A deadline will be introduced in Bahrain for people to register births and deaths.
There is currently no time frame for informing authorities, but the Shura Council yesterday approved requirements for new parents and the recently bereaved.
The absence of such regulation in the past led to votes being cast in national elections on behalf of people who were known to be dead, but who had not yet been registered as deceased.
Under the new law, parents should register births inside Bahrain within a maximum 15 days, while births abroad should be registered in 60 days.
Deaths would have to be registered within 72 hours by relatives, the police or doctors – or within 60 days if the deceased was abroad when they died.
Shura Council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh dismissed claims that the timescale was too short, since the whole process should be available online.
“The actual certificates will be made available for collection at counters or for delivery at a later date to keep as documentation, offering double the assurance,” he said.
“In fact the whole process could be done online from anywhere within a maximum of 15 minutes.”
Anyone who misses the deadline under exceptional circumstances would still be able to complete the process.
However, in that case – and if the government was unable to finalise procedures within 30 days – the matter would be referred to court based on a Shura Council vote yesterday.
That is despite some members arguing that any government failure to respond to such requests in the 30-day period should automatically result in registration being processed.
“Why take a case to court?” asked financial and economic affairs committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati.
“Civil servants have the power to take a decision, either to approve or reject a request (to register a birth or death under exceptional circumstances).
“A lack of reply shouldn’t be considered an option. A decisive answer should be given. To be honest, the absence of a reply is a clear lack of commitment to taking action.
“It is wrong to give courts more cases, which could be resolved by someone sitting on a desk. People deserve an answer.”
The issue came up for discussion during debate on a Births and Deaths Law, which has been on hold since April 2014 due to differences between MPs and government officials.
Parliament finally approved it last June and the Shura Council debated it in November, but sent it for review based on concerns that it contravened national and international legislation.
Debate resumed last month and discussions on three remaining articles are due to continue next week, after which it will be referred back to MPs.
However, Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain disputed claims that any government failure to process late births and deaths within 30 days would be the result of “laziness”.
“Considering a lack of reply as approval would mean inheritances or parental rights could be granted to individuals who don’t deserve them,” he said.
“The safest option should be rejection so the matter can be addressed in court.
“Accusations that no reply would be seen as laziness or disrespectful are wrong.
“A civil servant doesn’t want to take action on a case that is suspicious, since those submitting requests (to register late births and deaths) didn’t come during the stated time frame and documents presented are subject to doubt.
“The case could be genuine and approved by the official within 30 days, or a rejection could be given in clearly unlawful cases.
“But there are cases when a judge needs to take a decision, so the official deliberately lets time pass so it can automatically be taken to court.”
The Shura Council also approved punishments of up to six months in jail and fines of up to BD500, or both, for those who violate birth and death registration rules or provide false information.
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