A Death Certificate is a certificate issued by the government mentioning the date, fact and cause of death of a person. It is issued to the nearest relative of the deceased. A death certificate is an intrinsic document which relieves the person from any existing obligations and helps in settling several other legal claims including inheritance, insurance matters, property claims. As per the Registration of Births & Deaths Act, 1969, a death has to be registered with the concerned state/UT government within 21 days of its occurrence. In this regard, a detailed procedure to apply for death certificate has been laid down wherein a death is registered with the Chief Registrar at the state level and District and village level registrars at the lower level.
Who needs to register the death and when?
After the religious rituals are performed by the family, it is important to report the death within 21 days of its occurrence. It can either be reported by the head of the family or the next kin of the family. Even if the death occurs outside the house of a person, it is still his responsibility to report about the same. However, if the death takes place in the hospital/health care centre or a maternity home, it becomes the responsibility of the Medical in-charge/Chief Medical Officer to report the same. In case a death occurs in a jail, it becomes the responsibility of the Jail in-charge to report the same to the concerned authorities. The Act also states that in case a death occurs in normal circumstances, anyone from the family (oldest member of the family or any other relative of the deceased) may request for obtaining a death certificate. If a death occurs in hospital/Dharamshala/Boarding House, etc the person in charge has to report the death. If death occurs in a moving vehicle, the person in charge of the vehicle has to register. If a dead body is found deserted in public, then the village headman or the in-charge of the local police station has to register the death.
Also, in cases where a medical condition was involved, the last attending practitioner is entitled to provide a certificate stating the cause of death without taking any fees from the person requesting the certificate.
Documents Required for Registering a Death
Certain documents are required for registering the death of a person. The registrar might ask for all or any of the following documents while registering a death:
- Application on a plain paper
- Proof of death of the concerned person (letter of the last medical practitioner etc.)
- Birth certificate, for proof of age of the deceased person
- Affidavit specifying the date and time of the occurrence of death
- Copy of Ration card
- Address proof of the concerned person (Electricity bills etc.)
It is stated in the rules appended to the above-mentioned act that the Registrar shall enter the name of the person deceased in the records without charging any fees or reward. All the documents provided for registration must be attested by the Official Gazette. Additional documents to prove the relationship of the deceased and the person registering the death might also be required.
Procedure for Registration of Death
In order to obtain a death certificate, it is imperative to register it with the concerned local authorities within 21 days of its occurrence by filling up the prescribed form provided by the Registrar of Deaths. For example, the concerned local authority in case of Delhi is MCD, NDMC, Delhi Cantonment Board. The death has to be registered in the office of the registrar in whose jurisdiction the death took place. After receiving the completed application form with requisite documents, a draft order is made and sent to the concerned police for verification. If a positive reply is received from the police station, then the registrar is ordered to register the death. The issuance of death certificate takes around 5-7 days after the verification. Click on the link if you wish to read more about death certificate procedure.
Online Application for Obtaining Death Certificate
Obtaining a death certificate has become easier in some states through the online application process. Death certificate in these states can be obtained online by duly filling the application form and providing the required documents. Some states might also require submission of proof from the crematorium along with the medical practitioner’s report. In some states like New Delhi and Chandigarh, the hospitals have the power to issue online death certificates where the family need not physically visit the hospital.
Delay in Reporting the Death
A delay might be caused in reporting a death due to the grief and emotional challenges involved. In such cases the death can be registered with the following persons:
- If registration of death is done from 21 to 30 days after the death, the Medical Officer, Health (MOH) will provide the certificate after collecting a fine of Rs.25 from the applicant.
- If death is registered after 30 days to within one year of death, the death certificate can only be obtained from the Joint Director of Statistics after collecting a fine of Rs.50 and an affidavit.
If the registration of death is made after a lapse of a year, the applicant can obtain a certificate only by the order of a first-class magistrate. For this, the applicant will need to provide a certificate stating the Cause of Death, Cremation Certificate and an Affidavit.
So, we can see that it is imperative to register a death within 21 days of its occurrence to avoid unnecessary hassles. Availing a lawyer’s help for obtaining a death certificate will also help in reducing the burden at the time of grief. Not only is registering a death mandatory, it also helps in solving inheritance, insurance and employment issues.