Gaps in Births and Deaths Registration (Amendment) Act

Source– The post is based on the article “Gaps in Births and Deaths Registration (Amendment) Act” published in “The Hindu” on 18th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Polity

Relevance: Important Bills and Acts

News– Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, 2023 has been passed by Parliament and has got the assent of the President of India.

What are significant provisions of the Bill?

The Bill makes it compulsory that the Registrar General of India maintains a national level database of births and deaths.

The Chief Registrar of births and deaths in every State is required to maintain a State-level database of registered births and deaths ‘using the portal approved by the Registrar General of India’.

These databases will provide information to update the National Population Register, the Aadhaar database, electoral rolls, ration card, passport, and other databases at the national level, as may be notified.

In the case of birth, the amendments provide for collecting the Aadhaar number of the parents. Nothing is mentioned about the Aadhaar number of the deceased.

The amendments mandate that for all deaths within medical institutions, a cause of death certificate must be forwarded to the Registrar of Births and Deaths. A copy should be provided to the closest relative.

In cases of deaths that transpire outside of hospitals, the medical practitioner who attended to the deceased during their recent illness is responsible for issuing this certificate.

What are some facts about central and State databases of births and deaths?

The responsibility of managing the registration lies with State governments. The Registrar General of India’s role is to coordinate and unify the registration system.

The Registrar General of India will now also oversee the maintenance of the central database, alongside the existing functions.

The Chief Registrars in the States are tasked with maintaining efficient databases to facilitate the issuance of birth and death certificates.

The national-level database will primarily consist of State-level databases, with the possibility of slight deviations to accommodate additional data elements that certain States may incorporate.

What are issues relating to the creation of a national-level database?

The proposal suggests that the central-level database should be accessible to authorities managing databases for population registers, electoral rolls, Aadhaar numbers, ration cards, passports, driving licences, property registrations, as notified.

If these entities need to access information from the registered births and deaths database, they would be required to make modifications to the laws or executive orders that oversee their respective databases.

The Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act only requires a provision enabling the sharing of information from the database.

Introducing a specific collection of databases for parliamentary evaluation, while also permitting potential future incorporations by the government, could be perceived as undermining the supremacy of Parliament.

The subsequent inclusions to this list might raise more significant concerns than those originally approved by the legislative body.

What are the issues with the provision related to medical practitioners issuing death certificates?

Firstly, the attending medical practitioner might not always have arrived at a definite diagnosis before the person’s passing.

Secondly, the forms used for recording the cause of death adhere to World Health Organization guidelines.

If the deceased was under the care of a practitioner from the AYUSH systems of medicine, the recorded cause of death might not be applicable for cause of death statistics due to non-classifiable under the International Classification of Diseases.

Thirdly, a person undergoing treatment for a particular ailment could die from an entirely different cause outside of a medical facility, where the attending medical practitioner wasn’t available for consultation.

In such cases, expecting the practitioner to issue a cause of death certificate becomes problematic.

Fourthly, while Section 17 of the Act prohibits the inclusion of the cause of death in any certificate issued under the Act, it now stipulates that the cause of death certificate should be furnished to the deceased’s relative.

These provisions appear contradictory, as the cause of death entered in the death register is derived from the very cause of death certificate issued by the medical practitioner.

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