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Police is required to conduct inquests under section 174 (1) CrPC in cases in which information is received by the police that a person:
  1. has committed suicide;
  2. has been killed by some other person, or by machinery or by an accident or by an animal;
  3. has died under suspicious circumstances raising a reasonable doubt that the offence has been committed by some other person;
  4. in cases of sudden death where the doctor has not issued any death certificate;
  5. has fallen from a height;
  6. poisoning;
  7. death due to sexual assault.

Inquests are made in cases of death otherwise than by natural causes. It has to be made by the police officer under section 174 CrPC or by an executive magistrate magistrate under section 176 CrPC in case of dowry death; an inquiry shall be held by the judicial magistrate or the metropolitan magistrate in any death in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorized by the court, according to sub-section 1(A) of section 176 CrPC.

According to section 175 of the CrPC, a police officer proceeding under Section 174 of the CrPC can summon two or more persons and any other person who appears to be familiar with the facts of the case for the purpose of investigation. and every person so summoned is bound to attend and answer truly all questions.

Holding Inquest is Mandatory
Holding an inquest is mandatory. The police officer who learns of the death of any person as a consequence of any offence or accident shall hold the inquest. Inquest is something akin to panchnama. It is conducted on the dead body under the auspices of the police who calls for at least two persons of the locality to conduct the inquest. The persons conducting the inquest are concerned only to examine the dead body and the features which are apparent on the body and nothing more. They are not concerned with the cause of the death.

The persons so conducting the inquest are examined in court as witnesses and cross examined. The inquest report is marked as an exhibit. If there are any discrepancies in the facts noted in the inquest report and those given in the post mortem report they have to be reconciled. However, the post mortem report will prevail over the inquest report.

After steps for identification of the dead body have been taken and dead body identified, condition of the body, injuries on the body, and articles found on the body will find mention in the inquest report.

Because it has to be handed over to the doctor along with the dead body for post mortem examination, the inquest report is an important document, and has to be prepared promptly.

Object of Inquest
The purpose of holding an inquest has a limited scope. It is merely to ascertain whether a person had died under suspicious circumstances or an unnatural death and if so what the apparent cause of death is. Details as to who assaulted the deceased, how he was assaulted or under what circumstances he was assaulted, are not to be mentioned in an inquest report. Pedda Narayana v. State of Andhra Pradesh AIR, April 1975

Names of the assailants or names of the witnesses need not be mentioned in the in- quest report. Yogendra Singh v. State of Rajasthan 1979 Cr. LR (Raj) 443

The names of accused persons are not required to be noted in the inquest report. Eqbal Baig v. State of Andhra Pradesh AIR 1987 SC 923, I987 Cr. LJ 838

All the details of overt acts need not be mentioned in the inquest report. The prosecution story should not be rejected merely because overt acts have not been mentioned in the inquest report Pedda Narayana v. State of Andhra Pradesh AIR, April 1975 or because the hour of death has not been mentioned in the inquest report. State v. Satwant Singh & Ors (1987) 1 IJR 33 (Del) [Murder Case of Smt. Indira Gandhi, Late Prime Minister of India]

Legal Aspects
Statements recorded during inquest by the investigating officer will have the same evidentiary value as if recorded under section l61 CrPC.

The statement recorded by a magistrate doing inquest will have the value of statements recorded under section 164 CrPC.

Accused is entitled to a copy of the inquest report under section 173 (7) and 207 (v) of CrPC.

A confessional statement of the accused made to a magistrate holding inquest under section 176 CrPC is admissible in evidence under section 21 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. If any witness gives a false statement to a police officer during the inquest or when examined under section l6l CrPC, he has committed an offence under section l92 IPC. If a magistrate holds inquest and a person makes a false statement, he has committed an offence under section 192 IPC and in both the instances, the witness is liable for prosecution under section 192 IPC which is a cognizable offence.

The facts observed, the materials seized, the identification of the deceased etc., are relevant facts falling under section 7 and 9 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and hence they are admissible. The statement of the investigating officer with regard to the proceeding he had conducted is admissible under section 60 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

A statement in an inquest report is not evidence. Where the name of one of the accused is not mentioned in the FIR or in the inquest report and is also not disclosed to the investigating officer, and no explanation is forthcoming, serious doubts arise about the complicity of the accused in the crime. Balaka Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1975 SC 1962, 1975 Cr. LJ 1734

It is questionable how far an inquest report is admissible in evidence except under section 145 of the Evidence Act.

The Supreme Court held that the officer holding an inquest on a dead body should hold the inquest at the spot. KP Rao v. Public Prosecutor 1975 SCC (Cr) 678, Indira Gandhi, Late Prime Minister of India

Inquest is not a substantive piece of evidence and can be used only for corroboration of evidence of the panch witness and not for convicting the accused. Guggilla Santosh Reddy v. State of Andhra A.P., 2001 Cr LJ NOC 110 (AP): (2001) l Andh LT (Cri) 76

Important Points to Be Borne in Mind
  1. Hold inquest after minute inspection of scene, dead body and also surroundings.
  2. If parts of human body are found in different places, whether on the same day or different days, draw separate inquest. If the body with head is there without limbs, inquest can be held. If all the parts of the body are found at different places, they can be pieced together and inquest can be held.
  3. Hold inquest at the place where the dead body was found and nowhere else.
  4. Every single detail should find place in Part-I of the Case Diary.
  5. Inquest should be continuous until the end and not piecemeal.
  6. Post a guard during the night at the place where the dead body is lying if you cannot commence inquest.
  7. Hold inquest for each dead body separately, though in the same transaction several persons might have died (e.g., motor, railway, or boat tragedies etc.).
  8. Avoid erasures and overwriting in the inquest report. If there is any mistake, draw a line over it so that it can be read and initial it.
  9. Record the statements of witnesses examined during the inquest at the place itself in the presence of witnesses so that there may be no allegation of concoction.
  10. Send a copy of the inquest report to the medical officer who is to conduct autopsy for his reference.
  11. No stock witnesses should be utilized, as it is a common practice in all the police stations.
  12. In case of unclaimed bodies, the civic authorities should be addressed for their disposal after waiting for the prescribed period.
  13. Photographs of the dead body along with its surroundings, including entry and exit points, should be taken from different angles. Photographs of any injury or special mark over the dead body should be taken from very close to it (close-up photograph).
  14. Command Certificate, dead body challan, and a copy of the inquest report should be issued to the constables deputed for escorting the dead body.
  15. The dead body should be covered properly and handled respectfully while escorting it.
  16. The provision of a dead body carrier vehicle and dead body transportation bag at the requisition of the officer in charge of the police station should preferably be kept.

When Post-Mortem Examination can be dispensed with?
In cases of natural death of identified bodies where the attending doctor certifies natural death or respected persons of the locality satisfy the police officer that the person died due to snake bite, falling from the tree, wild animal attack or natural accident of drowning etc., the post-mortem may be dispensed with. The police may take in writing the request of the relatives for not sending the body for post-mortem. The police officer has discretion not to send the body for postmortem examination by the medical officer only when there is absolutely no doubt as to the cause of death.

Difference between inquest and investigation
The inquest is limited within the scope of apparent injuries and the inquest witnesses are confined within that limit. While full-fledged investigation starts after the inquest and runs into the wider canvass of how deceased was assaulted and who assaulted him and then, arrest and recovery of the weapon follows.

Checklist for Inquest Report
Preliminary photography of the place including the position of the dead body # Distance of the dead body from fixed points # Close-up photography of the dead body # Drawing outline showing position of the dead body # Sketching # Position of the Body # Where found (location)# History of hospitalization# Treatment given # Medico-legal examination # Dying declaration # Name # Sex # Age # Religion # Sate # Height # Built # Married / Unmarried # Complexion # Occupational marks # Any discoloration of the skin # forehead # Face # Neck # Shoulders # Chest # Abdomen # Upper arm # Lower arm # Thigh # Calf # Foot # Genital area # Back of the shoulder # Back Hips # Hips # Extent of bleeding # Fatal injuries (Type, size, location, relative distances, extent of damage to the organ, age of the wound , interpretation of weapon, etc.) # Mark of strangulation/ suffocation / hanging / throttling # Mark of burn injuries-nature, Extent and degree of burn injuries # Sign of drowning # Sign of poisoning # Apparent time since death # Apparent cause of death # wrapping the dead body in an intact piece of cloth and sealing at knots # Filling up the proforma for sending the dead body for post-mortem examination # special instructions for the post-mortem surgeon to be filled in the PM challan form# Deputing 2 constables to accompany the dead body to the mortuary # Dispatch of the dead body.

Discrepancy between Inquest Report and Post Mortem Report
The police officer who prepares the inquest report is not an expert in medical jurisprudence. Where there is an inconsistency between the post-mortem report and the inquest report, the benefit should be given to the accused. In Maula Bux Vs. State of Rajasthan, 1983 SCC (Cr) 199, the investigating officer, in the inquest report, mentioned contusions and penetrating wounds found on the body of the deceased. But the medical officer in the post-mortem report showed that the deceased had sustained penetrating wounds and abrasions. The Supreme Court held that the benefit must be given to the accused appellants who are said to have inflicted injuries by lathi on the deceased.

The list of injuries mentioned in the inquest report cannot prevail over the details of the post-mortem report, even assuming that there are some inconsistencies between the two. State v. Satwant Singh & others (1987) 1 IJR 33(Del) (Murder Case of Smt. Indira Gandhi, Late Prime Minister of India)

A statement in the inquest report is not evidence by itself and cannot be pitted against the evidence of the medical witness given in court. Surjan v. State of Rajasthan AIR 1956 SC 425, 1956 Cr LJ 815, 822

Inquests are held over dead bodies in cases of unnatural deaths in order to ascertain the apparent cause of death either by the police officer or the executive magistrate or the judicial magistrate depending on the nature, victim and place of death. It should be held in presence of two preferably local witnesses. In cases of deaths in police and judicial custody, inquest is mandated to be done by the judicial magistrate. While holding inquest photography of the dead body along with its surroundings should also be taken.

The dead body should be treated and handled carefully and respectfully while holding inquest or during its transportation from the scene of crime to the police station or to the morgue. Inquest should be held at the place of occurrence or the scene of crime itself and not by bringing the dead body to the police station unless there are cogent grounds and reasonable explanation for not holding the inquest at the place of occurrence. The dead body should be carefully examined while holding inquest to note down the marks of injuries over it.

  • The Calcutta Criminal Law Reporters, 2003, January - December, Citation, 2003 C Cr. LR (SC), 2003 C Cr LR (Cal), Published by Calcutta Law Book Company.
  • Dr. G.B. Reddy, Women and the Law, Gogia Law Agency, Hyderabad.
  • Andhra Pradesh Police Academy, First Course in Investigation.
  • P. Venkatesh, Police Diaries, Statements, Reports and lnvesi1'gations, Premier Publishing Company, Allahabad.
  • R. Deb, Principles of Criminology, Criminal Law and Investigation, S.C. Sarkar & Sons, Calcutta.
  • J.P. Modi, Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology, Lexis Nexis, Butterworths.
  • HWV Cox, Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology, Lexis Nexis, Butterworths.
  • R.K. Johri, IP5, Handbook of Investigation for Police Officers, West Bengal Police.
  • Investigating Officer's Note Book, Midnapore Police - 2005.
  • Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The law of Evidence, Lexis Nexis, Butterworths, Wadhwa, Nagpur.
  • Prof. Hasan Askari, Criminal Procedure & Police, A professional study, Asia Law House, Hyderabad.
  • N.K. acharya, Evaluation of Evidence, Asia Law House, Hyderabad.
  • Ravi Shinde, Law and Medicine, Asia Law House, Hyderabad.

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