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21 Jan 2021, Edition - 2018, Thursday

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Coimbatore

Death certificate without photo ID – Is the system fool-proof?

U Bharath

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Lack of photo identity and Aadhar-linked services while issuing death certificates by the respective civic bodies may lead to fraudsters and criminals using the loophole to escape the long arm of the law, say social experts.

The activists cite the murder case of Ammasi, a 45-year-old Arundhathiyar woman who was murdered on December 11, 2013, for gain by her own lawyer E T Rajavelu and his associates to fake the death of Rajavelu’s wife Mohana, who was involved in a multi-crore financial scam. They say that the criminals cremated the body of Ammasi, a scheduled caste woman, the very next morning at the Athupalam crematorium claiming it to be Mohana, thanks to the loophole in the system. Rajavelu also obtained a death certificate in Mohana’s name while she is very much alive.

The murder would not have come to light but for Ammasi’s daughter Sakunthala, who smelt a rat in the sudden disappearance of her mother and complained to the city police on December 3, 2013 about possible foul play.

Police launched a manhunt for the criminal duo, and the husband and wife were nabbed while trying to flee the country via Thiruvananthapuram airport. A case has been filed and trial is ongoing while the alleged murderers are out on bail.

This is a typical case of impersonation of a dead person for financial gain. There is every chance that in future such cases may go unreported if a fool-proof system is not put in place.

“Unscrupulous elements might indulge in foul play as death certificate is a mandatory document for insurance claims, property inheritance, transfer of savings account to legal heirs and the like. A fool-proof system if implemented could come to the aid of legal heirs. Introduction of Aadhar-linked services and photo identity could be the remedy to prevent any such abuse of a dead person’s legacy,” said a senior police officer.

“At the crematorium the caretaker collects only the name and sex of the deceased and nothing more before it is passed on to the revenue records in six months’ time. But death certificates can be obtained immediately,” said Manoj, a social activist.

However, the senior police officer added that every service in the country is getting Aadhar-linked and the government should bring about a fool-proof system while issuing death certificates too. “I think the days are not far when the issuance of death certificates too would get Aadhar-linked,” he said.

CMC Commissioner Vijay Karthikeyan said that death certificates are issued the same way all over Tamil Nadu. “The government has to decide on bringing about a fool-proof system.”

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