The Central government proposes to make birth certificates a mandatory document for almost every sphere of life — admission in educational institutions, inclusion in the voter list, appointment in Central and State government jobs, issue of driving licence and passport — according to a draft Bill to amend the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD) Act, 1969.
The centrally-stored data will be updated in real time without any human interface required, leading to addition and deletion from the electoral roll when an individual turns 18, and after death, respectively.
According to the proposed changes, it shall be mandatory for hospitals and medical institutions to provide a copy of all death certificates, stating the cause of death, to the local registrar apart from the relative of the deceased.
Though registration of birth and death is already compulsory under the RBD Act, 1969 and violating it is a punishable offence, the government intends to improve compliance by making the registration mandatory to avail basic services such as admission in schools and registration of marriages.
The Bill to amend the RBD Act, 1969, proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), states that birth certificates issued by the local registrars will be “used to prove the date and place of birth of a person born on or after the date of Amendment for: admission into educational institutions; issuance of driving licence; preparation of voter list; registration of marriage; appointment in Central Government, State Government, local bodies and Public Sector Undertakings, statutory bodies, autonomous bodies under Central and State government; Issuance of passport and other cases as prescribed by rules.”
The Bill is likely to be tabled in the winter session of parliament that commences on December 7. “The draft Bill was placed in the public domain for suggestions last year. We have received comments from State governments and incorporated the required changes. The legislative department is examining the Bill, and it will then be presented for the Union Cabinet’s approval. We will try to introduce the Bill in the winter session of parliament,” a source told The Hindu. The source added that since the upcoming session only has 17 sittings, the discussions on the Bill could be taken up in the next session.
“Provisions exist for compulsory registration of births and deaths but after the law is amended, it will be mandatory to produce birth and death certificates for myriad purposes. The database will be linked to electoral rolls. When a person turns 18, the name will be included in the voters list and after a person has died, the name will be deleted from the rolls. The entire process will be online,” the source said.
The Hindu first reported on October 2021 that the draft amendments would enable the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the MHA to “maintain database of registered birth and deaths at the national level”, even though such data is maintained by State governments or municipal bodies. As reported, the birth and death database at the national level that will be available with the RGI may be used to update the Population Register, the Electoral Register, and the Aadhar, ration card, passport and driving licence databases.
“We also intend to make institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes more accountable by accurately reporting births and deaths,” the source said.
The proposed amendment states, “where the death occurs in any medical institutions, irrespective of ownership, providing specialised or general treatment, it shall be mandatory for those institutions to provide a certificate as to the cause of death to the Registrar and a copy to the nearest relative in such form as may be prescribed.”
According to the Civil Registration System (CRS) report, the registration level of births for the country increased to 92.7% in 2019 from 82.0% in 2010 and that of registered deaths increased from 66.9% in 2010 to 92.0 % in 2019. CRS is an online system for registration of births and deaths under the operational control of the RGI.
Several States such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal are already registering all births and deaths through CRS. Others such as Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have their own system or use the portal partially. Some Union Territories such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu register through the central portal but others such as Delhi, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir have their own system in place. The proposed amendments intend to bring all such databases on to a common platform.
The MHA is upgrading the CRS to enable registration of births and deaths in real time with minimum human interface that will be independent of location.
Last year, several instances of the online registration system being compromised were reported from States, with the login IDs and passwords of sub-registrars compromised and available in the public domain.
If the amendments are implemented, the Centre could use the data to update the National Population Register (NPR) that was first prepared in 2010 and revised through door-to-door enumeration in 2015. The NPR already has a database of 119 crore residents and under the Citizenship Rules, 2003, it is the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC).