The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to reduce the number of unclaimed bodies to zero through fingerprint or iris recognition.

After a discussion with Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa and other authorities regarding the ways to manage the unclaimed or unidentified bodies yesterday, the committee requested the MoHA to complete the distribution of National ID cards as soon as possible so as to implement the biometric system for identification of unclaimed bodies. The National ID cards include biometric details of the card holders.

Iris recognition is a validated human identification technology being practiced in many countries. Similar to DNA, iris is a highly individualising component of the human body. Irises are unique between an individual's left and right iris and between identical twins, proving to be more individualising than DNA. Likewise, post-mortem fingerprints are a valuable biometric details to assist the identification of a deceased individual.

However, fingerprints from the deceased undergo decomposition leading to indefinite structure when compared to ante-mortem fingerprints.

The parliamentary panel has also directed the MoHA to maintain the records of unclaimed or unidentified bodies related to heinous crimes and other criminal offences for at least 20 years. "The committee urges the government to formulate and implement the Unclaimed Bodies' Management Guidelines whereby provisions are stipulated with regard to management of unclaimed or unidentified bodies," reads a copy of decision released by the committee.

The committee also expressed serious concern about inconsistency in data of unidentified or unclaimed bodies being provided by district government attorney's office, district hospital and Nepal Police. "The MoHA is directed to make provision for disclosure of uniformed and consolidated data, in coordination with the agencies concerned," it said.

Similarly, the MoHA has been told to develop a dedicated webpage on the website of the Nepal Police for disclosure of details and data of unclaimed or unidentified bodies kept in various hospitals, besides disposing of the bodies only after collection of biometric details and DNA samples from them. There are a total of 1,089 unidentified or unclaimed bodies across the countries as of yesterday, according to the statistics with the MoHA.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 17, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.