The federal government has developed the 'Unidentified and Unclaimed Bodies Management Guideline, 2021' to manage bodies of persons that are unidentified and unclaimed due to difficulty in tracing relatives or guardians concerned after sudden death in accidents, natural disasters, homicides, or any other incident.

The guideline, which also came into effect this week, requires the nearest police office to provide information to representatives of the local level and ward if the body of any person is found in unidentified or unclaimed state. This has to be followed by a deed of public inquiry in the presence of local level representatives and residents of the concerned area.

"If the body is identified at the outset, it shall be handed over to the relative or guardian concerned in the presence of local level representatives and residents of the area where the body was found," the guideline says.

Identification process includes on-site observation, photograph and photo-attached ID card. Similarly, physical features (age, sex, height, birth mark, tattoo, scar, mole etc.) of the deceased person; and watch, shoes/sandals, clothes or ornaments worn by the person may also be taken as the basis for his/her identification.

If the deceased cannot be identified based on the basis of any of the aforementioned processes, the police are required to taken the body to the nearest hospital for further action and post-mortem.

"In case it is established as murder as per the post-mortem report, the police shall open criminal investigation to track down the perpetrator(s)," the guideline reads.

As per the guideline, the authorities shall implement the biometric system for identification of bodies unclaimed or unidentified even after completion of preliminary procedures. Among the biometric system, iris scan will be carried out.

Similar to DNA, iris is a highly individualising component of the human body.

Irises are unique, even between an individual's left and right iris and between identical twins, proving to be more individualising than DNA.

Post-mortem fingerprints will also be used as valuable biometric details to assist the identification of a deceased person. However, fingerprints from the deceased undergo decomposition leading to indefinite structure when compared to ante-mortem fingerprints.

"Finally, unidentified or unclaimed bodies shall be posted on the Dead Body Management Portal of Nepal Police with their photos, physical features and other available details. The guideline also requires the authorities to keep the unidentified or unclaimed body for up to 12 years in line with international standards, as far as possible.

After a certain period, Nepal Police, in coordination with social organisations and the local level, may dispose of the body or hand it over to an educational institution through the TU Teaching Hospital. However, records of the body along with its DNA and iris scan report will be maintained.

Earlier, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives had directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to come up with this guideline.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 22 2021, of The Himalayan Times.