Investigation of unnatural death case by police

“When there  is denial of existing of the possibility of a natural or accidental death, then  bring it within the purview of the ‘death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances”

Provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code

174. Police to inquire 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.

(3) When –
(i)the case involves suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage; or
(ii)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; or
(iii)the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage and any relative of the woman has made a request in this behalf; or
(iv)there is any doubt regarding the cause of death; or
(v)the police officer for any other reason considers it expedient so to do,
he shall, subject to such rules as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf, 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, if the state of the weather and the distance admit of its being so forwarded without risk of such putrefaction on the road as would render such examination useless.

(4) The following Magistrates are empowered to hold inquests, namely, any District Magistrate or Sub-divisional Magistrate and any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered in this behalf by the State Government or the District Magistrate.

175. Power to summon persons

(1) A police officer proceeding under section 174 may, by order in writing, summon two or more persons as aforesaid for the purpose of the said investigation, and any other person who appears to be acquainted with the facts of the case and every person so summoned shall be bound to attend and to answer truly all questions other than questions is the answers to which have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a forfeiture.

(2) If the facts do not disclose a cognizable offence to which section 170 applies, such persons shall not be required by the police officer to attend a Magistrate’s Court.

Section -176.  Inquiry by Magistrate into cause of death

(1) When the case is of the nature referred to in clause (i) or clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of section 174, the nearest Magistrate empowered to hold inquests shall, and in any other case mentioned in sub-section (1) of section 174, 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.

(1A) Where,–
(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 authorised 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 offences has been committed.

(2) 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.

(3) Whenever such Magistrate considers it expedient to make an examination of the dead body of any person who has been already interred, in order to discover the cause of his death, the Magistrate may cause the body to be disinterred and examined.

(4) Where an inquiry is to be held under this section, the Magistrate shall, wherever practicable, inform the relatives of the deceased whose names and addresses are known, and shall allow them to remain present at the inquiry,

(5) 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 (1A) 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 person appointed in this behalf by the State Government, unless it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded in writing.

Explanation .- In this section, the expression “relative” means parents, children brothers, sisters and spouse.

Devider

Steps To be taken by Local Police

  1. FIR to be registered
  2. Informing superior police officer [DSP in charge of the PS]
  3. Inquest report by Magistrate
  4. Police inquest
  5. Investigation by police and preserving forensic elements
  6. Sending Body for Post Mortem Report
  7. Copy of the FIR to be sent with the Dead body
  8. Death Certificate to be collected, if died in Hospital or under medical treatment.
  9. Recording Dying declaration by Magistrate
  10. Locating the accused persons
  11. Talk with Legal cell attached with police or APP or PP
  • Police should not jump into conclusion and registered a UD case and without informing the magistrate send the body for Postmortem and then waiting months for PM report to take next course.
  • Ascertain 1. Cause of Death  2. Mode of Death  3. Mechanism of Death  4. The manner of Death.
  • Finding of Medico-legal  Report
  • Recovery statement under S. 27 of the Evidence Act
  • Statements of the Victim and Injured witness

Devider

Cause of Death

  1. Homicidal
  2. Suicidal
  3. Accidental
  4. Bride Burning
  5. Encounter Death
  6. Death in Police custody
  7. Death Caused by aminal
  8. Death caused by Factory Machine
  9. Mob lynching
  10. Death caused by Suspicious Circumstances

Devider

Example of Dowry Death Circumstances

“The time between injuries and death was immediate and between death and postmortem within 24 hours. In our opinion, based on the report of the Chemical Examiner, which is Ex.PC, the cause of death in this case was ante mortem throttling and consumption of aluminium phosphide, which is a pesticide, Ex.PD is the correct copy of the postmortem report, the original of which I have brought today in the Court which is signed by me and Dr. H.S. Dhillon and Mrs. Raminder Kaler.”

Example of Bodily Injury Death

“The doctor (P.W.9) on dissection of the body of the deceased found the following injuries:

(i) One penetrating wound 2” x -” x 4” deep over the right side of the abdomen at the level of umbilicus about 2” lateral. Intestine and omentum coming out through the wound. On dissection the wound was seen penetrating to the intestine and injuring abdominal scrota. The whole peritoneal cavity was full of blood about 2/ 2-1/2 lbs.

(ii) One incised wound 2” x ½” x ¼” muscle deep over the thinner eminence right palm.

(iii) One incised wound over the vault of the scalp right side 2 ½” with bone scratch mark.

The doctor opined that the death was due to shock and haemorrhage as a result of abdominal injury which was anti mortem and homicidal in nature. He however opined that injury Nos. 1 and 2 can be caused by sharp cutting weapon and injury No. 3 on the vault of the scalp can be caused by lathi or blunt substance”.

Presumption of Dowry Death

If Section 304B IPC is read together with Section 113B of the Evidence Act, a comprehensive picture emerges that if a married woman dies in an unnatural circumstances at her matrimonial home within 7 years from her marriage and there are allegations of cruelty or harassment upon such married woman for or in connection with demand of dowry by the husband or relatives of the husband, the case would squarely come under “dowry death” and there shall be a presumption against the husband and the relatives.

The basic ingredients to attract the provisions of Section 304B are as follows :-

(1) The death of a woman should be caused by burns or fatal injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances;

(2) Such death should have occurred within seven years of her marriage;

(3) She must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband; and

(4) Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand for dowry.

Murder example:

  1. “PW18, the Civil Assistant Surgeon attached to Government Hospital, Madhira conducted postmortem examination of the dead body of Chilakamma. He found bleeding from nose, multiple abrasions over front of right and left elbows and multiple scratches behind left upper arm and elbow. He found a ligature mark around the neck over both sides of upper back portion of the neck. On internal examination, he found the hyoid bone fractured. The upper part of chest wall, esophagus, trachea and both lungs were congested. He collected the viscera from the dead body for examination by experts. He reserved the opinion as to cause of death. On receipt of report from the Department of Forensic Medicine and the Forensic Science Laboratory, PW18 gave the opinion as per Ext. P11 that death was on account of asphyxia due to hanging. He deposed that the ligature marks were ante mortem in nature and that it was not possible to say whether ligature marks were attributable to suicide or homicide. He clarified that the injuries other than the ligature marks cannot be self-inflicted”.

2. “the death of Phoolobai had taken place on 8th January, 1981. Dr. Bagrecha (P.W. 13) has given the duration of death to be 1 to 4 days prior to post-mortem. Post-mortem on the body was conducted on 14th January, 1981. As per the opinion of the doctor the death could be earliest on 10th January and latest on 13th January. Though Mr. Dave rightly contends that in winter decomposition of the body takes more time but we have no reason to doubt that the doctor had not taken this factor into consideration while giving opinion about the date of the death”.

Devider

Section 201 IPC. can be used even against a police officer:

“S. 201. Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.- Whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, causes any evidence of the commission of that offence to disappear, with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment, or with that intention gives any information respecting the offence which he knows or believes to be false;

if a capital offence.- shall, if the offence which he knows or believes to have been committed is punishable with death, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine;

if punishable with imprisonment for life.- and if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine;

if punishable with less than ten years’ imprisonment.- and if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for any term not extending to ten years, shall be punished with imprisonment of the description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-fourth part of the longest term of the imprisonment provided for the offence, or with fine, or with both.”

Example :

“according to the prosecution, the deceased was killed by administering poison to her on the intervening night of 17/18.11.1993. Neither the deceased was taken to any doctor nor any doctor was called to examine her nor any kind of medical treatment was given to the deceased. This is extremely unnatural human conduct. The dead body was secretly and clandestinely cremated causing disappearance of evidence of offence, without even intimating the parents of the deceased who were living only a few miles away from their village. They learnt about the murder of the deceased from a Barber on 20.11.1993 after about three days. The appellants secretly and clandestinely cremated the deceased to wipe out the entire evidence of murder. This clearly attracted Section 201 IPC”.

Devider

Police malpractice 

  1. Police registered a UD case and send body for PM without following above steps
  2. Police denied registering FIR by saying that they are waiting for PM
  3. Police talked with the guardian of the juvenile accused and helped him to remain untraceable.
  4. Police took the side of the accused
  5. Thanadar engaged a stupid for investigation who don’t know ABCD of investigation
  6. Incomplete investigation
  7. Arresting the wrong person to protect the actual accused
  8. Police encouraged the accused to lodge a cross-case
  9. intentionally failed to collect vital evidence and forensic  articles
  10. Overlooking CC TV footage
  11. Huge delay in recording statements and filing reports

etc….