Death and Dying

Information on how to proceed in the event of the death of a family member in India, plus details on the repatriation of remains for a burial or cremation…

In the Event of a Fatality

If a death occurs at a private residence, do not take the body to a hospital. A Medical Cause of Death certificate will not be issued unless the death occurred in the hospital. Call a doctor, who will confirm the death and its date, time and cause, before issuing a certificate. If the death is unexpected or suspicious, a post-mortem report will be required. Once a Medical Cause of Death certificate has been issued by a doctor, the body can be moved to a morgue.

Embassies and consulates can offer advice on registering a death with the local authorities and how to make funeral arrangements. Embassy and consular officials may also be able to offer help:

  • Contact details of undertakers and funeral directors
  • Liaising with the local authorities
  • Contacting the next of kin
  • Forwarding the deceased’s personal effects in the absence of next of kin
  • Assistance with repatriation of remains

The death of a foreigner can also be registered at most embassies and consulates. In the case of British nationals, consular death registration is not compulsory, but can be beneficial, as the record of death will be permanently accessible at the High Commission and will be communicated to the General Register Office in the UK.

The death of a US citizen should be reported to the American Embassy in New Delhi. A Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad will be issued, which can he helpful for settling legal and estate issues.

The embassy and consulates have more information on registering the death of a citizen:

Other nationalities should contact their embassy directly to check whether consular death registration is required.

The documents required usually include:

  • Original death certificate issued by the local authorities
  • Medical Cause of Death certificate
  • Original passport of the deceased

Reporting a Death to the Local Authorities

It is the responsibility of the registrar general to register deaths at the state level. In urban areas, the registrar may be a health officer or inspector, or an executive officer or a commissioner of the municipality. At the village level, the registrar can be the secretary of the “panchayat” (village assembly), an officer of the local police station, a local health official, an accountant or a teacher in a government school.

If a death is suspicious, the police must also be informed, so that an investigation into the cause can be carried out.

Who Can Report a Death?

The person who is required to report a death to the authorities depends on where the death occurred:

  • Private residence: the head of the household
  • Hospital or healthcare centre: the medical officer in charge or any authorised officer
  • Moving vehicle: the owner of the vehicle
  • Public place: the head of the village or whoever is in charge of the local police station

Time Limit for Registering a Death

According to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act (1969), a death must be registered with the concerned authority within 21 days. If a death is not registered by then, permission must be requested from the local registrar and the payment of a late fee is required.

Required Documentation

To register a death with the local authorities, the following documents are required:

  • Application form from the local registrar
  • Application fee
  • Medical Cause of Death certificate signed by a doctor
  • Post-mortem report (if required in the case of an unexpected or suspicious death)
  • The deceased’s passport

The death certificate is issued after the death has been registered and verified. It will detail the date, time and cause of death.

Burial and Cremation

Once a death is registered, a permit will be issued allowing for disposal of the body. The body must be buried, cremated or embalmed within 24 to 72 hours of death (according to state law). Once a body is embalmed, it can be held in a morgue if instructions are needed from the next of kin regarding funeral arrangements.

Embassies can provide a list of undertakers/funeral directors. Cremation can take place in an outdoor cremation ground or indoor crematorium.

Repatriation

To repatriate remains to the country of origin, contact the embassy or consulate concerned for information on the procedure to follow.

Remains to be repatriated must be embalmed and placed in a coffin that is hermetically sealed.

The following documents are required:

  • The death certificate or post-mortem report
  • Embalming certificate issued by the doctor
  • Export authorisation issued by a health officer from the Department of Health
  • Consular death certificate issued by the consular officer
  • Affidavit by the undertaker attesting to the contents, embalming and hermetical sealing of the coffin

To export human ashes, the following documents are required:

  • Cremation certificate issued by the crematorium
  • Official death certificate
  • Consular death certificate issued by the consular officer

Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide

Passive euthanasia was legalised in India in March 2011. Passive euthanasia refers to the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state.

Attempting suicide is a punishable crime in India.