"If the birth/death is not recorded, the applicant should get a Non-Availability Certificate from the BBMP and documents such as address proof are required in the absence of hospital records," says advocate Mohammed Yunus. Non-Availability Certificate is an acknowledgement or endorsement from the authorities stating that the certificate is not available with them. Applicants have to fill a form and submit to BBMP authorities, who will then verify the data and issue the acknowledgement.

Registration of births and deaths done within 21 days of the event is free of cost. The first copy of the certificate is given free of cost.

In some government hospitals, the Resident Medical Officer (RMO) has the power of the sub-registrar and is authorized to certify births and death that occur in the hospital. In these cases, the certificate will be available from the hospital itself. The certificate will be available within 24 to 48 hours after the event, in six government hospitals - Victoria, Bowring, Vani Vilas, KC General Hospital, Ghousia and Commando Hospital and in the seven Corporation Hospitals in the city.

Dr Rajanna, RMO at Bowring Hospital, says, "Most people are aware and do collect certificates now. If there are minor errors in the certificate, changes are made directly. If it is a major error, affidavit and other documents should be presented and the changes will be made free of cost. The reason for making the change is also considered. In case of legal disputes, changes can be made with the approval of higher authorities."

In case of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), the Registrar-General should record the event at the Indian Consulate. If a child is born outside India and returns to settle in the country, the birth can be registered within 60 days of arrival. After 60 days, the procedure is the same as for delayed registration for births within India.

Whither easier processes?

Forms are currently not available online. A new project for online registration was initiated last January, which would allow applicants to get certificates instantly. "The software will be installed in all zonal offices and government hospitals. Applicants can submit the data in prescribed form and the data would be entered and verified instantly by (any of the 48) MOH. The certificate can be issued on the spot. In case of non-hospital births and deaths there would be delay of a day or two only," says B Shankarappa, Joint Director Statistics. The system is not yet complete with data updates in progress.

Currently data regarding all births and deaths that occurred after the year 2000 are available in the system. Certificates for these data can be obtained from any BBMP zonal office or Bangalore One centre.

See list of BBMP zonal offices here

List of Citizen Service Centres

Complications arise if there are any errors in the certificate, says ex-councillor and advocate S Ramesh. "Errors occur due to negligence of hospital authorities or BBMP officials, causing the applicants to make repeated visits to get them corrected."

These issues also lead to increased instances of bribing. RTI activist Vikram Simha says, "According to the Act, changes can be made in the certificate if the Registrar is satisfied with the documents furnished. But this interpretation is subjective; the Registrar can refuse to make changes without citing any specific reasons." He cites a few cases where the applicants had to file RTI cases when the Registrar refused to make minor changes and finally the changes were made without further documents after favourable ruling from the State Information Commission.

"Many people are not aware that copies of certificates can be obtained from Citizen Service Centres. Many resort to bribing in BBMP offices to get the job done fast. If the applicant has to go to court for some reason, there also they are bogged down by obstacles such as being asked to submit unnecessary documents," Simha says. He observes many people notice errors in birth certificates only during the school admission of the child.

According the Registration of Birth and Deaths Act, Registrars have to maintain a register of all births and deaths under their jurisdiction and send this data to the Chief Registrar periodically, which is then used for compiling statistics. Any person can get the particulars of any entry made in the birth/death register, but details regarding the cause of death will not be disclosed. Registrar also has the power to direct any citizen to furnish information regarding births and deaths occurring in the area of his residence.

Registrars who refuse to register events, medical practitioners who refuse to give cause-of-death certificate without reasonable cause and informants who deliberately give wrong information, are punishable with fine upto Rs 50 and criminal proceedings can be taken up against them. Complaints can be submitted to the BBMP Commissioner or the Joint Director (Statistics) in writing. On receiving complaints an inquiry will be done and action - including levying fines, or suspension/transfer - will be taken. The commissioner or an authorised officer, however, has the power to dismiss the charges on accepting a sum of Rs 50.