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This article is written by Khushi Sharma, currently pursuing B.A.LL.B.(Hons) from IIMT and School of Law, IP University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the inquiry under  Code of Criminal Procedure,1973. 


The term “inquiry” is the most important word under criminal law, it is the main key to solve or to process any trial. Every case initiates its proceeding with the inquiry; inquiry in a general sense means a process of asking questions and investigating to extract valuable information that will be helpful in the trial in order to reach a decision. Further inquiry has some established legal statute under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In this article, we will focus on the procedure, types of inquiry, and some important landmark judgment related to the inquiry


We can observe that often people get perplexed regarding the usage of inquiry and enquiry which I will clear under this article; Enquiry means to ask a question, and inquiry is a formal investigation, enquiry though follows under the same page but has a level of difference in them. 

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As discussed above, the inquiry is the process of seeking information from a person who might give some relevant information about the matter in question. Inquiry is defined under Section 2(g) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 referring to any inquiry other than trial under this code, conducted by a Magistrate or a Court.

A Trial in every case initiates when the inquiry ends. The work of the police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 cannot be termed as an inquiry but it is understood as investigation. Section 159 of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973) explains an order given by the magistrate or Court to make a preliminary inquiry in order to see whether the offence has been committed and if so, who are the people involved in the same.

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The object of the inquiry

Inquiry under CrPC includes events and incidents relating to that offence, it also includes the people related to the event and their knowledge about that incident or whatever they witness. Inquiry works as an imperative pillar under CrPC, the main objective of inquiry is to extract valuable information and such information that helps to prove whether the offence committed was criminal in nature. Every inquiry under CrPC is a headstart that helps us to know the nature of the crime committed. If the nature of the offence is criminal, then it further looks up to the people involved and processes them to trial. Inquiry stands as a pillar because without it no one could actually ascertain what actually happened at the incident. Inquiry plays an important role under the justice system is the situation of not only India but worldwide. It is the foremost step while proceeding to a trial. Without inquiry, no trial can be conducted as people related to the incident would not be found. 

Procedure of inquiry 

A brief to section 154

As we have observed in Section 154, that the police officer can only take action and investigate in cases of cognizable offences. On the contrary, an order by a magistrate is needed to the police officers in order to investigate non-cognizable offences. 

Procedure of preliminary inquiry (Section 157)

Section 157 of CRPC deals with the procedure of preliminary inquiry which explains that when certain information about an offence is received by the police officer and the highlighting point of the offence is that it should be a cognizable offence, so if any information regarding any cognizable offence is received by the police officer, he is accountable to make the report of it and such report shall be sent to the magistrate of that jurisdiction. 

What is the need to send the report to the magistrate

There are certain reason why the report made by the police officer shall be sent to the magistrate of the jurisdiction which are as follows:

  1. As the district is under the magistrate, it is his responsibility to be aware of all the crime being committed in the district and ensure speedy disposal of the same. 
  2. A magistrate can supervise the investigation and inquiries of the police officer. 
  3. If the magistrate finds that the investigation is not being held properly he can also give directions so that the case can be disposed of easily and justice shall be rendered to all. 

The magistrate after receiving the report shall take cognizance of the offence and work in person or the police officer appoint an officer, not below the rank of State government who may investigate, supervise, look up the facts and circumstances and arrest the offender if necessary.

Proviso of Section 157

Provided that:

(a) if the information regarding the case received by any person against any other person and if the offence is not of a serious matter, the police in charge shall not proceed or may not depute any officer to further carry on any investigation.

(b) if there is no sufficient reason for investigating, the police in charge shall not investigate the same. 

Information to Magistrate when no investigation occurs

According to the cases in (a) and (b) if there is no investigation held, the reasons for the same shall be mentioned in the report sent to the magistrate and in the case of (b) the police officer shall inform the person who came up with information regarding the offence; that no investigation shall take place with the cause of it. 

How is the report sent to the magistrate (section 158)

Section 158 lays down how the report is sent from the police officer to the magistrate. It is observed in this Section that such a report shall be sent through a superior officer appointed by the State Government. The superior officer can also direct and give instructions to the police in charge if it deems fit. 

The power to hold investigation or preliminary inquiry (section 159)

If in case the police in charge convey to the court that they will not proceed with the investigation as there no cognizable offence formed or if they deny to the informant that there is no sufficient ground for investigation; in such cases, the court may direct the police in charge to proceed with the preliminary inquiry or investigate the matter; the alternative under this section is that the court may also proceed to depute any Magistrate subordinate to him. The Magistrate may direct him to make a preliminary inquiry and such inquiry will not be termed as a trial. 

Types of inquiry

There are 6 kinds of inquiry under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which are as follows:

Judicial inquiry

Inquiry proceeded in a matter raging to public concern which was done by a Judge, appointed by the government. 

Non-judicial inquiry

A non-judicial inquiry is also known as an administrative inquiry which means that any inquiry which is not for the purpose of the enforcement of the law. 

Preliminary inquiry

A preliminary inquiry is an inquiry prior to the trial and which is done for the purpose of indicating the criminal nature of the offence or for the reason that whether the trials should start or not. 

Local inquiry

Section 148 of CrPC deals with local inquiry defining that the magistrate may depute any subordinate magistrate for making a local inquiry. The magistrate may also direct instructions for the inquiry and for the guidance of the subordinate magistrate. 

Inquiry into offence

Inquiry into offence can never end up in conviction or acquittal. The inquiry into offence just bases up the case for the trial. Inquiry into offence is related to general information about the offence committed.

Inquiry into matter other than offence

It includes such inquiry which is based on matters other than the offence, this includes general inquiries made or any other inquiry which excludes the particular offence. 

Differences between inquiry and investigation




  1. Meaning 

Inquiry occurs before the trial and after the investigation stage, it is anything that ascertains the nature of the crime committed or the people involved in the incident. 

Investigation is the process of ascertaining the facts, collection of evidence in a particular matter through the police. 

  1. Objective 

Its main objective is to identify whether the offence was of criminal nature or not. 

The main objective of the investigation is the collection of evidence in a particular case so as to ascertain the true incident. 

2. Mode of occurrence 

Inquiry can occur in both ways judicial and non-judicial.

Investigation can only occur non-judicially. 

3. Legal status 

Inquiry is defined under 2(g) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973. 

Investigation is defined under 2(h) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973.  

4. Stages 

It is any stage after investigation and before trial.

It is the first stage of every case.


Landmark Judgments 

1. K.G Appukuttan v. State of Kerala coir co.1989

It was held by the Court, in this case, that the first information report plays a vital role and it should be recorded and sent to the magistrate timely to avoid tampering of further evidence and to keep the magistrate informed. And when no notice or report is brought to the court it is presumed that the investigation is tainted. 

2. Arjun Marik v. State of Bihar, 1994

In this case, the process of the sending report to the magistrate is an inseparable part of the procedure and it shall be sent with immediate effect as to avoid undue delay and so that the report can be precise. The need for passing on the report to the magistrate has a two-fold requirement system, it is needed because firstly to prevent further improvisation in the prosecution side of the story and secondly to enable the magistrate to watch the progress and the processing of investigation. 

3. State of Rajasthan v. Teja Singh and Ors. 2001

In this case, the police in charge gave court holidays as a reason for delaying the report to the magistrate, it was not held to be sufficient reason and held that holiday cannot be a ground for the delay as the requirement of the law is that FIR should reach the magistrate without any hindrances and delays.

4. S.N. Sharma v. Bipin Kumar Tiwari and Ors.1970

In this case, it was held that the court had no power to stop the investigation and order for the magisterial inquiry.  It was held by the High Court that the functions of the judiciary are complementary and not overlapping. It should not intervene with the functioning in other areas. 

5. Sawai Ram v. the State of Rajasthan, 1997

In this case, it was held that mere delay in dispatch of the report does not give the right to dismiss the prosecution’s case but sending the report late raises a suspicion that the FIR is a result of deliberations and consultation and such tainted investigation will give justice to none. 


In this article, we have covered the stages of inquiry as well as where inquiry is defined legally and what does it mean. Inquiry gives us an understanding of the nature of the crime committed. The nature of the crime tells us whether the crime is actually committed and if so then who are the people involved in it. Inquiry usually occurs after the investigation stage and which also directs whether the evidence which is collected by the police are actually true or not, and whether they form the crime committed. Usually, people get confused between inquiry and investigation but there is a clear distinction between both of them as inquiry relates to the criminality of the offence and the investigation is related to the collection of the evidence. The inquiry can be both judicial and non-judicial but the investigation can only be non-judicial, it is only done by the police officer. 

Inquiry has to undergo a proper procedure and the inquiry is a process after investigation and before trial. It bases the trial so that there may be trials and people who are indulged in the particular case. Inquiry can be ordered by the magistrate when the report made by the police is sent to the magistrate, we have seen various case laws regarding that explaining that the dispatch of the report should be immediate and if delayed it will be presumed that the investigation has become tainted but still it does mean that the whole story of the prosecution will be all dismissed. So, these all were certain general provisions relating to the inquiry under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. 




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