Legal provisions regarding inquiry by Magistrate into cause of death under section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(i) When the case is of the nature referred to in clause (i), i.e., the case involves suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage or clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of Section 174, i.e., the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage in any circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person committed an offence in relation to such woman, the nearest Magistrate empowered to hold inquests shall, and in any other case mentioned in sub-section (1) of Section 174, i.e., committed suicide, or has been killed by another or 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, any Magistrate so empowered may hold an inquiry into the cause of death either instead of, or in addition to, the investigation held by the police officer and if he does so, he shall have all the powers in conducting it which he would have in holding an inquiry into an offence.
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(a) Any person dies or disappears; or
(b) Rape is alleged to have been committed on any woman, while such person or woman is in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorized by the Magistrate or the court, under this Code in addition to the inquiry or investigation held by the police, an inquiry shall be held by the Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate, as the case may be, within whose local jurisdiction the offence has been committed.
(ii) The Magistrate holding such an inquiry shall record the evidence taken by him in connection therewith in any manner hereinafter prescribed according to the circumstances of the case.
(iii) Whenever such Magistrate considers it expedient to make an examination of the dead body of any person who has already been interred, in order to discover the cause of his death, the Magistrate may cause the body to be disinterred and examined.
(iv) Where an inquiry is to be held under Section 176 of the Code, the Magistrate shall, wherever practicable, inform the relatives, i.e., parents, children, brothers, sisters and spouse of the deceased whose names and addresses are known, and shall allow them to remain present at the inquiry.
(v) The Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate or Executive Magistrate or Police Officer holding an inquiry or investigation, as the case may be, under sub-section (1-A) shall, within twenty-four hours of the death of a person, forward the body with a view to its being examined to the nearest Civil Surgeon or other qualified medical man appointed in this behalf by the State Government unless it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded in writing.
In this Section, the expression ‘relative’ means parents, children, brothers, sisters and spouse.
An inquiry into the cause of death of a person while in police custody under Section 176 of the Code is to be held independently by a Magistrate and not jointly with a police officer when the role of the police officers itself is a matter of inquiry.
The Magistrate holding such an inquiry shall record the evidence taken by him in connection therewith in any prescribed manner according to the circumstances of the case.
The statements recorded by the Magistrate in the course of an inquiry under Section 176 can be treated in subsequent proceedings as former statements of witnesses, or confessions or admissions of accused persons, in accordance with the subject to the relevant provisions of the Evidence Act.
The inquiry by the Magistrate into the cause of death under Section 176 of the Code has nothing to do with the exercise of the judicial power. Such inquiry cannot best be treated as quasi-judicial in character. The report or a finding by the Magistrate into the cause of death is not the part of proceedings.
Section 176 of the Code proceeds on the basis that inquiry into a suspicious death should not depend merely upon the opinion the police may form, but that there should be a further check of enabling a local Magistrate to hold an independent inquiry.