The Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the Maharashtra.government to inform it about the existing guidelines on conducting autopsies in private as well as state and civic hospitals. A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar also asked the state if it had issued any government resolutions (GRs) to set down such guidelines, particularly for autopsies conducted on female corpses.
The bench was hearing a PIL, which alleged that autopsies in several civic hospitals were being conducted by morgue attendants and sweepers instead of doctors. The plea, filed by activist Adil Khatri, claimed that during a visit to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run Sion Hospital in September last year, he found a sweeper and a male morgue attendant conducting a post-mortem examination.
Khatri claimed that replies to his queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that owing to shortage of trained staff, doctors at civic hospitals were often assisted by "morgue attendants, sweepers and assistant doctors" for conducting a post-mortem. He told the court that male morgue attendants and sweepers also conducted a post-mortem on women.
At this, the bench asked the state if a standard procedure was followed for conducting autopsies in all hospitals across the state. "Has the government issued any GRs for autopsies on female corpses? Just as how as per the CrPC, a female police officer must remain present if a woman is being taken into custody, or questioned. Similarly, do any such rules exist for conducting autopsies?" the bench asked.
The state's lawyer, Poornima Kantharia, told the bench that while she will find out about the GRs, it was possible that often, due to the shortage of doctors, or "the reluctance of female doctors to go into morgues", male doctors and assistant medical staff conduct autopsies on female corpses. The plea had sought that the court directs the BMC to ensure that a standard procedure was followed by all civic hospitals in the city while conducting autopsies. It has also urged that it be made mandatory to ensure that women doctors or attendants were present during the post-mortem of women.
(With inputs from agencies.)