Duties and Powers of Coroners, Rights and Liabilities of Coroners
THE CORONERS ACT, 1871
ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS
- Short title.
APPOINTMENT OF CORONERS
- Coroners of Calcutta and Bombay.
- Their appointment, suspension and removal.
- Coroners to be public servants.
- Power to hold other offices.
DUTIES AND POWERS OF CORONERS
- Jurisdiction to inquire into deaths.
- Coroner to be sent for when prisoner dies.
- Power to hold inquests on bodies within local limit wherever cause of death occurred.
- Power to order body to be disinterred.
- Summoning jury.
Inquest may be on Sunday.
- Opening Court.
- Jurors to be sworn.
- View of body.
- Proclamation for witnesses.
- Summoning witnesses.
- Post-mortem examinations.
Fees to medical witnesses.
18A. Report of Chemical Examiner.
- Evidence to be on oath.
Evidence on behalf of accused.
Questions suggested by jury.
- Coroner to take down evidence in writing.
Witnesses to sign depositions.
Coroner to subscribe depositions.
Coroner a Magistrate.
- Adjournment of inquest.
- Coroner to sum up to jury.
- Coroner to draw up inquisition.
- Contents of inquisition.
- Procedure where death is found due to an act amounting to an offence.
- Power to arrest and commit for trial.
- Warrant for disposal.
- Inquisitions not to be quashed for want of form.
Amendment of inquisition.
- Cessation of jurisdiction as to treasure-trove, wrecks, etc.
Felo de se.
- Fine on juror neglecting to attend.
- Certificate as to defaulting juror.
Service of copy of certificate.
- Levy of fine.
- Jurors not to be summoned twice within the year.
- Jurors on inquest on prisoner.
RIGHTS AND LIABILITIES OF CORONERS
- Coroner’s salary.
- Disbursements to be repaid.
- Power to appoint deputy.
Revocation of appointment.
- Exemption from serving on juries.
- Privilege from arrest.
- Penalty for failure to comply with Act.
- Limitation of suits.
SECOND SCHEDULE.—FORM OF INQUISITION.
THE CORONERS ACT, 1871
ACT NO. 4 OF 18711
[27th January, 1871.]
An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to Coroners.
Preamble.—WHEREAS it is expedient to consolidate and amend the laws relating to Coroners
in the Presidency-towns; It is hereby enacted as follows:—
- Short title.—This Act may be called the Coroners Act, 1871.
2* * * * *
- [Repeal of enactments].—Rep. by the Repealing Act, 1873 (12 of 1873).
APPOINTMENT OF CORONERS
[3. Coroners of Calcutta and Bombay.—Within the local limits of the ordinary original civil
jurisdiction of each of the High Courts of Judicature at Fort William and Bombay there shall be a
Coroner. Such Coroners shall be called respectively the Coroner of Calcutta and the Coroner of
- Their appointment, suspension and removal.—Every such officer shall be appointed and
may be suspended or removed by the State Government 4* * *.
- Coroners to be public servants.—Every Coroner shall be deemed a public servant within the
meaning of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
- Power to hold other offices.—Any Coroner may hold simultaneously any other office under
- [Oath to be taken by Coroner.]—Rep. by the Indian Oaths Act, 1873 (10 of 1873).
DUTIES AND POWERS OF CORONERS
- This Act has been amended in the Presidency-town of Bombay by Bombay Act 13 of 1930, in the Bombay
State by Bombay Act 25 of 1942, and in West Bengal by Bengal Act 7 of 1944.
- The local extent and commencement clauses of this section were rep., respectively, by Act 10 of 1881, s. 2,
and Act 16 of 1874.
- Subs. by Act 5 of 1889, s. 2, for the original section.
- The words “Every person now holding such office shall be deemed to have been appointed under this Act”
were rep. by Act 12 of 1891.
- Jurisdiction to inquire into deaths.—When a Coroner 1
[has reason to believe] that the
death of any person has been caused by accident, homicide, suicide, or suddenly by means
unknown, or that any person being a prisoner has died in prison,
and that the body is lying within the place for which the Coroner is so appointed,
the Coroner shall inquire into the cause of death.
Every such inquiry shall be deemed a judicial proceeding within the meaning of section 193
of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
- Coroner to be sent for when prisoner dies.—Whenever a prisoner dies in a prison
situate within the place for which a Coroner is so appointed, the Superintendent of the prison
shall send for the Coroner before the body is 2
[disposed of]. Any Superintendent failing herein
shall on conviction before a Magistrate be punished with fine not exceeding five hundred rupees.
Nothing in the former part of this section applies to cases in which the death has been caused
by cholera or other epidemic disease.
- Power to hold inquests on bodies within local limits wherever cause of death
occurred.—Whenever an inquest ought to be holden on any body lying dead within the local
limits of the jurisdiction of any Coroner, he shall hold such inquest, whether or not the cause of
death arose within his jurisdiction.
- Power to order body to be disinterred.—A Coroner may order a body to be disinterred
within a reasonable time after the death of the deceased person either for the purpose of taking
an original inquisition where none has been taken, or a further inquisition 3
[where the Coroner
considers it necessary or desirable in the interests of justice to take a further inquisition].
- Summoning jury.—On receiving notice of any death mentioned in section 8, the
Coroner shall summon five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen or fifteen respectable persons to appear
before him at a time and place to be specified in the summons, for the purpose of inquiring when,
how and by what means the deceased came by his death.
Inquest may be on Sunday.—Any inquest under this Act may be held on a Sunday.
- Opening Court.—When the time arrives, the Coroner shall proceed to the place so
specified, open the Court by proclamation, and call over the names of the jurors.
- Jurors to be sworn.—When a sufficient jury is in attendance, he shall administer an oath to
each juror to give a true verdict according to the evidence, and shall then proceed with the jury to
view the body.
- View of body.—The Coroner and the jury shall view and examine the body at the first sitting
of the inquest, and the Coroner shall make such observations to the jury as the appearance of the body
- Subs. by Act 10 of 1881, s. 5, for “is informed”.
- Subs. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 2, for “buried”.
- Subs. by s. 3, ibid., for “where the first was insufficient”.
[Provided that the Coroner may, with the concurrence of a majority of the jury, dispense with a
view of the body, if he is satisfied, from medical evidence or medical certificates, that no advantage
would result from such viewing.]
- Proclamation for witnesses.—The Coroner shall then make proclamation for the attendance
of witnesses, or, where the inquiry is conducted in secret, shall call in separately such as know
anything concerning the death.
- Summoning witnesses.—2
[It shall be the duty of all persons acquainted with the
circumstances attending the death to appear before the inquest as witnesses; the Coroner shall inquire
of such circumstances and the cause of death, and, if before or during the inquiry he is informed that
any person, whether within or without the local limits of his jurisdiction, can give evidence or produce
any document material thereto, may issue a summons requiring him to attend and give evidence or
produce such document on the inquest.
Any person disobeying such summons shall be deemed to have committed an offence
under section 174, section 175 or section 176 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), as the case may
For the purpose of causing prisoners to be brought up to give evidence, the Coroner shall be
deemed a Criminal Court within the meaning of 3
[Part IX4 of the Prisoners Act, 1900 (3 of 1900).
- Post-mortem examinations. Fees to medical witnesses.—The Coroner may direct the
performance of a post-mortem examination with or without an analysis of the contents of the stomach
or intestines by any medical witness summoned to attend the inquest: and every medical witness,
other than the Chemical Examiner to Government, shall be entitled to such reasonable remuneration
as the Coroner thinks fit.
[18A. Report of Chemical Examiner.—Any document purporting to be a report under the hand
of any Chemical Examiner or Assistant Chemical Examiner to Government upon any matter or thing
duly submitted to him for examination or analysis and report in the course of any proceeding under
this Act, may be used as evidence in any inquest under this Act and in any subsequent inquiry, trial
or other proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (5 of 1898).]
- Evidence to be on oath. Evidence on behalf of accused.—All evidence given under this
Act shall be on oath, and the Coroner shall be bound to receive evidence on behalf of the party
(if any) accused of causing the death of the deceased person.
Interpreter.—Witnesses unacquainted with the English language shall be examined through the
medium of an interpreter, who shall be sworn to interpret truly as well the oath as the questions put
to, and the answers given by, the witnesses.
Questions suggested by jury.—After each witness has been examined, the Coroner shall inquire
whether the jury wish any further questions to be put to the witness, and, if the jury wish that any
such questions should be put, the Coroners shall put them accordingly.
- Ins. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 4.
- Subs. by Act 10 of 1881, s.6, for the original paragraphs.
- Subs. by Act 4 of 1908, for “Act No. XV of 1869 (to provide facilities for obtaining the evidence and appearance of
prisoners and for service of process upon them)”.
- Now see the Prisoners (Attendance in Courts) Act, 1955 (32 of 1955).
- Ins. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 6.
- Coroner to take down evidence in writing.—The Coroner shall commit to writing the
material parts of the evidence given to the jury, and shall read or cause to be read over such parts to
the witness and then procure his signature thereto.
Witnesses to sign depositions.—Any witnesses refusing so to sign shall be deemed to have
committed an offence under section 180 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
Coroner to subscribe depositions.—Every such deposition shall be subscribed by the Coroner.
Coroner a Magistrate.—1
[For the purposes of section 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1
of 1872), a Coroner shall be deemed to be a Magistrate.]
- Adjournment of inquest. —The Coroner may adjourn the inquest from time to time, and
from place to place.
Jurors’ recognizances.—Whenever the inquest is adjourned the Coroner shall take the
recognizances of the jurors to attend at the time and place appointed, and notify to the witnesses when
and where the inquest will be proceeded with.
The amount of such recognizances shall in each case be fixed by the Coroner 2
[and the whole, or
such part thereof as to the Coroner seems fit, shall, in default of attendance by the jurors, be
recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed under section 31.]
Coroner to sum up to jury.—When all the witnesses have been examined, the Coroner shall
sum up the evidence to the jury, and the jury shall then consider of their verdict.
Coroner to draw up inquisition.—When the verdict is delivered the Coroner shall draw up
the inquisition according to the finding of the jury, or, when the jury is not unanimous, according to
the opinion of the majority.
Contents of inquisition.—Every inquisition under this Act shall be signed by the Coroner
with his name and style of office and by the jurors, and shall set forth—
(1) where, when and before whom the inquisition is holden,
(2) who the deceased is,
(3) where his body lies,
(4) the names of the jurors, and that they present the inquisition upon oath,
(5) where, when and by what means the deceased came by his death, and
(6) if his death was occasioned by the criminal act of another, who is guilty thereof.
If the name of the deceased be unknown, he may be described as a certain person to the jurors
Every such inquisition shall be in the form set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed, with
such variation as the circumstances of each case require.
[25. Procedure where death is found due to an act amounting to an offence.—When the
jury or a majority of the jury find that the death of the deceased person was occasioned by an act
which amounts to an offence under any law in force in 4
[India], the Coroner shall immediately after
Ins. by Act 10 of 1881, s. 7.
Ins. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 7.
Subs. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 8, for the original section.
Subs by the Adaptation of Laws (No.2) Order, 1956, for “a Part A State or a Part C State”.
the inquest forward a copy of the inquisition, together with the names and addresses of the witnesses,
to the Commissioner of Police.]
[26. Power to arrest and commit for trial.—The Coroner may also, where the verdict justifies
him in so doing, issue his warrant for the apprehension of the person who is found to have caused the
death of the deceased person, and send him forthwith to a Magistrate empowered to commit him for
[Repealed].—[Power to accept bail.] Rep. by the Coroners (Amendment) Act, 1908
(4 of 1908), s. 10.
Warrant for disposal.— When the proceedings are closed, or before, if it be necessary to
adjourn the inquest, the Coroner shall give his warrant for the 2
[disposal] of the body on which the
inquest has been taken.
Inquisitions not to be quashed for want of form.—No inquisition found upon or by any
inquest shall be quashed for any technical defect.
Amendment of inquisition.—In any case of technical defect, a Judge of the High Court may, if
he thinks fit, order the inquisition to be amended, and the same shall forthwith be amended
Cessation of jurisdiction as to treasure trove, wrecks, etc.—It shall no longer be the duty
of the Coroner to inquire whether any person dying by his own act was or was not felo de se, to
inquire of treasure trove or wrecks, to seize any fugitive’s goods, to execute process or to exercise as
Coroner any jurisdiction not expressly conferred by this Act.
Felo de se. —A felo de se shall not forfeit his goods.
Deodands. —Deodands are hereby abolished.
Fine on juror neglecting to attend.—Whenever any person has been duly summoned to
appear as a juror by a Coroner, and fails or neglects to attend at the time and place specified in the
summons, the Coroner may cause him to be openly called in his Court three times to appear and serve
as a juror; and upon the non-appearance of such person, and proof that such summons has been served
upon him or left at his usual place of abode, may impose such fine upon the defaulter, not exceeding
fifty rupees, as to the Coroner seems fit.
Certificate as to defaulting juror. Service of copy of certificate.—The Coroner shall make
out and sign a certificate, containing the name and surname, the residence and trade or calling of
every person so making default, together with the amount of the fine so imposed, and the cause of
and shall send such certificate to one of the Magistrates of the place of which he is the Coroner,
and shall cause a copy of such certificate to be served upon the person so fined, by having it left
at his usual place of residence, or by sending the same through the Post Office, addressed as aforesaid
Subs. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 9, for the original section.
Subs. by s. 11, ibid., for “burial”.
Levy of fine. —There upon such Magistrate shall cause the fine to be levied in the same
manner as if it had been imposed by himself.
Jurors not to be summoned twice within the year. —Unless in case of necessity, no person
who has appeared, or has been summoned to appear, as a juror on an inquest, and has not made default
shall, within one year after such appearance or summons, be summoned to appear as a juror under
Jurors on inquest on prisoner.—When an inquest is held on the body of a prisoner dying
within a prison, no officer of the prison and no prisoner confined therein shall be a juror on such
RIGHTS AND LIABILITIES OF CORONERS
Coroner’s salary. —Every Coroner shall be entitled to such salary for the performance of
the duty of his office as is prescribed in that behalf by the State Government.
Disbursements to be repaid.—All disbursements duly made by a Coroner for fees to medical
witnesses, hire of rooms for the jury, and the like, shall be repaid to him by the State Government.
Power to appoint deputy.—Every Coroner may from time to time, with the previous
sanction of the State Government, appoint, by writing under his hand, a proper person to act for him
as his deputy in the holding of inquests.
1* * *
All inquests taken and other acts done by any such deputy, under or by virtue of any such
appointment, shall be deemed to be the acts of the Coroner appointing him:
Provided that no such deputy shall act for any such Coroner except during the illness of the said
Coroner, or during his absence for any lawful and reasonable cause.
Revocation of appointment.—Every such appointment may at any time be cancelled and
revoked by the Coroner by whom it was made.
Exemption from serving on juries.—No Coroner or Deputy Coroner shall be liable to serve
as a juror.
Privilege from arrest.—Coroners and Deputy Coroners shall be privileged from arrest while
engaged in the discharge of their official duty.
Penalty for failure to comply with Act.—Any Coroner or Deputy Coroner failing to comply
with the provisions of this Act, or otherwise misconducting himself in the execution of his office,
shall be liable to such fine as the Chief Justice of the High Court, upon summary examination and
proof of the failure or misconduct, thinks fit to impose.
Limitation of suits.—No proceeding for anything done under this Act, or for any failure to
comply with its provisions, shall be commenced or prosecuted 2*** after tender of sufficient amends.
The words “and such deputy shall take and subscribe, before one of the Judges of the High Court, an oath that he
will faithfully discharge the duties of office” were rep. by Act 18 of 1873.
The words “after the expiration of three months from such fact or failure nor” were rep. by Act 9 of 1871.
FIRST SCHEDULE. [Enactments repealed.] Rep. by the Repealing Act, 1873 (12 of 1873), s. 1 and
Sch., Pt. II.
FORM OF INQUISITION
AN INQUISITION taken at on the day of 187 ,
before E F, Coroner of 1
[in the case of A B deceased] upon the oath of G H, I J, K L, and M N,
then and there duly sworn and charged to inquire when, how and by what means the said A B came
to his death.
We, the said jurors, find unanimously [or by a majority of ] that the death of the said A B
was caused, on or about the day of 187 , by [here state the cause of death as in the
following examples]: —
[Cases of homicide]—a blow on the head with a stick inflicted on him by C D, under such
circumstances that the act of C D was justifiable [or accidental]
—a stab on the heart with a knife inflicted on him by C D under such
circumstances that the act of C D was culpable homicide not
amounting to murder [or culpable homicide amounting to murder, or a
rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide].
[Cases of accident]—falling out of a boat into the river Hughli, whereby he was drowned.
—a kick from a horse which fractured his skull and ruptured
blood-vessels in his head.
[Cases of suicide]— shooting himself through the head with a pistol.
— arsenic, which he voluntarily administered to himself.
[Cases of sudden death by means unknown]—disease of the heart.
And so say the jurors upon their oath aforesaid.
Witness our hands. E F, Coroner of
G H, I J, K L, M N, O P (jurors).
Subs. by Act 4 of 1908, s. 12, for “on view of the body of A B then and there lying dead”.