U/Sec.174 of Cr.P.C. ITS OBJECT AND USAGE
PETITIONER: Radha Mohan Singh @ Lal Saheb & others
RESPONDENT: State of U.P.
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 20/01/2006
BENCH: K.G. BALAKRISHNAN, ARUN KUMAR & G.P. MATHUR
(Also reported in 2007 Cri.L.J. 1121 = AIR 2006 SC 951)
J U D G M E N T WITH CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1186 OF 2004 Kaushal Kishore Singh & another ... Appellants Versus State of U.P. ... Respondent G.P. Mathur, J.
12. The provision for holding of inquest is contained in Section 174 Cr.P.C. and the heading of the 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. The language of the aforesaid statutory provision is plain and simple and there is no ambiguity therein. An investigation under Section 174 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 or homicidal or caused by animal and in what manner or by what weapon or instrument the injuries on the body appear to have been inflicted. It is for this limited purpose that persons acquainted with the facts of the case are summoned and examined under Section 175. 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 is foreign to the ambit and scope of proceedings under Section 174. Neither in practice nor in law it is necessary for the person holding the inquest to mention all these details.
13. In Podda Narayana v. State of A.P. AIR 1975 SC 1252 it was held that the proceedings under Section 174 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 S. 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 an eye-witness 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 Amar Singh v. Balwinder Singh 2003 (2) SCC 518. In the said case the High Court had observed that the fact that the details about the occurrence were not mentioned in the inquest report showed that the investigating officer was not sure of the facts when the inquest report was prepared and the said feature of the case carried weight in favour of the accused. After noticing the language used in Section 174 Cr.P.C. and earlier decisions of this Court it was ruled that the High Court was clearly in error in observing as aforesaid or drawing any inference against the prosecution. Thus, it is well settled by a catena of decisions of this 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 eye-witness. In Meharaj Singh v. State of U.P. (supra) the language used by the legislature in Section 174 Cr.P.C. was not taken note of nor the earlier decisions of this Court were referred to and some sweeping observations have been made which are not supported by the statutory provision. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the observations made in paras 11 and 12 of the reports do not represent the correct statement of law and they are hereby over-ruled. The challenge laid to the prosecution case by Shri Jain on the basis of the alleged infirmity or omission in the inquest report has, therefore, no substance and cannot be accepted.
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