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New rules over death inquests

A twelve-member committee chaired by Prof. Ravindra Fernando, Head, Department of Forensic Medicine of the Colombo University has made far-reaching proposals on the Policy and Legal Framework pertaining to the Law on Inquests into Deaths.

The proposals include a Postmortem Examination shall be
mandatory for certain types of deaths such as un-witnessed suicides, deaths of multiple persons in the course of the same transaction or event.

The committee also proposes that deaths suggestive of having occurred while a Police officer, members of the armed forces or any other public servant having allegedly discharged his duties or exercised power conferred on him and any other category of death in respect of which the Minister rules that an inquest is required together with a postmortem examination, Prof. Fernando emphasised.

The Committee appointed in 2014 to study the Policy and Legal Framework pertaining to the proposed Law on Inquests into Deaths will present its final report to Justice and Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorala in the next few weeks, he said.

The report will define categories (types) of deaths in respect of which inquests should be held, Prof. Fernando told the Daily Mirror yesterday.

The new proposals will include that inquests must be held for maternal deaths, deaths in psychiatry wards and psychiatry units of hospitals, deaths of Police Officers and Members of the Armed Forces while on duty, deaths of Sri Lankan nationals who have died overseas, deaths in care facilities, deaths in respect of which family members or dependents of the deceased request that an inquest and or a postmortem examination be conducted, and deaths due to alleged negligence, including medical negligence.

The proposed law will make provision for the conduct of four types of inquests. They are Inquests by Inquirers (normal inquests by Inquirers), Magisterial Inquests (normal magisterial Inquests), Magisterial Investigative Inquests and inquests by High Court Judges.

Deaths as a result of mass natural disasters and where on a consideration of the attendant circumstances pertaining to the death of a person, the Attorney General is of the opinion that interest of justice warrant the conduct of a detailed and in-depth Inquest by a senior judicial officer, High Court Judges will be requested to conduct inquests, Prof. Fernando stressed

Powers and functions to be conferred on Inquirers, Magistrates, High Court Judges for the purpose of conducting Inquests will be defined.

The Committee has suggested providing for the commissioning of a foreign Forensic Pathologist to conduct a particular forensic pathological imaging, screening, or any other examination or test when necessary. (Sandun A Jayasekera)


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