According to §2 (h) of the Code, investigation means a process conducted for the collection of evidence in a particular case by the police or any other authorized person.
The essential purpose of the Code of Criminal Procedure is to find the culprit or the mastermind, as we say, behind a crime and ensure that he is brought to justice. To perform this function, the courts require evidence supporting the case of the prosecution and if something is found in favour of the accused, it has to be used in favour of the accused. Now, how do we find this evidence? Who finds this evidence for the court and what is the purpose or object of this process of finding evidence? To answer these questions, the present article deals with the meaning and purpose of an investigation under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Meaning of Investigation
According to §2 (h) of the Code, investigation means a process conducted for the collection of evidence in a particular case by the police or any other authorized person. The essential elements of investigation under this provision are:
- It must be in the form of a process and not merely one act such as recording the complaint.
- The intention of the investigation should be to collect evidence.
- Investigation can be conducted by police or a private person but not by Magistrate.
In State v. Pareshwar Ghosi, the court observed that etymologically, the term investigation means any process that involves sifting of materials or search of relevant data for the purpose of ascertainment of facts in issue in a matter in hand.
The apex court has opined that an investigation, in a practical sense, generally comprises of:
- Proceeding to the scene of the offence,
- Verification and establishment of the facts of the case and the circumstances under which it took place,
- Sifting of materials to accumulate the evidence related to the commission of the offence.
- Formation of opinion, i.e. concluding whether, on the basis of the material and information heaped up, the suspects are the real culprits and if satisfies, prepare the final report for the Magistrate.
Investigation, Inquiry and Trial
Aiyar’s dictionary defines investigate as “to inquire into the facts or other relevant circumstances”. In daily life, we often use the terms to investigate and inquire or inquire and trial synonymously. However, the Criminal Procedure Code makes a clear distinction between the three.
According to §2(h), an investigation is any process conducted with the purpose of collection of evidence by the police or any person authorized in this behalf. On the contrary, §2(g) defines ‘inquiry’ as every inquiry except trial which is conducted by the Magistrate under the Code. Further, the term ‘trial’ is not defined in the code but it means any proceeding before a judicial authority with the purpose of determining the guilt of the accused.
Thus, in a nutshell:
|It is conducted by a police officer or a private person but cannot be conducted by a Magistrate.||It is conducted only by a Magistrate.||It is conducted by a Judicial Magistrate or court of session or any other court or tribunal which is a judicial authority.|
|It is always non-judicial in nature||It can be either judicial or non-judicial||It is always judicial in nature.|
|The primary aim is the collection of evidence to initiate a trial.||The primary aim is to sift the veracity and determine the truth of any crime that is reported.||The primary aim is to take notice of the evidence and determine the innocence or guilt of the accused.|
|Arrest under §41, recording FIR, proceeding to the scene of offence (§154), conducting search & seizure (§165) are all parts of the investigation.||Proceedings for maintenance of public order and tranquillity or the inquiry by Magistrate into the cause of death of a person dying under suspicious circumstances (§174) are examples of inquiry.||After all the evidence is collected, they are produced before the court one by one, witnesses are examined and cross-examined and the parties present their arguments (§234). These are part of the trial.|
Steps or Purpose in the Investigation Process
There are two essential steps or purpose in the investigation process, viz. “discovery and arrest of the suspected offender and search of place and seizure of articles relevant to the case”.
Discovery and Arrest
The first essential step in the investigation is the discovery and arrest of the suspected offenders. When the information of the commission of an offence is received by the police or Magistrate, the information may disclose the identity of the suspect or it may be silent on such identity. For instance, if a victim reports an offence, s/he may know the offender or at least the physique of the offender which can be conveyed to the investigating agency. Contrary to this, if a person comes to home and finds that his house has been broken into. He would not be able to disclose the information about the suspect.
Now, in either case, the most tiresome chore of the investigating agency is to find the accused, locate him and arrest him as soon as possible because a trial cannot begin unless a person is accused of the commission of an offence. An arrest must be made according to the procedure established under §§41 to 46 of the Code.
Search and Seizure
Once the accused or a suspect is arrested, the next most important purpose of an investigation is to collect evidence which can be used in the courts during a trial to be used in favour of or against the accused. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 divides evidence into two kinds, viz. oral evidence and documentary evidence. The oral evidence is deduced from the people who are acquainted with the facts of the case. To determine oral evidence, the investigating agency is required to proceed to the scene of offence and record the statement of the people which when given in court becomes evidence.
However, for documentary evidence, the investigating agency needs to search the document and seize it with lawful authority to produce before court. Thus, it is a very significant purpose of an investigation is to allow the search of documents in possession of anyone and to seize such documents. For this purpose, the Code empowers the investigating agencies to search any place from where the agency has a reasonable belief that an important document might be discovered and to seize such documents in the case, the authority believes that such document will not be produced by the person required to produce.
It is thus seen that the “process of investigation characterizes the nature of policing to a great extent and constitutes as one of the most important occasions” for bringing the police and ‘publics’ into contact. The process is not an indivisible whole but involves many interactional stages assuming different forms of contact appropriate to each.
Also, to minimize the improprieties in the process of a criminal investigation, “it requires a holistic approach that studies the issues and problems of police work in its wider organizational and societal contexts” to formulate meaningful schemes in significantly altering the contemporary practice of police investigation.
 State v. Pareshwar Ghosi, AIR 1968 Ori 20.
 H.N. Rishbud v. the State of Delhi, AIR 1955 SC 196.
 P. Ramanatha Aiyar, Concise Law Dictionary 685 (5th ed. 2014).
 K.N. Chandrashekaran Pillai, R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure 124 (6th ed. 2018).
 Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The Code of Criminal Procedure 222 (15th ed. 2002).
 Ibid. at 226.