Forensic Science

Coroner’s Court, Coroner Inquest, & Open Verdict

Coroners Court : Definition, Report, Office, Duties, & Powers

Definition

  • Coroners Court is a court of inquiry.
  • It is not court for trial presided by the Coroner.
  • In India, the coroner system was introduced by the British in 1902 in the ‘Presidency Towns’ of Kolkata and Mumbai. They has been abolished in India since 1999.

Who about coroner?

  • Coroner was usually an advocate, attorney or rank of first class Judicial Magistrate with 5 years experience or a Metropolitan Magistrate.
  • Coroner was appointed by state Government to inquire into causes of unnatural or suspicious deaths.
  • Coroner cannot pass a sentence.
  • Coroner is helped and assisted by some persons known as members of Jury. The jury consists of 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 or 15 persons (usually 7), who are men of education and of social position.

Duties & powers of coroner

The coroners had quasi judicial power: powers resembling those of a court of law or judge and with the ability to remedy a situation or impose legal penalties.

  • To hold inquiry in all cases of all unnatural or suspicious deaths, death in prison, etc. dying within his jurisdiction i.e. to enquire death caused by accident, homicide, suicide, or by an unknown cause, under Sec. 174 of CrPC.
  • To see the dead body and determine whether to hold an inquiry or not.
  • Able to order any medical man usually a Police Surgeon, to hold postmortem examination and to summon him to give evidence in his court.
  • Able to summon other persons as well as expert witness.
  • Able to order for exhumation examination of a dead body for identification and for medicolegal postmortem examination.
  • When a verdict of foul play is established in his court, able to issue warrant for arrest of the accused person for trial in the Magistrate’s Court. If the accused cannot be identified, he usually returns an open verdict against this unknown person.

Open verdict

Definition

  • Open verdict means that the inquest is adjourned indefinitely resulting in an announcement of the commission of crime without naming the criminal due to want of information and could be reopened at any later date if further information becomes available.
  • It happens when the perpetrator of crime is not identified.

When the open verdict is indicated?

  • When cause of death is not known after autopsy due to putrefaction.
  • Poisoning cases where evidence is unavailable to differentiate between accident and suicide.
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