Medicolegal aspects of Infanticide have been discussed in the paper below since time immemorial a girlchild being born, was killed. The struggle of women started right from the time they were in the fetus, taking birth becomes just a successful survival. The technology has progressed and now the gender of the fetus could be determined by way of… Read More »

Medicolegal aspects of Infanticide have been discussed in the paper below since time immemorial a girlchild being born, was killed. The struggle of women started right from the time they were in the fetus, taking birth becomes just a successful survival. The technology has progressed and now the gender of the fetus could be determined by way of ultrasounds and scans. In India, since the orthodox patriarchal influence still prevails the greed and desire of having a male child leads to a high number of female infanticide. This article will shed light on the technology and medico-legal aspects of female infanticide.

I. Introduction

In our country greed for money-making swiftly led them towards the thirst for male child concept. This resulted in the killing of a female child at the time of birth itself. Most of the time infanticide was carried out by the family members of the child which includes the father and mother. Even the girl child would have born, that child shall be indulged in household work like washing, cooking, cleaning, etc. This was followed for many decades.

After several struggles by various leaders, organizations, institutions gradually girl children got space to come out of this hurdle. They started to go to school, graduated, and got employment opportunities also. They proved their potential in innumerable fields which include space and information technology. But still, there are female infanticides are being practiced in many parts of our country.

In the last two decades, the Crime Record Bureau shows rising alarm about female infanticide. Due to the development of science and technology, they need not wait till the birth of the child to know the gender. The techniques like ultrasound, scans, etc., and the gender of the child will be identified and if the fetus is female, they will terminate the pregnancy. To curb the menace of female infanticide and monitor the abuses of medical techniques, laws were enacted by the Government of India.

In 1971, a new legislature was passed to control illegal abortions namely, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 with the objectives of regulating certain termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners. In the year 1994, another law was passed to regulate the usage of techniques related to pregnancy, the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic (Regulation of Usages) Act, 1994. The latter Act is directly set to monitor the usage not to be misused.

In this research article, the researcher is going to analyze the interlink between the usage of forensic techniques and tools to detect the actual reason for infanticide. When the investigating agency is left out with any other option other than the scientific technique to investigate the matters relating to infanticide, the methodologies used, the techniques followed and the admissibility of the results out of this technique is the main core areas of discussion in this article.

II. Meaning

Infanticide means, the crime of a mother killing her child within a year of birth or a person who kills an infant, especially their child[2]. The crime of killing a child[3].

The word infanticide is derived from the Latin word infanticide” in 1650. “Infant” means a child during the earliest period of their life especially before he or she can walk, a baby is the second element of Latin origin, and “cide” means killer or an act of killing[4].

Infanticide means unlawful destruction of newly born. Under sections 312 to 318 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’), causing miscarriage with or without the consent of the mother and whoever commits the said with intention is an offense. But this chapter of the Penal Law never punishes the person who causes the death of the newborn child. It attracts under section 300[5] and 302[6] of the IPC

III. Forensic Science

Infanticide is practiced in many countries. To identify whether the death of an infant is natural or criminally forensic science play a vital role. There are five ways to identify the cause of death of an infant. Identification of the age, whether it is born alive or not, if born alive then to analyze the survival time, cause and time of death are the major tests.


In infanticide, the death of a child is a major question, because within twelve months if the baby dead means it, is infanticide. If it is dead in the womb or prior to born it is foeticide[7] and if a child dead within 24 hours of the baby’s born or the first 24 hours it is neonaticide[8]. Age can be recognized in three ways.

  1. Firstly measurement, the body of the infant will be measured from head to toe and if the length of the infant is below 25cm take the square root of the measurement (eg, if 25cm the answer is 5) and that figure is a month of the baby. This knows as the HESS rule. If the length is more than 35 then divide the figure into five and the answer is a month of the baby (35divided by 5 it is 7). It is Volisan Rule.
  1. The second method is ossification; it is done in two ways by X-ray and dissection to calculate the born value and to recognize the age[9]. The third method is odontology, by identifying the teeth it has five methods. Development of teeth at 6 months in intrauterine is 60 mg, newborn that is 0.5gm, 6 months or after birth it is 1.8gm[10].

Still Born or Dead Born

A stillborn baby means a baby alive in the uterus, but it will die during the process of delivery after twenty-eight weeks of the gestation period and did not show any sign of life after birth. It is common in premature delivery or primipara with an illegitimate child. Causes of stillborn are prematurity, birth trauma, toxaemia of pregnancy, placental abnormality, congenital defects, erythroblastosis fetalis. Sing of putrefaction occurs from outside to inwards. Putrefaction sign is first seen in the caesium.

Dead born means the baby died in the uterus before the birth and after completely born it shows three signs, one is rigour mortis second is maceration which means the baby is dead in the uterus and surrounded with liquor amine with the exclusion of air.

If the child is dead in utero twenty-four hours before the birth, the sign is skin slippage within twelve to twenty-four hours after dead born; the body is soft, flaccid, and flattened and it is the sweet disagreeable smell; the skin colour turn to red or copper brown; large blebs are seen with red serous or serosanguinous fluid; joins are abnormal mobility and bones are easily separated, skull bones are freely movable; lung and uterus are not affected for a long time on radiographic over-riding of carnival vault bones seen after one to two weeks because of skin age of the brain.

The third is mummification means the child dying because of deficiency in blood supply and liquor amine is scant with the exclusion of air[11].

Born Alive

Born alive which means a child born completely from the mother alive or shows sign of life like respiration without the attachment to mother. If the baby is born but one foot is in the vagina is not a sign of completely born. Evidence in a civil case of live birth is crying the feeling, seeing or hearing of the heartbeat is enough proof. But it cannot be positive proof because the baby may cry on utters even the baby is not yet born.

In criminal cases, the child born alive is identified by medical examination in autopsy. The respiration is taken place are not is identified by five methods,

  • The shape of the chest

If the baby was not respired, the chest shape is flat. But the respired child’s chest is expanding, and it is barrel shape.

  • Position of the diaphragm

The diaphragm is the main muscle of respiration. While breathing, the air is taken into the lungs the diaphragm muscle will expand. The level of the diaphragm is the fourth to the fifth rib in an un-respired baby, and the level is the sixth to the seventh rib in a respired baby.

  • Condition of the lungs

The volume of the unrepaired lungs is small with sharp margins covered with wrinkled loose pleural membranes. The consistency of the lungs is dense, firm, non-crepitant. The colour of the lungs is uniformly reddish-brown to blueish-purple colour. The air vesicles are non-inflated, and they vise 1/70 parts of the body weight. Respired lungs the volume of the lung’s rounded margin and they are large covering the hole of the heart. The consistency of the lungs is soft, spongy, elastic, and crepitant. The colour of the lungs is light-red and has a marbled appearance because of air taken in blood vessels. It vises 1/35 part of the body weight.

Another method is the hydrostatic method. Specific gravity principle based on an unrepaired lung varies from 1.04 to 1.05 if respired lung it is 0.94 owing. The volume of the lung is increased because of the more additional blood vessels due to which the specific gravity is diminished.

The method is trachea with larynx intact and placed in the glass jar filled with water and the individual lung is separated and cut into each piece into 12 to 20 pieces dip in the water, take and squeezes the water again tip in the glass jar if the pieces skin in the water respiration was taken place if it floats there is no respired if some float some skin it shows feeble respiration. The lungs may sink due to disease; atelectasis is the lungs may float due to the presence of putrefactive gases, artificial inflation.

  • Changes in stomach and intestine

The respiration air is first swallowed in the stomach during the baby’s cries it is recognized in the stomach, up to 5 to 15 minutes after birth, and in the large and small intestine but resuscitation and putrefaction will affect the finding. Remove the stomach and intestine tie double ligature at each end of the stomach and the end of the duodenum and lower intestine then place in the water, it will float. Then separate and test the floating capacity.

If it sinks in the water the respiration is not taken place. It is known as Breslau’s second life test. The test is not taken when the body undergoes decomposition. The stomach contains mucus and air bubbles, saliva respiration is taken; if not it contains only glary mucus. The test is not necessary when the stomach contains milk. It is definite evidence the child born alive and surveyed

  • Change in kidney and bladder

In the pelvis of the kidney uric acid is deposited in the form of brownish-yellow. But it is found in stillborn also it is not that many correct symptoms for live birth. The bladder contains urine this is also not crystal clear because the urine may be passed before an hour to the birth, and during labour, it is passed automatically[12].

C: Child Survival

The child born alive then its survival will be identified by the doctors. It is not possible to identify the accurate time but can come to an approximate solution.

  • Change in skin

The newborn baby’s skin is covered with vernix caseosa it is not washed immediately after birth it will pass after 24 to 48 hours. After birth, the child’s skin is bright red and it gets darkened by three to four days. The skin colour will be its original colour after 7 to 10 days. Fine desquamation skin began on the 2nd day and it will be completed in 15 days.

  • Presence of caput succedaneum

A caput succedaneum is a valuable sign it presents in the scalp tissues during delivery. It generally contains serum. It will disappear after twenty-four hours to two or three days after birth.

  • Change in umbilical cord

When the child is born, the umbilical cord is divided, and clotting occurs in the cut it will come to an end after two hours. After birth 12 to 24 hours, the umbilicus will shrink and dries and within 36 to 48 hours an inflammatory ring or redness will form on the base of the cord without any swelling.

On a second or third day, it will shrivel and on the fifth or sixth day, it will fall leaving a suppurating ulcer. It will heal and cicatrizes in 10 to 12 days. But in the rare case, the cord will fall within two days or as late as the tenth day. Morris and hunt describe the appearance of the cord in different modes of severance. The mummification of the cord does not occur when the child is in the water after immediately birth[13].

  • Change in circulation

In the umbilical vessel, there is ductus venosus, ductus arteriosus and foarmenovale necessary to carry fetal circulation after some hours it will obliterate.

IV. Causes of Death

The death of the child may occur in three causes natural, accidental or criminal.

1. Natural cause

  • Immaturity: A prematurely born child generally dies after born. If it criminal induced then it is punishable under IPC, criminal induction of premature baby but not culpable homicide
  • Debility: Lack of general development leads to the child may die after birth from debility.
  • Congenital disease: Specific fever-like plague or smallpox attack mothers during pregnancy it will affect the child’s internal organs lungs, heart, or brain. Syphilis is a life-threatening infection. It was caused by the bacteria treponema pallidum which passes from mother to child during fetal development[14].
  • Haemorrhage: Blood escapes from blood vessels from injured surrounding tissue. It will occur from the umbilical cord, stomach, and rectum.[15]
  • Malformations: The child born with congenital abnormalities of blood vessels, heart. There is a monster like acephalous and acephalous, the monstrosity will not die necessarily soon after birth.
  • The disease of the placenta: Placenta provides oxygen, nutrients, and filters the fetal waste during pregnancy. The placenta is from the uterine wall and connected to the umbilical cord of the child. If infected the child will die.[16]
  • Spasm of the larynx: Mucus or meconium is aspirated in the larynx or enlargement of the thymus gland causes spasm of the larynx.
  • Placenta previa or abnormal gestation: Placenta occurs in the neck of the uterus it will block partially or wholly. It causes severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. It puts both the baby and the mother’s life in danger.[17]
  • Erythroblastosis fetalis: Erythrocytes means red blood cells. The woman is pregnant, mother’s white blood cells attack the child’s red blood cells it can cause erythroblastosis details. It is rare in a developed country[18].

2. Accidental cause

Birth itself a traumatic event for the child. It includes fracture, dislocation of limb bones, skull fracture, tears of the venous sinus; it resulted in subdural haemorrhage, rupture of the liver. A child will die because of an accident during birth or after birth.

  • Prolonged labour

The death of the child will mostly occur in prolonged labour. When the first time mother gives birth the labour duration lasts for approximately 20 hours if it is the second time the labour lasts for 14 hours. Extravasation of blood into meninges, the compression of the head against the pelvis leads to fracture of skull bones. There is a fracture of the skull the figure of the child is slightly fissure of the frontal bone. Defective ossification of carinal bone and fracture may put the child’s life in danger.

  • Prolapse of the cord

The umbilical cord prolapsed through the cervix open in the vagina ahead of the baby. The cord then twists the baby’s body during delivery. In asphyxia or post mortem examination the blood, meconium, liquor, may found in the bronchial tubes, it can be examined by hand lens.

  • Knots of the cord or twist around the neck

Spasmodic and contraction of uteri round the neck of a child lead to suffocation of child. There are knots or loops in the cord during delivery.

  • Injuries

A baby can be injured if during pregnancy the mother falls, receives a kick, or taking a beating by the blunt weapon in the abdomen region. Concussion of the brain with or without fracture of skull bone may happen. In this case, there is no need for the external mark of the injuries in the woman’s abdomen.

  • Death of the mother

If the mother dies in the delivery, the child will alive in utero and can be saved within 25 minutes if proper and timely medication is given. The chance of the baby die is more when the mother dies.

  • Suffocation

The child’s mouth and nostrils are covered with membranes the child will die because of suffocation.

  • Precipitate labour

Precipitate labour means fast and rapid labour, the labour lasts for three hours only. It will be one in two hundredth women. Some women will not know the labour pain so the baby falls on the ground.[19] The average distance from the women’s genitals to the ground is 75 cm. it is sufficient to cause a fracture of the skull bone the baby will die. If the fall from 18 inches gap may fracture them as well. It is possible when in multiparae with large roomy pelvis it is rare.

3. Criminal cause

The criminal causes may be categories into two acts of commission in mechanical violence, an act of omission.

Act of commission

  1. Suffocation

The child may easily be suffocated by pressing the face in soft material like a pillow, bed cloth, closing the mouth and nostrils, rag, cotton wool into the mouth and throat. To stop the cry a mother puts her finger into the mouth this may also cause suffocation. During the post-mortem, it can be identified there is a scratch or laceration found in the mouth and the throat. The nose lips and angles of the mouth are examining to find the presence of bruising or other injuries.

In this case, the father has four daughters on that two were twin Suma and Sumalatha, no son so the accused want to marry another girl and the girl’s father said you already have daughters I will not give my daughter to marry. So, the father killed the child while they were sleeping in the cradles by smothering.

The wife of the accused felt that the movement of the snake and put on the light wake up the accused. She taught the snake to kill the child. But after an autopsy, the cause of death is asphyxia because of smothering[20].

  1. Strangulation

Strangulation means strong or severe violence. A rope, pajama tape is used to kill the child, there is a mark of abrasions and contusions with extravasations of blood in the soft tissues are found in the neck. Using the umbilical cord as a ligature to kill the baby and use it as a defense. But in natural umbilical cord twists in the neck, there is a red mark without any excoriation. And it is generally found in the lung itself. Karthik and Stella couple lived in Bengaluru in an apartment; she gave birth to the boy child after 29 days it was killed by some. The postmortem report concludes that the boy’s baby died by choking[21].

  1. Drowning

The child is submerged in water until the baby dies. But nowadays the baby is suffocated or strangulated and thrown in the well, tank, or river to conceal the crime. Even a woman was delivered in bath tab the child was drowned before respiration had taken place. In Arizona, a 19-year-old woman after reading many books on how to kill a child and killed her boy child because could not tolerate the sound of the baby crying. She killed the boy child by drowning the child in the bathtub.[22]

  1. Fracture of cranium

Fracture of cranial bone by using a blunt weapon, dashing against the wall, pressing forcibly under the leg may cause depressed and extensive fracture of skull bone. Laceration of the brain and lacerated wounds found in the scalp may be because of severe violence.

In Kaverpet near Gummidpoondi, Tamil Nadu, a father killed his third child named Jyothilakshmi by grabbing her and flung her against the wall thereby smashing her head, because his wife Ambika refused to give the child to the orphanage[23].

  1. Dislocation of cervical vertebrae

The neck of the child is very short is capable of considerable mobility. Criminal violence is applied to the neck, to correct the malposition of the fetus forcible rotation of the neck also leads to death.

  1. Wounds

A needle or pin is thrust through the fontanelles, through the inner canthus of the eye, up of the nostrils, down the throat or up of the rectum, no external wound will be visible.

  1. Poisoning

It is rarely used to kill the child by putting crude opium in the tongue of the child. smeared on the nipple of the mother after the child sucks the milk it will die. To destroy the newborn; arsenic, Madar, datura, and tobacco poisons are used.

In Lalakottaikrishnapuram village, Murugasen and Chinnammal family resides. Chinaammal gave birth to the fourth child and it was again a girl child. So, they administered poison. Then they buried the dead body. The neighbours informed the Village Administrative Officer. The VAO informed Tahsildar after he receives a complaint and the child autopsy report was submitted by the Government hospital, Dharmapuri in which it was opined that the death occurred 3 to 5 days before the autopsy because of oregano phosphorous poison.[24]

Act of omission

  1. Omission to take proper arrangements made before the birth of the child to save the child. A woman who gets labour pain immediately should inform anyone, the one who sends medical aid.
  2. Failure to ligature of the cord, because after cutting the cord may bleed it leads to death of the child. So, the umbilical cord should tightly be ligatured
  3. Omission of a medical practitioner. A woman after its delivery carried the child for a long distance. Some women will be strong, but some are not able to move whether she is a primipara or a multipara.
  4. Omission to protect the child from the child and heat.
  5. Omission to supply proper food to the child[25].
  • Abandoning of infants

A child after born alive with intention of abandoning it exposed in any place the parents are responsible for the guilt of the infant is punishable under section 317 of IPC with imprisonment may be extended to seven-year or with fine or with both.

  • Concealment of birth

If the child dies before or after or during its birth, it does not matter without illegal intention. But there is secret disposal of the body is punishable under the IPC, the mother is usually charged for this act. Section 318 of IPC says punishment for concealment of birth with simple or rigorous imprisonment may extend to two years or with fine, or with both[26].

  • Sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome is the unexplained death of an infant. It is also called crib death. It causes death to the child from one month to one-year child. Defects in any portion of the brain of an infant control the breathing and arousal from sleep. Environmental factor and a combination of physical is a cause for the death of the child[27].

V. Suggestions

  • The Government should make strong laws against infanticide or crimes relating to children
  • The existing laws need more teeth to curb the menace against a child.
  • The enforcing authorities under the Acts need to be stringent while investigating.
  • Term of punishment should be enhanced for the offenders falling under the Acts.
  • The trial of cases should be made practicable expedient to endower speedy justice
  • The evidence of the expert witness needs to be given more weightage while deciding the case of infanticide

VI. Conclusion

In earlier days in India, female infanticide is more because of poverty, the dowry system and illegal pregnancy, lack of medical services, maternal illness, and lack of education. There is no support for girl children; they are treated as a loss to the family. So they get killed intentionally by feeding rice forcibly in the mouth of the newly born and used different methods to kill the girl child, for such offences there is no stringent punishment under the Law and also it is difficult to prove.

Government schemes came after to save the girl child, to educate the girl child, for their marriage and also during pregnancy. The government also provided funds to the upliftment of the women’s children in society. Determination of the sex of the child and Unwanted abortions was prohibited and punishable under the Law. illegal termination of the child was termed to be an offense under MTP Act if it is necessary to be terminated prior permission from the Registered Medical Practitioner need to be obtained.

Even after so many schemes and Acts enacted by the Government, Infanticide couldn’t be stopped, but after tremendous efforts by the officials it is decreased in some places, and in other regions, people tend to hide the crime. Now a forensic department was established by the Government to curb this menace with iron hands and it deters the perpetrators from the law enforcing agencies.

[1]Working as an Asst. Professor in Vels Institute of Science, Technology & Advanced Studies (VISTAS), Pallavaram.

[2] Available Here accessed on 01.03.2020

[3] Available here accessed on 01.03.2020

[4] Available Here accessed on 01.03.2020

[5] Section 300 of IPC define Murder ‘culpable homicide as murder If the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death

2ndly, if it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or

3rdly, if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or

4thly, if the person committing the act knows that it so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.

[6] Section 302 of IPC says, whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

[7] Available Here accessed on 02.03.2020

[8] Available Here accessed on 03.03.2020

[9] Anwar Ahmed, “Bone age assessment methods: A critical review” accessed on 03.03.2020

[10] accessed on 04.03.2020

[11] S3DMedimagic F101 Infanticide on Vinformax accessed on 06.03.2020

[12] Justice K. Kannan, Medical Jurisprudence, and Toxicology, 26th edition accessed on 07.03.2020

[13] See supra note 11

[14]Congenital syphilis, Medicine Plus, Available Here, accessed on 10.03.2020

[15]Haemorrhage pathology, Britannica, Available Here, accessed on 15.03.2020

[16]Placenta, Medical News Today, Available Here, accessed on 15.03.2020

[17]Medline Plus, Available Here, accessed on 16.03.2020

[18] accessed on 16.03.2020

[19] What is a precipitous birth? Available Here, accessed on 20.03.2020

[20]Appaji v. State by Nuggehalli Police ILR 2000 KAR 2769, 2000 (5) KarLJ 50

[21] The News Minute, the Baby boy found choked to death in Bangalore, Available Here accessed on 23.03.2020

[22] 19-year-old mother Drowns infant in the bathtub to not ‘hear him cry, Available Here, accessed on 23.03.2020

[23] accessed on 23.03.2020

[24] Murugesan v. State on 3 July of 2009 by Madras High Court

[25] See supra note 12

[26] Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, The Indian Penal Code, 33r edition (Eco. P/B)

[27] Sudden infant death syndrome, Available Here, accessed on 01.04.2020

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Updated On 28 May 2021 12:29 AM GMT
Monisha L

Monisha L

Monisha is working as an Asst. Professor in Vels Institute of Science, Technology & Advanced Studies (VISTAS), Pallavaram.

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