An inquest is a legal inquiry or investigation to ascertain
the circumstances and cause of death.
• It is conducted in sudden, suspicious or unnatural deaths.
• There are four types of inquests:
– Police inquest
– Magistrate inquest
– Coroner inquest
– Medical Examiner’s system
• Only Police and Magistrate’s inquest are held in India
• The inquest is held under section 174 of CrPC.
• It is conducted by the police officer, usually not below
the rank of police sub inspector.
• The officer conducting the inquest is called as
“Investigating Officer” (IO).
• On receipt of information about any sudden, suspicious
or unnatural death of any person, the IO forwards the
information to the nearest Magistrate and proceeds to the
place where the dead body is lying.
At that place, the IO in presence of two or more
responsible persons of the area (called as Panchas) makes
an investigation and prepares a report called as
The Panchnama (inquest report) includes the description
of scene of crime, apparent cause of death and presence of
any injuries over body. The IO and the panchas then sign
the report. The IO then forwards the dead body to the
nearest government doctor with a copy of inquest report
Magistrate inquest is held under section 176 CrPC.
The Magistrate empowered to hold inquests are:
District magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate or any
other Executive Magistrate and judicial magistrate
specially empowered in this on behalf of the State
Government or the District Magistrate.
• It is considered to be superior to police inquest.
• Magistrate inquest is done in following circumstances:
– Death in prison/jail
– Death in police custody
– Death due to police firing
– Dowry death (Under section 304 B of IPC)
– Death in mental hospital
• Similarly in any case of death, the Magistrate can conduct an inquest instead of police inquest or in
addition to the police inquest
• Under Coroner’s Act 1871, previously it was held at Kolkata
(Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay). However it was abolished in
Kolkata way back and was discontinued on 29 July 1999 in
• A Coroner was an Officer of the rank of First Class Magistrate,
appointed by State Government. The Coroner may be a doctor or a
lawyer or both. Under Coroner’ Act, the Coroner was empowered
to inquire all unnatural or suspicious deaths and death occurring in
jail. After examining a body he then decides whether an autopsy is
required and if necessary he holds an inquiry and forward the body
to government doctor for postmortem examination. He had also
power to order for exhumation.
• Coroner’s court is only court of inquiry into the cause
of death. In pursuance of investigation, the Coroner
examine witnesses on oath and records their evidence.
After completion of an inquiry, the Coroner finds a
verdict as to the cause of death. If the coroner found a
verdict of foul play, he issues warrant to the concerned
accused and then handed over the case to the
concerned Metropolitan Magistrate. When the accused
was not found, the Coroner returns an open verdict.
Open verdict means an announcement of the
commission of crime without information regarding
MEDICAL EXAMINER SYSTEM
• Medical examiner system is a type of inquest prevalent in most
states of USA.
• This type of inquest is done by a Medical Examiner who is a
Forensic Pathologist. All sorts of sudden, unnatural or suspicious
deaths are analyzed by Medical Examiner.
• This type of investigation is considered to be superior to all other
type of investigations. In India this syste is not followed.
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