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Inquest Report by Police and Magistrate under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973


26 May 2022

What is Inquest?

The term inquest was derived from the French word ‘quaesitus’ meaning - to seek answer. Inquest is a fact-finding inquiry or investigation into the cause of death where death is apparently not due to natural causes. To be specific, inquest establishes reliable answers to four important questions.

1. Relates to the identity of the deceased

2. Place of his death

3. Time of death

4. Apparent cause of death

Types of Inquest

i. Police Inquest

ii. Magistrate Inquest

i. Police Inquest

  • Section 174 of Cr.P.C provides for procedure for holding inquest by police.

  • Police officer, on receipt of information of death, gives intimation to the nearest executive magistrate empowered to hold inquests.

  • He then proceeds to the place of occurrence and holds an inquiry into the matters in the presence of two or more respectable inhabitants of locality (witnesses). These witnesses are called Panchas.

  • The inquest report so prepared is known as panchnama

  • Inquest held by police officer (Investigating Officer) should not be below the rank of Senior Head Constable.

  • If no foul play suspected the body is handed over to relatives.

  • In suspicious cases, the body is sent for post mortem examination to the nearest authorized doctor with requisition and copy of inquest.

  • The report is then forwarded to the District Magistrate or Sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM)

ii. Magistrate Inquest

  • Section 176 of Cr.P.C deals with inquiry by magistrate (District Magistrate, Judicial Magistrate, SDM or any Executive magistrate, empowered by State Government such as the sub-collector or Tehsildar).

  • Magistrate inquest is not held routinely (only when especially indicated).

  • Magistrate hold inquest in all cases of suspicious death

  • Magistrate can order a body to be exhumed

  • Can order chemical analysis of viscera

Indications for magistrate Inquest are as follows:

  1. Death due to police firing

  2. Death during police custody

  3. Exhumation Cases

  4. Rape alleged to have been committed on women in police custody

  5. Dowry Death (within 7 years of marriage)

Author S. Patcheappan is Assistant Public Prosecutor, Puducherry

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