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Report No. 152

2.7. Inquest, investigation and inquiry.-

Where custodial violence results in death of the victim, obviously the substantive law has failed. But procedural law must 'take over' in order that the factum of death, the cause of death, the mode of death and other relevant facts are ascertained. As far as possible, the ascertainment of such facts must be-

(a) quick in its timing,

(b) adequate in its coverage,

(c) thorough in its methodology, and

(d) impartial in its approach.

The desideratum that we have mentioned last in the above enumeration is, of course, of the highest importance. It is in regard to this very desideratum that the present situation is not satisfactory. No doubt, the statutory law, particularly, the Code of Criminal Procedure, does contain a few provisions on the subject, but experience seems to indicate that there are three major defects in this regard.

In the first place, though inquest by the Executive Magistrate is, at present, mandatory, cases are not known where police officers are associated with the inquiry, thus defeating the very object of the provision for magisterial inquiry. Secondly, without casting any reflections of the police or Executive Magistrates, one must take note of the fact that these inquests have not always inspired public confidence.

This is evident from the persistent demands for the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry that are made whenever there is custodial torture, rape or death. Finally, assuming that inquest by an Executive Magistrate is, from the practical point of view, the best that can be thought of, the difficulty is that such inquests do not always result in the initiation of appropriate criminal proceedings against those who may be guilty.

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