Provision Related to Enquiry and Investigation of Cases of Unnatural Death

By | November 30, 2019
Inquest in Unnatural Deaths

Provision Related to Enquiry and Investigation of Cases of Unnatural Death | Overview

Whenever there is a death of a person in abnormal circumstances, the situation calls for police intervention. This may include murder, suicide, accidental death etc. This article shall provide an analysis of provision related to enquiry and investigation of cases of unnatural death under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is the provision of law in the criminal jurisprudence that manages the procedure that the police and the judge need to follow in instances of suicide or other such situations resulting in unnatural deaths.

At the point when an individual does not die because of the natural conditions of ageing or sickness, an individual is viewed as a victim of unnatural death. Some of the unnatural deaths are unintentional death, murders, death caused by a wild beast, difficulties of medical procedure, suicide and so on.

Suicide can be characterized as purposeful murdering or causing one’s very own death. Suicide is not admissible under Indian Law and thus, Section 309 of Indian Penal Code sets out the sanction if any individual endeavours to submit suicide.

In the event that an individual endeavours suicide, at that point he will be detained for a term of one year or punished with the imposition of fine according to the court’s decision or both. There have been a few endeavours to expel Section 309 of the IPC yet the endeavours appeared to have fizzled[1]. Presently with the enactment of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, attempt to commit suicide is never again wrongdoing in India.

Unnatural Death under CrPC

On the off chance that an individual kick the bucket, i.e. dies normally, at that point there lies no doubt in order to the demise of the individual. Be that as it may, if there should be an occurrence of an unnatural demise and the death is caused because of conditions which should be clarified and analyzed by the authority of law, there lies a commitment on the state to verify the wellbeing and life of each resident of the nation.

On the off chance that any crime is carried out, it is against the state. In the event that an individual bites the dust or dies because of unnatural conditions, the state is obliged to recognize the reason for death and if there lies a doubt with regards to the reason for death, the state must find a way to rebuff the accused.

Conducting Inquest and Inquest Report

The Executive Magistrate upon the implication by the Station House Officer or some other Police Officer specially engaged by the State Government will set up an inquest report which will contain the moment insights about the reason for the death of an individual.

Inquest report, as propounded under Section 174, is set up by District Magistrate, Additional District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate, or Mandal Executive Magistrate particularly enabled for this sake by the State Government when there are circumstances of deaths in the places within their jurisdiction and if such deaths are unexpected and unexplained.

Section 174 of the Code comprises all kinds of death which cannot be explained or deemed to be unnatural. For the purpose of this provision, natural death means when a person ages to his death and dies due to age or if a person suffers from a medical condition which is sufficient or likely to cause the death of a person and the person dies due to such suffering. Thus, any death caused by a reason other than disease or old age is unnatural. In general, the provision comprises four kinds of deaths:

  1. Suicide,
  2. Murder,
  3. Assault by a beast,
  4. Demise due to factory accidents (failure of a machine, etc.),

Or on the other hand, passing under conditions raising sensible doubt that some other individual has committed an offence.

For setting up the report, the judge will examine the reason for death. In the report, the justice must portray the obvious reasons for death where he will depict the slightest subtleties that he discovers on the dead body. A portion of the subtleties that the officer must depict are:

  1. Nature of encompassing where the dead body is found.
  2. Any injuries, cracks, wounds, and different imprints that might be found on the body. The officer must express the way wherein any twisted or damage or some other imprint happened to be on the body, regardless of whether the imprint is by birth, or generally, that caused the demise of the individual.
  3. The imprints whenever brought about by any weapon or an instrument.

On account of Kuldeep Singh v. State of Punjab[2], the High Court has held that the substance of the inquest report can’t be treated as a proof, however, they can be investigated to test the veracity of a witness.

Responsibilities of the Executive Magistrate

Section 174 sets out the obligations that a judge must do upon intimation by the police officer in charge of the instances of unnatural death. The officer will undoubtedly inform the closest Magistrate who is enabled to hold investigations under the CrPC or any other relevant law when he gets data with respect to the unnatural demise of an individual. After the Magistrate receives such information, he is bound to perform the following duties:

  • The principal obligation of a Magistrate is to decide the reason for unnatural passing away of the individual concerned. The judge will look at the body and upon examination, analyze and explain the circumstances in which the person died and any cause of death identified by examination of the dead body.
  • Since Section 174 is constrained in its extension, along these lines it is confined to the suspicious conditions that caused the unnatural death of an individual and the officer has no degree of control or authority under this provision to apprehend the individual who has so caused the demise. In the recent judgment of the apex court, Radha Mohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[3], the Supreme Court held that Section 174 is restricted to the ascertainment of the clear reason for death.

The officer is in this manner bound by the restricted extent of Section 174 and doesn’t need to keep an eye on the individual who has allegedly caused the death or figure out who attacked the dead individual or in what way or under what conditions, and so on.

  • In the event that no injustice is found in the demise of the individual, the dead body must be given over to the lawful heirs of the expired person.
  • In situations where there is suspicion or ambiguity regarding the death of the deceased person, at that point, the dead body must be sent to the Government Medical Officer for post-mortem analysis after death.
  • The judge need not look at all the witnesses or observers present at the scene of offence while performing the examination to find a reason for the unnatural death. On account of Shakila Khader v. Nausher Gama[4], the apex court held that to set up the inquest report, there need not be an assessment of the considerable number of observers as the reason for the examination is just to ascertain the reason for the death. If the Magistrate fails to mention anyone’s name in the inquest report, it doesn’t prompt the presumption that the officer failed in the efficient exercise of his duties.
  • The report must be set up by the officer in a recommended organization. In any case, if a report is no readied in a specified manner, the report can’t be proclaimed as admissible.
  • The Magistrate must conduct the inquest in the presence of two independent residents or inhabitants of the area in the vicinity of which the offence had taken place. These people are called the panchas and because of which the report prepared by the Magistrate and signed by these panchas are sometimes called panchnama. In case no panchas are available or willing to assist the Magistrate, the police officer or any other member of other locality can be requested as well.
  • On the accomplishment of the inquest report, it is the duty of the Magistrate to inform the investigating officer or the police official who informed him of the incident about the report and get the report marked and signed by him. Further, as aforementioned, the report shall also be verified and signed by different people too who were a part of the examination such as the panchas who testified as to the accuracy of the inquest. The report must be then sent to the District Magistrate or the Sub-divisional Magistrate.

Cases of Unnatural Dowry Deaths

In the year 1983, there were countless cases announced of deaths caused in view of the never-ending avaricious demand for dowry by the husband’s family from the wife after marriage. Lady who could not pay the interest after marriage was either fiercely treated or they were killed. So as to control the provocative circumstance of demise owing to dowry claims, the Parliament embedded 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 married woman is brought about by such substantial damage or generally than under ordinary conditions or in the event that she is exposed to cruel and harsh treatment or badgering for request of dowry and if such demise or demonstration of cruelty is caused within a time frame of seven years from the day of marriage, at that point, the spouse and/or his relative will be regarded to have caused her demise.

The parliamentarians additionally embedded Section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983), which punishes brutality by spouse or his relative on a lady for any unlawful demand for dowry or any property or important security or is by virtue of disappointment by her or any individual identified with her to satisfy such need, which constrains her to perpetrate suicide or cause grave damage or threat to her life.

The Act additionally embedded clause 3 to Section 174 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to control the expanding occurrences of dowry demises.

This sub-section asserts that if the demise of a married woman is caused within a period of seven years of marriage and if there is any sensible doubt over the demise of the lady that an offence has been committed under Section 304-B and 498-A of the IPC in such manner, the police officer should send the body for post-mortem analysis by the closest medical officer, over the solicitation made by any relative of the deceased woman.

Clause (3) also empowers the police officer to use the power in the opposite sense. It means that if after the due investigation, the police officer is of the opinion that the case was not of dowry death and/or there was no cruel treatment on the deceased, the officer may reject the presumption of dowry death and release any person arrested in that connection.


  1. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Commentary on the Code of Criminal Procedure (18th ed. 2006).
  2. V. Kelkar, Lectures on Criminal Law (8th ed. 2016).
  3. D. Basu, Criminal Procedure (6th ed. 2014).

[1] Gian Kaur v. the State of Punjab, 1996 SCC (2) 648; P. Rathinam v. Union of India., (1994) SCC 394.

[2] Kuldeep Singh v. the State of Punjab, (2005) 3 RCR 599 (P&H).

[3] Radha Mohan Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2006) 2 SCC 450.

[4] Shakila Khader v. Nausher Gama, AIR 1975 SC 1324.

  1. Classification of Offences Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(Opens in a new browser tab)
Author: Ashish Agarwal

Advocate | School of Law, Christ University Alumnus

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