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Afzal's family seeks body, but there are rules to follow

February 13, 2013 13:50 IST

Afzal Guru’s family is well within its right to seek his body, but the model prison manual prescribes clauses that need to be taken into account before the request is considered, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

The family of Afzal Guru, which refused to visit Tihar jail and perform the last rites, has demanded that his body be handed over. They have even sent an application to Tihar Jail through the deputy commissioner of Baramulla seeking possession of the body.

The family is well within its right to seek the body of the deceased, but according to the model prison manual for the Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India there are certain clauses that need to be taken into account before such a request is considered.

Clause 11.67 under disposal of body states, “ If the executed prisoner’s relatives make a written application for performing the last rites, the superintendent may, in his discretion, allow such request, provided that the relatives give an undertaking in writing that they will not make a public demonstration at cremation/burial. In cases where the superintendent thinks that there is a likelihood of a public demonstration, he has the authority to refuse such permission.”

“In cases of disposal of the body of executed prisoner, in whose case there is likelihood of public demonstration, the superintendent shall consult the district magistrate and arrangements for the disposal of the body shall be made according to the requirements of the situation. In such event, the superintendent shall act in accordance with the instructions of the district magistrate.”

Clause 11.68 of the manual states that the body of the executed prisoner shall be taken out of the prison with all solemnity. A municipal hearse or ambulance shall be used for the transportation of the body to the cremation/burial ground. The superintendent is authorised to incur all reasonable expenditure required for the transportation and disposal of the dead body.

In the case of Afzal Guru there has also been a debate on whether the jail authorities informed the family members about the execution. While the authorities claim that a communication was sent, the family members claimed that the correspondence reached them only after the execution.

Here is what the rules on communication have to say. The words ‘Death sentence’ should be inserted before the address in telegrams relating to capital sentence.

In all cases receipts of orders communicating the rejection of petitions shall invariably be acknowledged by registered letter. The orders of the government postponing the execution shall immediately be acknowledged by telegram.

Telephonic orders regarding prisoners shall be confirmed by phoning the concerned authority in the government.

A distinctive red envelop with the words ‘Death Sentence’ and ‘Immediate’ marked on the top left and right hand corners respectively, shall be used in death sentence cases. All superintendents shall make special arrangements to ensure that communication received in these distinctive envelopes are received in the prison at any time of the day or night either by the deputy superintendent or in his absence by the assistant superintendent in charge who:-

(i) shall note the time and date of receipt of the communication in the receipt register, and

(ii) shall immediately place the communication before the superintendent, or in his absence the officer next below him, for orders.

The superintendent shall see that prompt replies and acknowledgements are furnished where these are required and that in the case of orders staying execution acknowledgements are promptly sent to the government by special messenger or telegram and well in advance of the time fixed for execution of the sentence.

(i) the prisoner and his relatives will be informed about the date of execution by the superintendent, and

(ii) The prisoner’s will may be prepared in accordance with his wish.

No prisoner sentenced to death shall be executed on a public holiday.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru