Nagar, Muthiahpuram Post, Thoothukudi. However, due to his employment with M/s.Baby Marine Eastern Exports, he took a house for rent at Door No.17/52-19, Bye pass road, Mandapam, Ramnad District. While he was living with his wife in the said house at Ramnad, his wife developed high fever on 02.03.2016 and was treated in a hospital at Mandapam. Thereafter, he took his wife to a hospital at Ramnad, where he was advised to admit his wife for some days for better treatment, however, as there was no relative for him at Ramnad, he took his wife to Thoothudi, his native town. When the petitioner reached his brother's house in Thoothukudi at about 5.30 p.m., his wife was speechless, therefore, he contacted a doctor, who, on attending his wife, informed that she was dead. The said doctor has also issued a death certificate and thereafter, his wife was cremated on 04.03.2016 in the cremation ground maintained by the first respondent/Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation, Thoothukudi.
3. At this juncture, the only contention of the petitioner is that after his wife death, when he presented the application on 08.03.2016 to the first respondent for registration of death, the officials at the first respondent office, after a period of two days, returned the same stating that the death of his wife cannot be registered on the ground territorial jurisdiction as she died at Mandapam, Ramnad District. Therefore, he contended, it is the duty of the first respondent to register the death of his wife under the provisions of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (in short Act ), even though she died in Ramnad District, outside the territorial jurisdiction of the first respondent.
4. In support of his submissions, he has also relied upon a judgment of this Court in N.Vedantam v. Executive Officer, Town Panchayat, Perungalathur, Chennai [(2011) 1 MLJ 1278] to contend that the Registrar, while discharging his functions by acting on information on birth or death given under Section 7(2) of the Act, has a statutory duty to register it even if it occurred outside his territorial limits. Therefore, he pleaded, when such is the ratio of this Court, in the case on hand, the denial by the first respondent to reject his wife death on the ground of territorial jurisdiction cannot be sustained. On this score, he prayed for a direction to the first respondent to register the death of his wife in the Births and Deaths Register maintained by them.
5. Per contra, learned counsel appearing for the first respondent by filing a counter affidavit, submitted that on 15.03.2016, the petitioner has given Form-II and Form-4A to the Sanitary Inspector, who is the Registrar of Births and Deaths, Thoothukudi Corporation (South Zone) and thereafter, the said Sanitary Inspector went to the residence of the petitioner as mentioned in Column 5 of Form-II to enquire the neighbours in and around the residence of the petitioner, wherein it is revealed that the deceased Jeya Sri Selvi was brought to the place as mentioned in column 6(b) of Form-II by 10 p.m. on 03.03.2016 in an Ambulance. It is his further submission that after the enquiry, Form-II and Form-4A submitted by the petitioner were returned to him since the medical certificate of cause of death was not properly given by the persons as per the Act and Rules. Thereafter, the petitioner on 14.05.2016 had sent a registered post enclosing Form-II and Form-4A along with receipt of cremation and reference letter without date and discharge time by the Doctor namely Meenakshisundaram, Sathya Speciality Hospital and Balaji Advanced Laparoscopy Centre, Ramnad. On receipt of such details, the respondent conducted another enquiry in the place of residence as mentioned in column 6(b) of Form-II with the other neighbours, wherein the neighbours informed the same as revealed in the earlier enquiry dated 16.03.2016. Thus, he pleaded, on the basis of such enquiry report, the first respondent/the Commissioner, Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation, Thoothukudi, is not in a position to register the death of the petitioner's wife, on the ground of territorial jurisdiction since the death had occurred at Ramnad District. On this score, he prayed for dismissal of the writ petition.
6. Heard the learned counsel appearing on either side and perused the materials available on record.
7. It is not in dispute that the petitioner belongs to Thoothukudi. It is also admitted by the petitioner that he has been temporarily residing in a house bearing Door No.17/52-19, Muthu Nachiyar Illam, Bye pass road, Mandapam, Ramnad District, in view of his employment with M/s.Baby Marine Eastern Exports. While he was residing at Ramnad District, his wife developed high fever on 02.03.2016 and she was treated in a Hospital at Mandapam. Thereafter, she was taken to a Hospital at Ramnad for better treatment, where she was advised to stay for some days, however, as there was no relatives at Ramnad, the petitioner took his wife to Thoothukudi, his native town. According to the petitioner, on reaching his brother's house at Thoothukudi at about 5.30 p.m., his wife was speechless and therefore, he contacted a doctor, who, on attending her, informed that she was dead. Thereupon, the said Doctor also issued a death certificate and subsequently, the petitioner's wife was cremated on 04.03.2016 in the cremation ground maintained by the first respondent. However, when the petitioner approached the first respondent / the Commissioner, Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation to register the death of his wife, the same was turned down on the ground that the death has not taken place within the territorial jurisdiction of the first respondent, as she was brought dead from Ramnad District.
8. In such situation, it is relevant to take note of the fact that while enacting the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, in the statement of objects and reasons, it is indicated that the said Legislative exercise has been carried out, inter alia, as the Central Government needs accurate country-wide registration of data for the purpose of national planning, organizing public health and medical activities and developing family planning programmes. Thus, it is clear that the enactment relating to registration of births and deaths is an Act intended for the benefit of the people as well as the country. Therefore, it is appropriate to extract herein the relevant provisions of the Act and the same read as under:
7. Registrars :-- (1) The State Government may appoint a Registrar for each local area comprising the area within the jurisdiction of a municipality, panchayat; or other local authority or any other area or a combination of any two or more of them: Provided that the State Government may appoint in the case of a municipality, panchayat or other local authority, any officer or other employee thereof as a Registrar.
(2) Every Registrar shall, without fee or reward, enter in the register maintained for the purpose all information given to him under Section 8 or Section 9 and shall also take steps to inform himself carefully of every birth and of every death which takes place in his jurisdiction and to ascertain and register the particulars required to be registered.
8. Persons required to register births and deaths:
(1) It shall be the duty of the persons specified below to give or cause to be given, either orally or in writing, according to the best of their knowledge and belief, within such time as may be prescribed, information to the Registrar of the several particulars required to be entered in the forms prescribed by the State Government under Sub-section (1) of Section 16,-- (a) in respect of births and deaths in a house, whether residential or nonresidential, not being any place referred to in Clauses (b) to
(e), the head of the house or, in case more than one household live in the house, the head of the household, the head being the person, who is so recognized by the house or the household, and if he is not present in the house at any time during the period within which the birth or death has to he reported, the nearest relative of the head present in the house, and in the absence of any such person, the oldest adult male person present therein during the said period;
(b) In respect of births and deaths in a hospital, health center, maternity or nursing home or other like institution, the medical officer in charge or any person authorized by him in this behalf;
9. Special provision regarding births and deaths in a plantation :-- In the case of births and deaths, in a plantation, the superintendent of the plantation shall give or cause to be given to the Registrar the information referred to in Section 8:
Provided that the persons referred to in Clauses (a) to (e) of Sub-section (1) of Section 8 shall furnish the necessary particulars to the superintendent of the plantation.
10. Duty of certain persons to notify births and deaths and to certify cause of death.-- (1) It shall be the duty of-- (i) the midwife or any other medical or health attendant at a birth or death. (ii) The keeper or the owner of a place set apart for the disposal of dead bodies or any person required by a local authority to be present at such place, or (iii) Other person whom the State Government may specify in this behalf by his designation, to notify every birth or death or both at which he or she attended or was present, or which occurred in such areas as may be prescribed, to the Registrar within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed.
(2) In any area, the State Government, having regard to the facilities available therein in this behalf may require that a certificate as to the cause of death shall be obtained by the Registrar from such person and in such form as may be prescribed.
(3) Where the State Government has required under Sub-section (2) that a certificate as to the cause of death shall be obtained, in the event of the death of any person who, during his last illness, was attended by a medical practitioner, the medical practitioner shall, after the death of that person, forthwith, issue without charging any fee, to the person required under this Act to give information concerning the death, a certificate in the prescribed form stating to the best of his knowledge and belief the cause of death, and the certificate shall be received and delivered by such person to the Registrar at the time of giving information concerning the death as required by this Act.
It is not stipulated either in section 8 or in Section 9 or in Section (2) of the Act that the informations to the Registrar must be in respect of death happening within the territorial jurisdiction of the concerned Registrar. It is also not indicated that the information has to be from within the territorial limits of the Registrar when he gives informations on births and deaths to the Registrar and it would mean that the information to the Registrar can come from an informant outside his territorial limits. When such is the admitted provisions envisaged by the legislature, in the case on hand, refusal by the first respondent to register the death of the deceased / petitioner's wife on the ground that the death has not taken place within his territorial jurisdiction, in my view, is oppressive and unjust and would defeat justice, especially when the Dr.K.Mummoorthy, who examined the petitioner's wife, confirmed her death by certifying Form-4A, Medical Certificate of cause of death, dated 08.03.2016.
9. In Tessy P.Das v. Paippadu Grama Panchayat [(2007) Indlaw Ker 1921], the petitioner's husband therein died in Madurai in Tamil Nadu and the dead body was brought over to Paippadu Village and was buried at the Cemetry of St. Thomas Church, Paippadu. The Vicar of the Church has issued certificate in that regard. The widow made an application along the said certificate for issuance of a death certificate, but, the said application was rejected on the ground that the death occurred outside his jurisdictional limits viz., the area of Paippadu Grama Panchayat. On considering these factual aspects, a learned Judge of the Kerala High Court, while considering the helplessness of the Registrar on the ground that the death did not occur within his territorial jurisdiction and after considering the statutory provisions of Sections 7 to 10 of the Act, held that the Registrars appointed by the State Government under Section 7 of the Act for a given local area are competent to Register Births and Deaths taking place outside the local areas provided information with regard to birth or death is duly notified to them under Section 8 or 10 of the Act and in such cases, the Registrar will have to be convinced regarding the identity of the child born or person who is dead on the basis of dependable materials.
10. In a similar issue, this Court also, by following the above said judgment of the Kerala High Court, in N.Vedantam's case (cited supra), held thus:
37. Merely because the Station Master, Kanpur, has not given the information to the first respondent, it cannot be said, no other person can furnish the information about the death, which occurred in the train. Sections 8 and 9 of the Act or Rule 6 of the Rules, only casts a duty on the persons to give information. The rule only casts a duty on the abovesaid person to furnish the information and does not prohibit any other person from giving an information. If such a narrow interpretation to the Sections and rule is given, then if the said persons fail to give information, then it cannot be contended that no registration of birth and death is permissible under the statutory provisions.
38. In view of the above, the contention that the respondents have no statutory duty to register the death of the petitioner's wife, within the State of Tamil Nadu, as the death had occurred in a moving train between New Delhi and Kanpur, is untenable.
39. In the light of the above discussion and following the judgments stated supra and of the factual admission on the part of the respondents in the counter affidavit the dead body of the petitioner's wife had been brought to Chennai and cremated within the jurisdiction of the first respondent, the impugned communications are set aside and there shall be a direction to the respondents to register the death of the petitioner's wife to issue the death certificate of late Mrs.Pankajam, wife of the petitioner, after obtaining a declaration from him for registration, to the effect that the particulars sought to be registered are true and correct and that the particulars have not been registered anywhere else in India and also that the same does not run in conflict with particulars registered by any other authority outside India.
In the above said case, the petitioner's wife therein, after visiting her first daughter's house at New Delhi, took a train from New Delhi to Patna to see her second daughter at Patna, and on 03.05.2010, while in transit, she suddenly passed away in the train due to heart attack. Thereafter, her body was taken to the nearest Kanpur Railway Station, where the doctor and station master confirmed her death. Thereafter, her body was transported to the residence in Chennai and after performing the last rites, her body was cremated within the jurisdiction of the first respondent therein. However, when the petitioner therein approached the first respondent therein to register his wife death, the said authority refused to register the same on the ground that the death has not taken place within his jurisdiction. This Court, by rejecting the contention of the respondents, that the respondents have no statutory duty to register the death of the petitioner's wife within the State of Tamil Nadu as the death had occurred in a moving train, as untenable, directed the respondents therein to register the death of the petitioner's wife therein. Likewise, in the case on hand, at the risk of repetition, it may be mentioned that as per the medical certificate dated 08.03.2016 issued by Dr.Mummorthy, it is clear that the petitioner's wife was brought dead from Ramnad District. However, the first respondent refused to register the same on the ground of territorial jurisdiction, which would in my view defeat the intention of the provisions enacted by the legislature under the Act for registration of Births and Deaths in the register maintained by the Registrars.
11. If the contention of the respondents that they are legally entitled to deny the request for registration of death is accepted, the Country will not be able to record correct population statistics, since the population is one of the most dynamic factors in the present economy of the country for the purpose of national planning, organising public health and medical activities and thereafter for developing family planning programmes. Moreover, if any of the death taking place outside the State, District or outside the Country is refused to be registered on the ground that the death had taken place outside the territorial jurisdiction, then the very purpose of collecting the accurate population census would be defeated. Therefore, the Registrar, while discharging his/her functions by acting on information given for death, is competent to act on informations irrespective of the territorial limits of his functioning, provided that the informations relate to a person who was a resident during his life time within the territorial limits of the said Registrar. Therefore, in the case on hand, the question of denial for registering the death of the petitioner's wife, who was admittedly residing within the jurisdiction of the first respondent/Thoothukudi Municpal Corporation, for want of territorial jurisdiction is totally irrelevant and uncalled for.
12. Thus, in the light of the aforesaid discussions and following the judgments stated supra, this Court hereby directs the first respondent to register the death of the petitioner's wife, namely, S.Jeyasri Selvi, in the register of Births and Deaths maintained by them, within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. Accordingly, the writ petition stands allowed. No Costs.