- Exhumation is defined as a lawful disinterment or digging out of a buried dead body from the grave for medicolegal examination.
Exhumation is done with definite objectives and basically, they are:
- Identification, i.e. confirming the individuality for civil or criminal purposes.
- Autopsy with or without chemical examination of viscera in case of deaths, in which foul play is suspected.
- Second autopsy, when the first autopsy report is ambiguous.
Autopsies are performed on exhumed bodies:
- In criminal cases, such as homicide, suspected homicide disguised as suicide or other types of death, suspicious poisoning, death as a result of criminal abortion and criminal negligence.
- In civil cases, such as accidental death claim, insurance, workmen’s compensation claim, liability for professional negligence, survivorship and inheritance claims or disputed identity.
- Can be done for all ages
- Exhumation is done under the order of appropriate officers, in the presence of a police officer, during daytime, preferably in the forenoon.
- District or Subdivisional Magistrates or Tehsildar are specially empowered to order for exhumation
- Note: Police officer cannot order for exhumation.
- It is done under supervision of medical officer and Magistrate in presence of a police officer who provides witnesses to identify grave, coffin and dead body, whenever possible, Magistrate should inform the relatives and allow them not to remain present at the time of enquiry.
- Medical officer’s presence is required for doing the medicolegal postmortem examination, which may have to
be done at the spot covered away from the public or in a close-by morgue.
- The medical officer should preferably stand in the wind side of the body to avoid inhalation of gases.
PRECAUTIONS AT EXHUMATION
- The grave is first identified and after the grave is dug, the undertaker identifies the coffin, if any.
- The body has to be identified by as many persons as possible before sending for postmortem examination.
Following viscera and materials are sent for chemical analysis:
- About 500 gm of soil from above, below and in actual contact with the body.
- Hairs from head and pubic region.
- Nails, teeth and bones.
- Viscera such as liver, stomach and intestines.
TIME LIMIT FOR EXHUMATION
- In India and England, there is no time limit
- But in countries like France, Scotland and Germany, etc. 10, 20, 30 years respectively are the time limits for exhumation.
- Ideal time to start exhumation is Early morning
- Time limit of exhumation in India is No limit
- In India exhumation is ordered by Magistrate
- An order for exhumation can be given by District collector, Additional district magistrate or Sub-collector
- Exhumation is done in All ages
- For exhumation the order should be passed by Executive magistrate
- Exhumation is usually done in conditions like Homicide, Death as a result of criminal abortion, & Death due to criminal negligence
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