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Differentiating Between Police Inquiry And Police Investigation

Police inquiry is not defined in any section of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. However, police conduct inquiry in respect of issuance of passport, character antecedents' verification, land disputes, and over public petitions etcetera in the interest of public service. In Section 2(g) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, 'inquiry' refers to every inquiry conducted by a Magistrate or Court under this Code, excluding trials. This does not include police inquiry.

Police investigation is defined as in Section 2(h) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, as all proceedings sanctioned under the Code for gathering evidence in connection with investigation (of a cognizable offence). This includes actions conducted by police officers or other non-judicial individuals authorized by a Magistrate for such endeavours.

The differences between police inquiry and police investigation may be defined as follows:

  • Police inquiries, unlike investigations, focus on gathering information and assessing situations without conducting formal probes. Investigations, on the other hand, involve formal procedures to gather evidence and determine wrongdoing. Inquiries often lack specific suspects, while investigations target individuals or organizations. Inquiries aim to resolve concerns or issues, whereas investigations prioritize finding the truth and holding accountable parties. Investigations require legal authority, but inquiries may not.
  • An inquiry serves as a preliminary assessment to establish whether a formal investigation is warranted. It involves gathering basic information and comprehending the circumstances of a complaint. In contrast, an investigation is a comprehensive and in-depth examination of facts related to a suspected crime. Its objective is to collect evidence, pinpoint suspects, and construct a case for prosecution.
  • Inquiries have a limited scope, focusing on initial information gathering and basic fact-finding to determine future actions. In contrast, investigations have a broad scope, involving extensive evidence collection, analysis, and follow-up on multiple leads to establish comprehensive findings.
  • Initiated upon triggers such as complaints, reports, or observations, an inquiry aims to assess incidents and potential irregularities. In contrast, an investigation commences based on inquiry findings or direct evidence pointing to criminal activity, or in response to severe allegations or observed criminal conduct.
  • Inquiry involves informal methods such as preliminary interviews, observations, and document review, while investigation employs formal procedures such as forensic analysis, detailed interviews, surveillance, and search warrant execution. Inquiry typically proceeds without formal authorization, while investigation adheres to legal standards and often requires court authorization.
  • While inquiries primarily focus on fact-finding, investigations grant officers expanded authorities such as arrest, search, seizure, and detention. However, these powers are subject to legal limitations and require appropriate warrants or authorization.
  • An inquiry is typically a brief process aimed at gathering sufficient information to determine whether an investigation is warranted. In contrast, an investigation is often a long-term endeavour that can span months or even years, as investigators meticulously gather evidence to build a strong case.
  • An inquiry determines whether to close a case due to insufficient evidence or elevate it to a formal investigation based on credible evidence or suspicion. If an investigation is warranted, it produces thorough findings that may substantiate criminal charges, lead to arrests, and prepare for legal proceedings in court.
  • Documentation differs between inquiries and investigations: inquiries produce brief summaries of initial reports and findings, while investigations generate extensive documentation including comprehensive reports, evidence logs, witness statements, forensic analysis results, and case files.
  • Inquiry typically involves a smaller team with minimal resources, encompassing personnel and equipment. Conversely, investigations demand significant resource allocation, including specialized personnel such as detectives and forensic experts, advanced equipment, and occasionally inter-agency collaboration.
  • Inquiry serves as a preliminary assessment, influencing decisions on whether a formal investigation is necessary. Its conclusions are provisional and not generally used as courtroom evidence. Conversely, an investigation's impact is significant in the criminal justice system, as its findings provide the foundation for legal proceedings, such as trials and possible convictions.
  • A minor theft at a local store might trigger an inquiry. During this initial phase, police gather basic information from employees, review security footage, and evaluate whether sufficient evidence exists to justify a more thorough investigation. A high-profile homicide, however, would necessitate a comprehensive investigation. This would involve meticulous crime scene analysis, forensic testing, in-depth interviews with witnesses and potential suspects, and a comprehensive effort to gather and analyse evidence for potential prosecution.
  • Both inquiries and investigations are crucial tools in police work, but their purposes and approaches differ. An inquiry serves as an initial assessment, determining whether a situation warrants further investigation. Investigations, on the other hand, are comprehensive and formal processes focused on solving crimes and achieving justice.
  • Police Inquiry precedes Police Investigation in some cases on cogent grounds.

The landmark 2013 Supreme Court decision in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh which significantly impacted the criminal justice system by clarifying the mandatory nature of FIR registration under Section 154 of the CrPC speaks of police inquiry. The judgment ruled that police must register an FIR upon receiving information about a cognizable offense for undertaking investigation of the same, eliminating discretionary refusals and ensuring prompt action. While recognizing the need for preliminary inquiries in certain cases, the Court mandated a seven-day time limit for such inquiries, with documented reasons recorded in the General Diary.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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