Inquest Report under CrPC
In cases concerning unnatural deaths or suspicious fatalities, the significance of an inquest report cannot be overstated. Governed by the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), this report serves as a vital document that forms the basis for unraveling the truth behind such occurrences.
An inquest report under the CrPC is a procedural necessity aimed at creating a thorough record of the crime scene, the events surrounding the death, and any relevant evidence linked to the case. Serving as a crucial initial step, this report plays a pivotal role in shaping subsequent legal actions and guiding the direction of the investigation.
Concept of Inquest Report under CrPC
A critical aspect of any criminal investigation is the establishment of the true cause of death. An ‘inquest’ serves as a legal or judicial examination to ascertain specific facts. Section 174 of the CrPC specifically addresses matters related to inquest reports. Essentially, an inquest report is a formal document drafted by the police or an assigned officer in cases involving unnatural deaths or fatalities under suspicious circumstances. It serves as a preliminary record containing crucial information regarding the cause, circumstances, and pertinent details related to the demise.
Significance and Purpose of Inquest Report
The central aim of an inquest report is to thoroughly investigate the underlying causes behind unnatural deaths. In the event of a crime, the State views it as an offense against its authority. In cases of unnatural deaths, it becomes the State’s responsibility to identify the cause of death and take appropriate action. Consequently, the primary objective of an inquest report is to establish factual information that can play a pivotal role in identifying and subsequently prosecuting the perpetrator.
Elements of an Inquest Report under CrPC
The inquest report, formulated by the police under Section 174 of the Code, serves as a preliminary record. However, it does not offer a comprehensive overview but primarily presents the initial findings concerning the deceased individual. The responsibility for drafting this report primarily rests with the investigating police officer.
- The contents of the inquest report typically include:
- The apparent cause of death.
- Description of any wounds, fractures, bruises, or visible signs of injury identified on the deceased body.
- Assessment of how the injuries seem to have been inflicted.
- Identification of the potential weapon or instrument used in causing these injuries.
Legal Precedent and Final Reporting
In the case of Manohari & Ors. vs The Dist. Superintendent of Police & Ors. (2018), the Madras High Court established that the police cannot solely conclude cases of unnatural deaths registered under Section 174 by submitting a report to the Executive Magistrate.
Regardless of the investigative outcomes, it is expected that the police will file a Final Report under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before the relevant Jurisdictional Magistrate.
Key Provisions Governing Inquest Report under CrPC
Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code confers authority upon the police to investigate and report cases of unnatural death. This section outlines specific provisions wherein an officer-in-charge of a police station or an authorized police officer receives information pertaining to:
- Death caused by an animal
- Death caused by machinery
- Death caused by an accident
- Death under circumstances that raise a reasonable suspicion of another person committing an offense.
In such instances, it becomes the responsibility of the police officer to promptly notify the nearest Executive Magistrate authorized to conduct inquests. Subsequently, the officer should proceed to the location where the deceased person’s body is situated, accompanied by two or more reputable residents from the area. An investigation will ensue, and a report will be prepared.
Statements provided by witnesses during the investigation fall under the protection of Section 162 of the Code and cannot be considered substantive evidence. However, they may be used to either support or challenge the credibility of the individual making the statement during the trial. Notably, there are no restrictions on the police officers obtaining witness signatures on their respective statements.
As per Section 174(2) of the Code, the report must be signed by the investigating police officer and any other concurring individuals before being submitted to the District Magistrate or Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
Section 174(3) of the Code delineates specific circumstances concerning the death of a woman, as incorporated by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983.
These circumstances encompass:
- Cases of a woman’s suicide within seven years of marriage.
- Reasonable suspicion of an offense committed against a woman within seven years of marriage.
- Requests made by a relative of a woman who died within seven years of marriage.
- Uncertainty surrounding the cause of death.
- The discretionary decision by the concerned police officer is based on ancillary reasons.
In such scenarios, it is imperative that the police officer arrange for the body to undergo examination by the nearest Civil Surgeon or any qualified medical personnel appointed by the State Government. This measure should be approached with caution, ensuring that the body does not undergo putrefaction during transportation, which could render the examination inconclusive.
Section 174(4) CrPC
Section 174(4) enumerates the authorized Magistrates who can oversee inquests:
- District Magistrate
- Sub-Divisional Magistrate
- Any other Executive Magistrate
These Magistrates must possess the necessary empowerment from either the State Government or the District Magistrate to carry out this responsibility.
According to Section 175 of the Code, the investigating police officer has the authority to summon, through written orders, two or more previously mentioned individuals to aid in the investigation. This encompasses individuals who possess pertinent knowledge about the case.
Those who are summoned are required to attend and provide truthful answers to all questions, except those that could potentially incriminate them or subject them to penalties or forfeiture. If the facts do not reveal a cognizable offense under Section 170 of the Code, these individuals are not compelled to appear before a Magistrate’s Court.
Significance of Investigating Unnatural Deaths
In instances of natural deaths, there is typically no suspicion surrounding the circumstances of the individual’s passing. Conversely, in cases of unnatural deaths, it becomes imperative for the State to conduct an inquiry and assess the details surrounding the incident.
The responsibility falls on the State to ascertain the cause of death, and if any suspicions arise, it must take necessary actions to ensure accountability. Safeguarding the well-being and lives of all citizens within the nation is an inherent duty of the State.
Evaluation of Inquest and Postmortem Reports
It is essential to note that the inquest and post-mortem reports should not be considered as primary or conclusive evidence. Discrepancies between these reports should not be automatically deemed as fatal or suspicious circumstances that would favor the accused, thereby leading to the dismissal of the prosecution’s case.
Considering that a post-mortem report is typically conducted by an expert, if there exists a variance between the cause of death as stated in the inquest report and the post-mortem report, the findings presented by the expert in the post-mortem report hold more credibility in comparison to the opinions and findings of a non-expert as outlined in the inquest report.
Admissibility and Significance of Statements
The statements of witnesses recorded during the inquest process are constrained by the provisions specified in Section 162 of the Criminal Procedure Code, albeit with some exceptions. As per Section 174 of the CrPC, these recorded statements cannot be regarded as substantive evidence.
The statements recorded during the inquest process can solely serve as previous statements to either corroborate or contradict the individual who provided them during the trial. Section 162 of the CrPC permits contradiction but not corroboration of statements recorded during the investigation stage. However, as an inquest is not considered an investigation, this restriction does not apply, allowing the statements to be used for both corroboration and contradiction.
The statements included in an inquest report are admissible only to the extent that they pertain to the direct observations and findings of the investigating officer. Nonetheless, any statement based on hearsay included in the report would be affected by Section 162 of the CrPC. Unless the record is demonstrated to be unreliable, perfunctory, or dishonest, there is no reason to question such statements included in the inquest report.
If witnesses sign the inquest report, the statements within the report are impacted by Section 162 of the CrPC, rendering them inadmissible as evidence unless those witnesses are examined in court during the trial. However, Section 174 of the CrPC does not limit the authority of police officers to obtain the signatures of the individuals present during the inquiry and who concur with the report.
While the contents of the inquest report cannot be considered evidence, they can be scrutinized to assess the credibility of the witnesses.
Inquest Report by a Magistrate
Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the investigation conducted by a Magistrate into the cause of death.
In cases falling within the categories specified in Section 174(1) of the Code or any other pertinent case, the authorized Magistrate has the jurisdiction to investigate the cause of death. The Magistrate can conduct this inquiry either instead of or in addition to the investigation conducted by the police officer.
The jurisdictional Magistrate is authorized to conduct the inquiry in the following instances: When a person has deceased or gone missing.
In cases where a woman has alleged rape, the inquiry carried out by the Magistrate is supplemental to the investigation conducted by the police.
The Magistrate overseeing the inquiry is obligated to document the evidence collected in relation to the case.
As per Section 176(3) of the Code, if the deceased body has already been buried or cremated, the Magistrate has the authority to order the exhumation and examination of the body to ascertain the cause of death.
According to Section 176(4) of the Code, the Magistrate conducting the inquiry should, whenever feasible, inform the deceased person’s relatives and allow their presence during the inquiry.
Under Section 176(5) of the Code, the Magistrate or the investigating police officer must arrange for the deceased’s body to be examined by an accessible civil surgeon or any other qualified medical professional appointed by the State Government. If this is not possible, the reasons for the impossibility should be recorded in writing.
The extent of an inquest report is inherently confined in its coverage. Lately, there has been deliberation to broaden this provision to encompass cases of ‘missing persons’. The provisions predominantly relate to the preliminary inquiry or the initial evaluation of the deceased’s body.
Issues such as the precise particulars of the assault, identification of the accused, or the circumstances surrounding the assault fall beyond the purview of Section 174 of the Code. The provision mainly applies to cases of unnatural deaths and dowry deaths, with specific procedures outlined for the police personnel to adhere to in the latter scenarios.
Frequently asked questions
What is the purpose of an inquest report under the CrPC?
The purpose of an inquest report under the CrPC is to establish a comprehensive record of the crime scene and the circumstances surrounding a suspicious or unnatural death, serving as a foundational document for investigating such incidents.
How does an inquest report aid in the investigation of suspicious deaths?
An inquest report provides crucial initial information about the cause and relevant details of the deceased, guiding subsequent legal actions and the direction of the investigation into suspicious or unnatural deaths.
What is an inquest report under the CrPC?
An inquest report under the CrPC is a formal document prepared by the police or an assigned officer in cases involving unnatural deaths or fatalities under suspicious circumstances, containing crucial information about the cause, circumstances, and relevant details concerning the deceased.