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ARMY INSTITUTE OF LAW

Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree of B.A.L.L.B


Fifth Year 2018-19

Seminar Submission

Inquest Report under §174 & §176

SUBMITTED TO: SUBMITTED BY:


Dr. Bajirao Rajwade Nehmat Sethi
1445

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Introduction

The law of crimes requires a case to be built by the prosecution which puts the guilt of the
accused beyond reasonable doubt. A number of procedural safeguards, therefore, are inbuilt
in the run-up to the trial to ensure that none of the steps leading to determination of guilt of
the accused are hushed up and rather the State machinery works in an efficient manner.
Preparation of Inquest Reports is provided for under the Code of Criminal Procedure as a
record of crime which even though not a substantive piece of evidence, is an important basis
for determining the commission of the offence in as much as improper filing of inquest report
can weaken the case of the prosecution.

When a person does not die due to the natural circumstances, a person is considered victim
of unnatural death. Some of the causes of unnatural deaths are accidental death, murders,
animal attack, and complications of surgery, suicide and many more.

Why Unnatural Death?

If a person dies naturally, then there lies no suspicion so as to the death of the person. But in
case of unnatural death, the death is caused due to circumstances which need to be explained
and examined. There lies an obligation on the state to secure the health and life of every
citizen of the country. If any crime is committed, the crime is against the state. If a person
dies due to unnatural circumstances, the state is burdened to identify the cause of death and if
there lays a suspicion as to the cause of death, the state must take appropriate steps to punish
the guilty. In order to provide for the procedure in case a person dies unnaturally, Section 174
and 176 were created to lay down the procedure that the police officer and the magistrate
must follow in case of untimely deaths.

Law on Inquest Report under CrPC

174. Police to enquire and report on suicide, etc.

(1) When the officer in charge of a police station or 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 an
accident, or has died under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other
person has committed an offence, he shall immediately give intimation thereof to the nearest

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Executive Magistrate empowered to hold inquests, and, unless otherwise directed by any rule
prescribed by the State Government, or by any general or special order of the District or
Sub- divisional Magistrate, shall proceed to the place where the body

of such deceased person is, and there, in the presence of two' or more respectable inhabitants
of the neighbourhood, shall make an investigation, and draw up a report of the apparent
cause of death, describing such wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury as may
be found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument (if any);
such marks appear to have been inflicted.

(2) The report shall be signed by such police officer and other persons, or by so many of them
as concur therein, and shall be forthwith forwarded to the District Magistrate or the Sub-
divisional Magistrate.

(3) When-

(i) the case involves suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage; or

(ii) the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage in any
circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person committed an offence in
relation to such woman; or

(iii) the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage and any
relative of the woman has made a request in this behalf; or

(iv) there is any doubt regarding the cause of death; or

(v) the police officer for any other reason considers it expedient so to do, he shall. subject to
such rules as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf, forward the body, with a
view to its being examined, to the nearest Civil Surgeon, or other qualified medical man
appointed in this behalf by the State Government, if the state of the weather and the distance
admit of its being so forwarded without risk of such putrefaction on the road as would render
such examination useless.

(4) The following Magistrates are empowered to hold inquests, namely, any District
Magistrate or Sub- divisional Magistrate and any other Executive Magistrate specially
empowered in this behalf by the State Government or the District Magistrate.

For the purpose of the unnatural deaths, the executive magistrate upon the intimation by the
Station House Officer or some other Police Officer specially empowered by the State
Government shall prepare an inquest report which shall contain the minute details regarding
the cause of death of a person. Inquest report is prepared by District Magistrate, Additional
District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate, or Mandal Executive Magistrate especially

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empowered in this behalf by the State Government1 when the deaths are sudden and
unexplained.

The deaths that the Section 174 talks about are:

 Suicide,
 Murder,
 Animal attack,
 Death by machinery,
 Or death under circumstances raising reasonable suspicion that some other person
has committed an offence.

For preparing the report, the magistrate shall be investigating the cause of death. In the report,
the magistrate must describe the apparent cause of death where he shall describe the smallest
of details that he comes across upon investigation of the dead body. Some of the details that
the magistrate must describe are:

 Nature of surrounding where the dead body is found.


 Any wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks that may be found on the body.
The magistrate must state the manner in which any wound or injury or any other
mark happened to be on the body, whether the mark is by birth, or otherwise that
caused the death of the person.
 The marks if caused by any weapon or an instrument.

Duties of a Magistrate under Section 174

Section 174 lays down the duties that a magistrate must do upon intimidation by the police
officer of the cases of unnatural death. The police officer is bound to give intimidation to the
nearest Magistrate who is empowered to hold inquests, when he receives information
regarding the unnatural death of person.

1. The foremost duty of a Magistrate is to determine the cause of unnatural death.


The magistrate shall examine and body and upon investigation conclude as to the

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Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 174(4).

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reason which caused the death of the person. The death maybe caused by any
reason as mentioned in the Section 174 (1) of CrPC.
2. Since Section 174 is very limited in its scope, therefore it is restricted to the
suspicious circumstances that caused the unnatural death of a person and the
magistrate has no scope or authority under this section to trace the person who has
so caused the death. In the case of Radha Mohan Singh v. State of Uttar
Pradesh2, the Supreme Court held that section 174 is limited in confined to the
ascertainment of the apparent cause of death. The magistrate is therefore bound by
the limited scope of Section 174 and does not have to trace the person who has
caused the death or determine who assaulted the dead person or in what manner or
under what circumstances, etc. It is duty of the magistrate therefore to not mention
the name of the accused on the inquest report. It will lead to the report being held
unsustainable.3
3. In case no foul play is found in the death of the person, the dead body must be
handed over to the legal heirs of the deceased.
4. In cases where there is suspicion over the death of the deceased, then the dead
body must be sent to the Government Medical Officer for post mortem.
5. The magistrate need not examine all the witnesses while performing investigation
for a cause of unnatural death. In the case of Shakila Khader v Nausher Gama4,
the apex court held that for the purpose of preparing the inquest report, there need
not be examination of all the witnesses as the purpose of the inquest is only to
establish the cause of death. If a person’s name is not mentioned in the inquest
report, it does not lead to the assumption that he was not an eye-witness to the
incident. An inquest report is concerned with establishing the cause of death and
only evidence to establish it needs to be brought out.
6. The report must be prepared by the magistrate in a prescribed format. But if a report is
no prepared in a prescribed format, the report cannot be declared as unacceptable.
7. The magistrate must conduct the investigation in presence of two or more respectable
inhabitants of the neighbourhood. In case when no resident is there on the spot or
when no one volunteers to be a witness of the investigation, the inquest report may be
prepared without the presence of respectable citizens.

2
(2006) 2 SCC 450.
3
1977 AIR 1294.
4
AIR 1975 SC 1324.

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8. On completion of the report, the magistrate must get such report signed by the police
officer who informed him of the death and the other persons as well who was part of
the investigation. The report must be then forwarded to the District Magistrate or the
Sub-divisional Magistrate.5

Section 174(3)

In the year 1983, there were a large number of cases reported of deaths caused because of the
demand for dowry. Woman who could pay the demand after marriage were either brutally
treated or they were murdered. In order to control the inflammatory situation of dowry death,
the Parliament inserted Section 304-B in the Indian Penal code by the Dowry Prohibition
(Amendment) Act, 1986. Section 304-B of IPC says that if the death of a woman is caused by
such bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances or if she is subjected to
cruelty or harassment for demand of dowry and if such death or act of cruelty is caused
within seven years of marriage, then the husband or his relative will be deemed to have
caused her death.

The parliamentarians also inserted Section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code by the Criminal
Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983), which penalizes cruelty by husband or his
relative on a woman for any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on
account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand, which forces her
to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to her life.

The criminal amendment act of 1983 also inserted cl. 3 in the Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973 to curb the increasing incidents of dowry deaths. This sub-section says that if the death
of a woman is caused within seven years of marriage and if there is any reasonable suspicion
over the death of the woman that an offence has been committed under Section 304-B and
498-A of the IPC in this regard, the police officer should subject to such rules as the State
Government may prescribe in this behalf, send the body for post-mortem examination by the
nearest civil surgeon, over the request made by any relative of the deceased woman.
The police in order to exercise this discretion must fulfil two conditions:

1. Death of woman is caused within seven years of marriage.

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Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 174(2).

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2. A request is made by any relative of the woman in this behalf.

If the state of the weather and the distance admit of its being so forwarded without risk of
such putrefaction (the process of decay or rotting in a body or other organic matter) on the
road as would render such examination useless, the body may be forwarded to other qualified
medical man appointed in this behalf by the State Government.6

Sub-section (3) provides that if the police officer has no doubt over the cause of death, he has
the discretion of not sending the dead body for medical examination. The discretion must be
exercised prudently and honestly.

Police Investigation in case of Suicides

The incoming of The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 has decriminalized suicides. Section 115
of the said act overrides the provision of Section 309 of IPC; the person committing suicide
shall be presumed to be innocent unless proven otherwise. So, now a person cannot be
arrested for making an attempt to commit suicide and thereby no FIR. There is no restriction
on filing of a FIR in cases of abetment to suicide.7 If a person commits suicide, firstly it is the
duty of the Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death of the person whether it is
caused due to natural, accidental, homicidal or suicidal. After the determination that the death
is caused by suicide, the police officer need to step up and perform the necessary functions.
He shall investigate into the matter and determine the reasons of the suicide.

It is the duty of the police officer to collect evidence so as to the manner of death due to
suicide. The evidence may be physical, documentary or circumstantial. Physical evidence
includes fingerprint, blood, etc. Documentary evidence includes testimonials or records that
are on paper. Circumstantial evidence includes chronological presentation of facts.

If the investigation states that a person has abetted the suicide, a FIR shall be lodged against
such person and he shall be arrested8. If the police are reluctant to file a FIR, then a private
complaint with the judicial magistrate court under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal
Procedure can be made and the magistrate may direct the police to investigate and lodge a

6
Textbook of Forensic medicine& Toxicology by P.C.Dixit 1st edition.
7
https://blog.ipleaders.in/section-174-croc/ accessed on 09.04.2019
8
Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 306.

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FIR. If the investigation for a suicide is wrongly ruled, then family of the deceased will be
burdened with unnecessary grief. Therefore, the investigation must be done with utmost care.

Section 176

176. Inquiry by Magistrate into cause of death.

(1)When any person dies while in the custody of the police or when the case is of the nature
referred to in clause (i) or clause (ii) of Sub-Section (3) of section 174, the nearest
Magistrate empowered to hold inquests shall, and in any other case mentioned in Sub-Section
(1) of section 174, any Magistrate so empowered may hold an inquiry into the cause of death
either instead of, or in addition to, the investigation held by the police officer; and if he does
so, he shall have all the powers in conducting it, which he would have in holding an inquiry
into an offence.

1A. Where,-

 any person dies or disappears, or


 rape is alleged to have been committed on any woman, while such person or woman
is in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorised by the Magistrate or
the Court under this Code, in addition to the inquiry or investigation held by the
police, an inquiry shall be held by the Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan
Magistrate, as the case may be, within whose local jurisdiction the offence has been
committed.

(2)The Magistrate holding such an inquiry shall record the evidence taken by him in
connection therewith in any manner hereinafter prescribed according to the circumstances of
the case.

(3)Whenever such Magistrate considers it expedient to make an examination of the dead body
of any person who has been already interred, in order to discover the cause of his death, the
Magistrate may cause the body to be disinterred and examined.

(3)Where an inquiry is to be held under this section, the Magistrate shall, wherever
practicable, inform the relatives of the deceased whose names and addresses are known, and
shall allow them to remain present at the inquiry,

(4)The Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate or Executive Magistrate or police


officer holding an inquiry or investigation, as the case may be, under Sub-Section (1A) shall,
within twenty-four hours of the death of a person, forward the body with a view to its being
examined to the nearest Civil Surgeon or other qualified medical person appointed in this

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behalf by the State Government, unless it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded
in writing.

The code of criminal procedure Cr.P.C. was amended in the year 2005 & was brought into
force on 23/6/06. After implementation of the Amendment Act, 2005 in the section 176 of the
principal Act,

1. In Sub-section (1) the words "where any person dies while in the custody of the police
or" shall be omitted; 2. after 'sub-section (1), the following subsection shall be
inserted, namely-
“(1A) where: -a. any person dies or disappears or
b. rape is alleged to have been committed on any woman, ':.while such
person or women is in, the custody of the police or in any other custody,
authorised by the magistrate or 'the court; "under this code in addition to the
inquiry or Investigation held by the police, an inquiry shall be held by the
judicial magistrate or the metropolitan magistrate, as the case may be, within,
whose local jurisdiction the offences has been committed."

2. After Sub-section (4), before the explanation, the following sub-section shall be
inserted, namely-"(5)The judicial magistrate or the metropolitan magistrate or
executive magistrate or police officer holding an inquiry or ' investigation, as the case
maybe, under sub-section (lA) shall, within twenty four hour of the death of a person,
forward the body with a view to its being examined to the nearest civil surgeon or
other qualified medical man appointed in this behalf by the state government, unless it
is not possible to do so for reason to be recorded in writing."9

Evidentiary Value of Inquest Reports

In the case of Kuldeep Singh v. State of Punjab10, the Supreme Court has held that the
contents of the inquest report cannot be treated as evidence, but they can be looked into to
test the veracity of a witness.

9
http://medind.nic.in/jal/t09/i4/jalt09i4p417.pdf
10
(2005) 3 RCR 599 (P&H).

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Significance of Inquest Reports

In a recent decision Brahm Swaroop v. State of U.P.11 the Supreme Court explained the
concept and the significance of Inquest Report in criminal trials in the following terms;

“6. Undoubtedly, there are five blanks in the inquest report. The crime number and
names of the accused have not been filled up. The column for filling up the penal
provisions under which offences have been committed is blank. The time of incident
and time of dispatch of the special report have not been mentioned. Therefore, it has
been submitted that the FIR is ante-timed and there is manipulation in the case of the
prosecution.
7. The whole purpose of preparing an inquest report under Section 174 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cr.P.C’) is to
investigate into and draw up a report of the apparent cause of death, describing
such wounds as may be found on the body of the deceased and stating as in what
manner, or by what weapon or instrument such wounds appear to have been
inflicted.

For the purpose of holding the inquest it is neither necessary nor obligatory on the part of the
Investigating Officer to investigate into or ascertain who the persons responsible for the death
were.

The object of the proceedings under Section 174 Cr.PC is merely to ascertain whether a
person died under suspicious circumstances or met with an unnatural death and, if so, what
was its apparent cause. The question regarding the details of how the deceased was
assaulted or who assaulted him or under what circumstances he was assaulted is foreign
to the ambit and scope of such proceedings i.e. the inquest report is not the statement of
any person wherein all the names of the persons accused must be mentioned. Omissions
in the inquest report are not sufficient to put the prosecution out of court. The basic purpose
of holding an inquest is to report regarding the apparent cause of death, namely, whether it is
suicidal, homicidal, and accidental or by some machinery etc. It is, therefore, not necessary to
enter all the details of the overt acts in the inquest report. Evidence of eyewitnesses cannot be
discarded if their names do not figure in the inquest report prepared at the earliest point of

11
(2011) 6 SCC 288.

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time. The inquest report cannot be treated as substantive evidence but may be utilised
for contradicting the witnesses of inquest.12

In Radha Mohan Singh (supra), a three judge bench of this Court held:

“No argument on the basis of an alleged discrepancy, overwriting, omission or


contradiction in the inquest report can be entertained unless the attention of the author
thereof is drawn to the said fact and he is given an opportunity to explain when he is
examined as a witness in court.”

Even where, the attention of the author of the inquest is drawn to the alleged discrepancy,
overwriting, omission or contradiction in the inquest report and the author in his deposition
has also admitted that through a mistake he omitted to mention the crime number in the
inquest report, this Court has held that just because the author of the report had not been
diligent did not mean that reliable and clinching evidence adduced by the eyewitnesses
should be discarded by the Court. 13

Section 174 vis-à-vis Section 176

Till the amendment in the section 176 of Cr.P.C. the inquest or inquiry into the cause of death
in case of death in police custody or in any other custody authorised by the magistrate or the
court was held by the executive magistrates.

In our system the executive magistrate (Collector, ADM, SDM, Tahsildar etc.} & the police
are working together for the enforcement of law and order all over country. So naturally
when you have to work together for prolonged period automatically, a bond of
understandings' affection is developed for each other, same thing also happens between
administration & police system and whenever any death· occurs in the custody of police we
can presume that there is a possibility of soft corner of the executive magistrate for the police

12
See Podda Narayana & Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1975 SC 1252; Khujji v. State of
Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1991 SC 1853; George & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr., (1998) 4 SCC 605;
Shaikh Ayub v. State of Maharashtra, (1998) 9 SCC 521; Suresh Rai v. State of Bihar, (2000) 4 SCC
84; Amar Singh v. Balwinder Singh & Ors., (2003) 2 SCC 518; Radha Mohan Singh alias Lal Sahab
& Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2006) 2 SCC 450; and Aqeel Ahmad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR
2009 SC 1271.
13
Vide: Dr. Krishna Pal & Anr. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1996) 7 SCC 194.

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personals involved in the incidence& it can affect the inquest of the custodial death in few
cases.14

Another reason is that executive magistrate is holding several responsibility regarding


revenue services so. lt was seen at various occasions that inquest or inquiry into the cause of
death in Case of custodial death delayed for months or even some time for, 1 to 2 years.15
Definitely it affected and delayed the process of justice in such type of cases. , But after
amendment in the section 176 of Cr.P.C, Judicial Magistrate has to hold inquest in such type
of cases' it has got Jew positive impact:

 1. Body shall has to be" forwarded to the nearest civil surgeons or' other qualified
medical man appointed in this behalf by the state government for the post-mortem
examination within 24 hrs. of the death of a person.
 2. Judicial magistrate shall have to hold the inquest within a time limit, so Judicial
Magistrate can summon doctor, relative, and other personels for their statements.
Inquest may be speedy one and as there is a systematic working in the judiciary the
inquest can be held in time & justice to the dead can be, given.

As dead body has to be referred to the civil surgeon or qualified medical man (That
literally means forensic expert) within 24 hrs. Of death it raises the hope that post-mortem
conducted will be meticulous one & report will be detailed & clear one. The possibility of
soft corner between revenue and police system is also' ruled out because of judicial
inquiry.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Section 174 is very limited in scope its lays down the procedure that a police
officer must follow on the unnatural death of a person. When an unidentified dead body is
found, the police officer shall inform such matter to the magistrate who shall investigate into
the cause of death of the person and upon such investigation, prepare an inquest report that
shall include the details that the magistrate has found during the investigation. The section
also lays down the requirements that the magistrate must fulfil for preparing an inquest report
14
Basu's Criminal Court Handbook containing major criminal acts 10th edition reprint 2008.
15
Textbook of Forensic medicine& Toxicology principles & practice by Krishan Vij 3rd edition.

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that shall specify the cause of death of the person. The section does not lay down the
procedure for tracing of the accused. The section also provides for special performance on the
part of a police officer in case of dowry death, i.e., death of woman within seven years of
marriage for the demand of dowry. Thus, this section is confined to unnatural deaths and
dowry deaths.

With reference to Section 176, after amendment in the section 176 of Cr.P.C the Judicial
Magistrates have to hold inquest under the guidance of District Session Judge and under
observation of honourable High Court of various states. It is hopeful for process of inquest in
the cases of custodial death to became speedy and chances of Justice in such type of case
definitely increased which will certainly reduce the number of such type of incidences in the
custody in our country.

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