PETALING JAYA: The National Registration Department (NRD) will now be able to better address public needs through new powers under the amended Births and Deaths Registration Act (Act 299).
Among key changes made to Act 299 were to make it easier to register newborns, relaxing the time frame for registering births and deaths, plus obtaining a presumed death certificate in the case a body could not be found.
“Based on thorough analysis of the records of these three laws, they were never amended since their implementation,” said the NRD, referring to Act 299 and the corresponding Registration of Births and Deaths Ordinances that applied in Sabah and Sarawak.
In a statement, NRD said the amendments might be used as a guide to amend the law in Sabah and Sarawak soon.
Taking into account advancements in technology, the public could now register births and deaths at any NRD office in Peninsular Malaysia instead of only at an office near the area of birth or death.
Parents would also be given up to 60 days, up from 14 days, to register their child before it was considered a late registration.
“This change will enable parents to have time for confinement and to manage their child-related issues before making the necessary registration process at the NRD,” it said.
When the Act was tabled in Dewan Rakyat last year, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said 124,762 late birth registrations were recorded from 2010 to 2015.
Nur Jazlan said the move was made after taking into account the diversity of situations and the background of Malaysian society today, and in conformity with the Government’s policy, which had extended maternity leave to 90 days for civil servants and 60 days for those in the private sector.
The amendments also addressed weaknesses in the Act, including the Registrar’s inability to register births and deaths that occurred on an aircraft or vessel nor to investigate offences committed under the Act.
The department said the changes, which were set in motion in 2015, were in direct response to complications that arose in registering the deaths related to the MH370 and MH17 tragedies in 2014.
“Among the new provisions included are the registration and issuance of certificate of Presumption of Death and death on the aircraft or vessel registered with Malaysia,” it said.
Under the new rules, heirs or family of the deceased could apply to the High Court for an Order for Assumption of Death.
If the order is granted, they could then register the said presumption of death at any NRD office. Under the old laws, a death certificate could not be issued if no body had been found and the individual in question was assumed to be missing.
If no body was found, Section 108 of the Evidence Act comes into play, where only seven years after the person was declared missing could a declaration of death be issued.
With this change, it would be easier for families to resolve legal issues linked to a death, including the inheritance process.
The NRD said the registration period for deaths was also extended from 24 hours to seven days, so that the deceased’s family would have time to manage funeral arrangements and carry out their religious and customary rites before registering the death.
However, those who still fail to register births and deaths or misuse documents related to such matters could face stiffer penalties.
Under the amendments, penalty for offences under Act 299 was raised from RM250 to a RM20,000 maximum fine while the maximum jail term of 12 months was raised to three years.
“This is a step to ensure the system of registration of births and deaths is in control while simultaneously ensuring the integrity of data is maintained at its optimum standard to be adopted for the purpose of policy and planning of economy and development in the country,” said the NRD.
It said heavier penalties were introduced because the registration of births and deaths was official government business that involved the production of security and confidential documents like birth and death certificates.
“It is fundamental that any misuse and misconduct which involves production of these documents be charged accordingly,” it added.
To better enforce these laws, the Act now empowered the Registrar to investigate any offences related to misusing documents and providing false evidence or information during the registration.
The department, which comes under the Home Ministry, said the amendments were meant to support the Government’s aspirations to ensure the public’s wellbeing and welfare.
The amendments to the Births and Deaths Registration Act, first introduced after Merdeka in 1957, were brought to Dewan Rakyat in October 2016.
They were then sent to Dewan Negara in November 2016. It was gazetted as the Births and Deaths Registrations (Amendment) Act on Jan 26 this year.