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Analysis Of Provisions Related To Post-Mortem In Accordance With The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Section 174 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 empowers police to enquire and report on suicide, etc. The Supreme Court in Pedda Satya Narayana v. State of A.P[1] stated that the object of this section is to ascertain:
  1. Whether a person has died under suspicious circumstances
  2. If so what is the cause of the death[2]
When the officer in-charge of a police station some other police officer specially empowered by the State Government in that behalf receives information that a person has committed suicide, or has been killed by another or by an animal or by machinery or by accident, or has died under circumstances raising reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence, he immediately gives intimation about it, to the nearest Executive Magistrate empowered to hold inquests, and proceeds to the place where the body of such deceased person is.

There, in the presence of two or more respectable persons (panchas) make an investigation He prepares a report of the apparent cause of death, describing wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument, such injuries appear to have been inflicted. The inquest report (panchanama) is then signed by the investigating police officer and by the panchas.

The report is forwarded to the Magistrate.[3] Inquest report is not evidence at the presentation but can be used to test the veracity of the witness if he makes contradictory statements in the inquest and at the trial.[4] If the statement of a witness is recorded under Section 174, the provisions of Section 162 shall apply.[5]

In the following cases, such authorised person subject to rules prescribed by the State Government in this behalf, forward the corpse to the nearest civil surgeon or other qualified medical man appointed in this behalf by the State Government surgeon, if the state of the weather and the distance admit of its being so forwarded without the risk of such putrefaction on the road as would render such examination useless:
  1. The cases involving suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage
  2. If a woman dies within seven years of her marriage under suspicious reasons
  3. If a woman dies within seven years of her marriage and a relative of her made a request to conduct post mortem in this behalf
  4. If any doubt exists regarding the cause of the death
  5. If the police officer considers it necessary to do so.[6]

If no foul play is suspected, the corpse is handed over to the relatives for disposal. Private medical institutions can undertake medico-legal examination and treatment of the living, but autopsies can be conducted only with the permission of the State Government.[7]After proceeding under S.174, a police officer may by order in writing summons 2 or more persons for the purpose of the said investigation who appear to be acquainted with the facts of the case.[8]

The section 176 provides for inquiry by magistrate (judicial magistrate or metropolitan magistrate) where the cases involves suicide or death of a woman within seven years of her marriage under suspicious circumstances and in the cases where a person dies or disappears or rape is alleges to have been committed on any women while such person or woman is in the custody of the Police or in any other authorised custody and if he considers it expedient to make an examination of the dead body of any person to discover the cause of his death, the Magistrate may cause the body to be disinterred and examined.[9]

In any case of death, a Magistrate may conduct an inquest, instead of or in addition to the police inquest (S.176, Cr.P.C).[10] Whenever police claims that it has killed a person in an encounter, inquiry by Magistrate is mandatory.[11]

Comparison of different medico-legal issues related to post-mortem in different states of India

Different states in India have different rules with regard to conducting post-mortem. As far as possible, post-mortem examination should be performed in daylight, and not in artificial light. However in the recent past, various state governments have issued orders to introduce night post-mortems. This has led to objections from Forensic Medicine experts regarding the verification of colour matching which is more accurate in natural light than in artificial light in different injuries.[12]

The Medico-Legal Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs based on the opinion of the standing committee of Forensic Medicine in the Bureau of Police Research and Development has recommended that the present practice of doing post-mortem during daytime be continued. [13]
  • In the state of Haryana, post-mortem examination is permitted from Sunrise to Sunset on all days of the week, however once the P.M is commenced, it shall be completed in a single sitting.[14]
  • Gujarat government permits post-mortem at night if it is not a case of poisoning or suspected poisoning, if it is not a case of woman below thirty years, if it is not a case of woman dying in her husbandís or in-laws place, if the body is not distorted and if adequate light resembling day light is provided.[15]
  • The Kerala State Government permits post-mortems to be performed only from 8 am to 5pm.[16]
  • In Tamil Nadu in 1996, post-mortems was permitted to be conducted on all the government hospital during night if the claimant of the body insisted and the cause of death was due to accidents. The order of Tamil Nadu states that the post-mortem can be conducted at night because cause of death is already well known. It is axiomatic to say that in case where the cause of death can be established by clinical examination and other attendant factors, the conduct of post-mortem can be dispensed with altogether.[17] Otherwise the post-mortem is permitted from 6am to 6pm on all days and the requisition for autopsy can be received up to 4 pm.[18]

Judicial views on the post-mortem report

In the case of Balaji Gunthu Dhule v. State of Maharashtra[19]the facts are that the appellant is convicted under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life, by the Trial Court, on the allegation that he has caused the death of one Ranga Rao in a quarrel which ensued between Ranga Rao and one Smt. Shantabai (other accused who expired during the trial). Trial court convicted the appellant and two others.

They appealed before High Court.The grounds that are raised before the HC are there is absolute contradiction in statement made by appellant in his statement under S. 313 CrPC with prosecution case and hence S. 313 CrPC statement alone could not have used against accused in concluding that PW 10 was present at place of incident at or immediately after occurrence of incident.

The court held that the said witness, cannot be considered as eye- witness to the incident as such. Since the entire evidence of the eyewitnesses has not been accepted by the High Court, it could not have merely relied upon the postmortem report to convict the appellant for an offence under Section 302 of the I.P.C.

Observation:
It is clear from this case that the post mortem report is used to corroborate the other prosecution evidence and cannot be relied upon solely to convict the accused.
In the case of Banwari Ram & Ors v. State of UP[20] State government of Uttar Pradesh ordered army to take over the charge of armoury of Pradeshik Armed Constabulatory because of some untoward incidents happened. The Army personnel discussed the matter with the civillian authorities chalked out a scheme of action and finally a contingent of army was sent to the Armed Constabulary Headquarter at Ramnagar under the leadership of Major C.S. Chima accompanied by a Magistrate First Class. But the members of that constabulatory resisted Army from taking over.

They started firing and 12 personnel from taking charge of the Army were killed and 32 were injured. On account of the firing form the Army 4 persons belonging to the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary were killed and some were injured. Ultimately, however, the direction of the State was implemented and the Army took charge of the armoury and other weapons.44 persons were charged for the offences 302/149, 127, 148, 427/149. State government of Uttar Pradesh ordered army to take over the charge of armoury of Pradeshik Armed Constabulatory because of some untoward incidents happened.

The Army personnel discussed the matter with the civillian authorities chalked out a scheme of action and finally a contingent of army was sent to the Armed Constabulary Headquarter at Ramnagar under the leadership of Major C.S. Chima accompanied by a Magistrate First Class. But the members of that constabulatory resisted Army from taking over.

They started firing and 12 personnel from taking charge of the Army were killed and 32 were injured. On account of the firing form the Army 4 persons belonging to the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary were killed and some were injured. Ultimately, however, the direction of the State was implemented and the Army took charge of the armoury and other weapons.44 persons were charged for the offences 302/149, 127, 148, 427/149.

The contention of the appellants was that in respect of the 12 Army personnel found dead neither there has been any inquest nor there has been any postmortem report and consequently the fact that homicidal death occurred has not been established. The prosecution evidence unequivocally establishes the fact that the accused persons belonging to the Provincial Constabulary started indiscriminately firing at the Army jawans who had been called upon to take charge of the armoury.

On account of such indiscriminate firing by the members of the Provincial Constabulary 12 persons belonging to the Army died whose dead bodies were recovered from the spot itself and the necessary death certificates had been issued by the Medical authority. In such an event non holding of any post mortem examination is immaterial. The court among 44, 9 people were acquitted of all the charges the High Court reversed the order of acquittal and upheld the order of conviction

Observation:
When the prosecution is able to prove the cause of the death, the post mortem report is not necessary to hold its trustworthiness.

In the case of Budha Satya Venkata S. Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh[21]the deceased Mylapalli Venkataramana was found dead in a well. The prosecution case was that it was the three accused who hire the taxi of the deceased and murdered him but the prosecution failed to establish the motive behind the murder. No direct evidence was available. The prosecution relied upon the circumstantial evidence and post mortem report.

The grounds raised in the present case are the prosecution was unable to establish the motive the act and relied on circumstantial evidence. Differences between post-mortem report and the opinion of the professor of forensic medicine.

The held that in a case of circumstantial evidence aspect of motive assumes considerable importance. As stated above, there is nothing on record to show as to why the accused should resort to commit this crime. Further when the medical evidence is inconclusive we think it will be highly unsafe to sustain the convictions on the basis of circumstantial evidence of this nature.

Observation: Medical evidence being inconsistent as to cause of death, no conviction was possible with a sense of safety.

End-Notes:
  1. Pedda Satya Narayana v. State of A.P ,AIR 1975 SC 1252.
  2. Sarkar, the Code of Criminal Procedure, Updated 10th edition, p.883.
  3. Section 174, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
  4. Kuldeep Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1992 SC 1944
  5. Razik Ram Chaudhary v. Chaudary Jaswant Singh, AIR 1975 SC 667
  6. Section 174, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
  7. Forensic Medicine and Indian Criminal Laws: A Study of relevancy with legal provisions, Roshini Duhan, Innovare Journal of Medical Sciences Vol 4, 2016.
  8. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, The Code of Criminal Procedure, updated 19th enlarged edition, p709.
  9. Section 176, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
  10. Forensic Medicine and Indian Criminal Laws: A Study of relevancy with legal provisions, Roshini Duhan, Innovare Journal of Medical Sciences Vol 4, 2016.
  11. Hari Krishna Maheswari v. Union of UP , 1997(1) Crimes 432 (All)
  12. Critics and Sceptics of Medico-legal Autopsy Guidelines In Indian Context, Basant Lal Sirohiwal, Luv Sharma, P.K. Paliwal J Indian Acad Forensic Med. October-December 2013, Vol. 35, No. 4.p.376
  13. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, letter no. 4/4/72- DD/CPA-1, dated 11 June 1987.
  14. Haryana Medico Legal Manual 2012
  15. Critics and Sceptics of Medico-legal Autopsy Guidelines In Indian Context, Basant Lal Sirohiwal, Luv Sharma, P.K. Paliwal J Indian Acad Forensic Med. October-December 2013, Vol. 35, No. 4.p.376
  16. Department of Home, Government of Kerala, circular no. 18023/H1/86/Hom, datedt 4 September 1986.
  17. GO Ms No. 289, Health and Family Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, dated June 13, 1996
  18. GO Ms No. 629, Health and Family Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, dated 27 September 1995
  19. Balaji Gunthu Dhule v. State of Maharashtra, (2012) 11 SCC 685.
  20. Banwari Ram & Ors v. State of UP, AIR 1998 SC 674.
  21. Budha Satya Venkata S. Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1994 (3) Crimes 611 SC.
Written By:
  1. Rachana Panguluru - Final year student of B.A., LLB (Hons.),Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam. &
  2. Vamsi Krishna Bodapati - Final year student of B.A., LLB (Hons.),Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam

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