Inquest report - Object and scope

The provision for holding of inquest is contained in Section 174 Cr.P.C. Heading of Section is, 'Police to enquire and report on suicide etc.' Sub-Sections (1) and (2) thereof read as under:-
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 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.

it is not the requirement of law to mention the name of the accused persons and the weapons carried by them in the inquest report. In this regard reference may be made to the case of Radhamohan Singh @ Lal Saheb and others vs. State of U.P. J.T.2006 (1) SC 482, in which the Hon'ble Apex Court has observed that mentioning of the name of accused and witnesses or weapons carried by the accused in the inquest report is not the requirement of law and inquest report is confined to the ascertainment of the apparent cause of death and it need not mention, who assaulted the deceased and who were the witnesses of the assault.


          The language of the aforesaid statutory provision is plain and simple and there is no ambiguity therein. is foreign to the ambit and scope of proceedings under Section 174 Cr.PC. An investigation under Section 174 Cr.P.C. is limited in scope and is confined to the ascertainment of the apparent cause of death. It is concerned with discovering whether in a given case the death was accidental, suicidal and homicidal or caused by animal. It is for this limited purpose that persons acquainted with the facts of the case are summoned and examined under Section 175 Cr.P.C. The details of the overt acts are not necessary to be recorded in the inquest report. The question regarding the details as to how the deceased was assaulted or who assaulted him or under what circumstances he was assaulted or who are the witnesses of the assault C. Neither in practice nor in law it is necessary for the person holding the inquest to mention all these details.

In Podda Narayana v. State of A.P. AIR 1975 SC 1252, it was held by the Hon'ble Apex Court that the proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. have a very limited scope. The object of the proceedings is merely to ascertain whether a person has died under suspicious circumstances or an unnatural death and if so what is the apparent cause of the death. The question regarding the details as to how the deceased was assaulted or who assaulted him or under what circumstances he was assaulted is foreign to the ambit and scope of the proceedings under Section 174. Neither in practice nor in law was it necessary for the police to mention those details in the inquest report. It is, therefore, not necessary to enter all the details of the overt acts in the inquest report. Their omission is not sufficient to put the prosecution out of Court.

In Shakila Khader v. Nausher Gama AIR 1975 SC 1324, the contention raised that non-mention of a person's name in the inquest report would show that he was not a eye-witness of the incident was repelled on the ground that an inquest under Section 174 Cr.P.C. is concerned with establishing the cause of death and only evidence necessary to establish it need be brought out. The same view was taken in Eqbal Baig v. State of Andhra Pradesh AIR 1987 SC 923 that the non-mention of name of an eye-witness in the inquest report could not be a ground to reject his testimony. Similarly, the absence of the name of the accused in the inquest report cannot lead to an inference that he was not present at the time of commission of the offence, as the inquest report is not the statement of a person wherein all the names (accused and also the eye-witnesses) ought to have been mentioned.

The view taken in Podda Narayana v. State of A.P. (supra) was approved by a three-judge Bench in Khujji @ Surendra Tiwari v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1991 SC 1853 and it was held that the testimony of eye-witnesses could not be discarded on the ground that their names did not figure in the inquest report prepared at the earliest point of time. The nature and purpose of inquest held under Section 174 Cr.P.C. was also explained in the case of Amar Singh V. Balwinder Singh JT 2003(2) SC 1; 2003 (2) S.C.C. 518.

Thus it is well settled by a catena of decisions of the Hon'ble Apex Court that the purpose of holding an inquest is very limited, viz., to ascertain as to whether 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. There is absolutely no requirement in law of mentioning the details of the FIR, names of the accused or the names of the eye-witnesses or the gist of their statement nor it is required to be signed by any eyewitnesses.

(see, Crl Appeal No 44/2000, Allahabad High Court )

 

Published in Criminal Law
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