CHAPTER 4:02
INQUESTS

ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS

   SECTION

PART I
GENERAL PROVISIONS

   1.   Short title

   2.   Interpretation

   3.   Who may hold inquests

   4.   When inquest to be held

   4A.   Power to dispense with inquest in certain cases

   5.   Power to order exhumation

   6.   Inquest on all prisoners and on patients in mental hospitals

   7.   Inquest to be held by coroner of place where body lying

   8.   Inquest where body destroyed or irrecoverable

   9.   Coroner may prohibit burial or cremation till after inquest

   10.   Notice of death

   11.   Duty of police officer or Chief

   11A.   Coroner may call for statement recorded by police

PART II
POST-MORTEM EXAMINATION

   12.   Coroner may direct post-mortem examinations

   13.   Medical practitioner to make an examination and report

PART III
PROCEDURE AT INQUEST

   14.   Inquiries to be made by coroner

   15.   Provisions regarding the viewing of body

   16.   Coroner may summon witnesses

   17.   Coroner not bound by rules of evidence

   18.   Evidence how recorded

   18A.   Statements recorded by police may be admitted evidence in inquest

   19.   Power to take evidence of witnesses unable to attend

   20.   Inquest on Sunday, etc., or in private

   21.   Adjournment of inquest

   22.   Staying of inquest and its resumption

   23.   Issue of summons or warrant

   24.   The inquisition

   25.   Where guilty party unknown

   26.   Where guilty party cannot be found

   27.   Return of inqusitions

   28.   Powers of High Court

PART IV
MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

   29.   Penalty where body is buried without authority

   30.   Obstructing medical officer, etc.

   31.   Power to make Rules

   32.   Forms

      First Schedule

      Forms

      Second Schedule

      Inquests (Post-Mortem Fees) Rules

9 of 1948
8 of 1949
14 of 1951
8 of 1963
59 of 1966
25 of 1968
5 of 1971
51 of 1971
G.N. 22/1963
219/1964 (N)
166/1967

An Act relating to Inquests

[24TH FEBRUARY 1948]

PART I
GENERAL PROVISIONS

1.   Short title

   This Act may be cited as the Inquests Act.

2.   Interpretation

   In this Act—

   “coroner” means any person empowered to hold inquests under this Act;

   “medical practitioner” means any person registered or licensed as a medical practitioner under the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Registration Act;

   “police officer in charge of a police station” has the meaning assigned thereto in section 2 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.

3.   Who may hold inquests

   (1) Every magistrate may hold inquests under this Act.

   (2) The Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, empower any other fit person or class of fit persons to hold inquests under this Act within any area specified in such notice.

   (3) Any inquest commenced by a coroner may be continued, resumed, or reopened in the manner provided by this Act by such coroner or by his successor in office.

4.   When inquest to be held

   Whenever a coroner is credibly informed that the body of a deceased person is lying within his jurisdiction, and that there is reasonable cause to suspect that such person had died either a violent or an unnatural death, or in prison or in custody, or in a mental hospital, or in any place or circumstances which, in the opinion of the coroner, makes the holding of an inquest necessary or desirable, such coroner shall, subject as hereinafter in this section provided, hold an inquest on such body as soon as practicable:

4A.   Power to dispense with inquest in certain cases

   Provided that—

   (a)   whenever it shall appear to the coroner, either from the report of a medical practitioner rendered under section 13 or otherwise, that the death is due to natural causes, and that the body shows no appearance of death being attributable to or having been accelerated by violence or by any culpable or negligent conduct either on the part of the deceased or of any other person, it shall thereupon be lawful for the coroner at his discretion (except in the cases specified in section 6) to dispense with the holding of an inquest;

   (b)   where the coroner is informed that criminal proceedings have been or are about to be instituted against any person already in custody or about to be arrested in respect of such death, the inquest shall not be commenced, or if commenced shall not be continued or resumed, until such proceedings have been concluded.

5.   Power to order exhumation

   Notwithstanding any law or custom to the contrary enacted or obtaining, whenever it shall appear to any coroner that the body of any person, who has died in circumstances requiring the holding of an inquest thereon, has been buried without being viewed or without such inquest having been held, or where such inquest, although held, has been quashed or reopened, it shall be lawful for such coroner by his warrant in Form A in the First Schedule to order the exhumation of such body; and he shall after such exhumation proceed to hold an inquest on such body and thereupon direct the reinterment thereof; and the expenses of such exhumation and reinterment shall be paid, upon the coroner’s order, out of moneys provided by Parliament:

   Provided that such exhumation shall not be ordered in any case where in the opinion of the coroner it would be injurious to public health, or where there is no reasonable probability of a satisfactory result being obtained thereby.

6.   Inquest on all prisoners and on patients in mental hospitals

   Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, whenever any prisoner, or any person in custody, or any patient in a mental hospital, shall die from any cause whatsoever, a coroner of the district in which such death has occured shall hold an inquest.

7.   Inquest to be held by coroner of place where body lying

   Only a coroner having jurisdiction in the place where the body of any person upon whose death an inquest ought to be held is lying shall hold the inquest, notwithstanding that the cause of death arose elsewhere; and if any body is found in any river or in any inland waters, the inquest shall be held by a coroner within whose jurisdiction the body is first brought to land:

   Provided that where it appears to a coroner by whom an inquest has been commenced that, owing to special circumstances to be entered upon the record of the inquest, it is expedient for the inquest to be continued by another coroner, he shall, after viewing the body (if such view is necessary in accordance with section 15 (1) and making such entry upon the record as is required to be made under section 15 (4), refer the record to such other coroner; and such other coroner shall thereupon, subject to any directions in that behalf which may be given by the High Court and which the High Court is hereby empowered to give, continue the inquest and conclude the same in accordance with this Act.

8.   Inquest where body destroyed or irrecoverable

   When a coroner has reason to believe that a death has occurred in the area within which he has jurisdiction in such circumstances that an inquest ought to be held, and that owing to the destruction of the body by fire or otherwise or to the fact that the body is lying in a place from which it cannot be recovered, an inquest cannot be held except by virtue of this section, he may, if he .considers it desirable so to do, hold an inquest touching the death, and the law relating to inquests shall apply with such modifications as may be necessary in consequence of the inquest being held otherwise than on or after view of a body lying within the coroner’s jurisdiction.

9.   Coroner may prohibit burial or cremation till after inquest

   A coroner may prohibit the burial or cremation of any body lying within his jurisdiction until an inquest shall have been held.

10.   Notice of death

   When any body is found or a person has died in such circumstances as to make the holding of an inquest under this Act necessary or desirable, it shall be the duty of any person finding the body or becoming aware of the death forthwith to inform the nearest Chief, officer in charge of a police station or administrative officer, and upon receiving any such information such Chief, police officer or administrative officer, shall notify the coroner having jurisdiction to hold an inquest. Any person who fails without good cause to inform the Chief, police officer or administrative officer, as required by this section, shall be liable to a fine of £25 and to imprisonment for three months:

   Provided that in the event of the occurrence of any death referred to in section 6, the person having the custody or care of the deceased at the time of his death shall, in Form B in the First Schedule (with such modifications therein as may be necessary), notify the coroner having jurisdiction to hold an inquest directly.

11.   Duty of police officer or Chief

   (1) On information being given to a Chief, officer in charge of a police station or administrative officer in pursuance of section 10, such Chief or officer or a person delegated by him (hereinafter referred to as “the Authority”) shall proceed to the place where the body of the deceased person is lying and shall make a full investigation into the circumstances, surrounding the death of the deceased and the probable cause thereof, and may arrest any person reasonably suspected of having caused the death.

   (2) The Authority shall without delay cause notice of the death in Form B in the First Schedule (or a translation thereof in Chichewa or such other written language as the Authority understands) to be sent to a coroner having jurisdiction to hold an inquest, stating any particulars concerning the cause of death disclosed by the investigation and giving an opinion as to whether or not the death is due to any unlawful act or omission.

   (3) In any case where the death is believed by the Authority not to be due to any unlawful act or omission, such Authority shall, if the dead body is not already buried, view the body and authorize its interment, but in all other cases the Authority shall cause the body to be taken to the nearest hospital or other place appointed for the reception of dead bodies unless the Authority certifies to the coroner that the requirements of this subsection cannot reasonably be complied with, having regard to the condition of the body, the weather and the distance to be travelled.

11A.   Coroner may call for statement recorded by police

   (1) Where a death has occurred in such circumstances that an inquest is required or ought to be held under the provisions of this Act, the coroner having jurisdiction may direct any police officer having charge of or concerned in an investigation into the death to produce to the coroner, prior to the holding of the inquest, any statement made to, and recorded in writing by, such police officer by any person having knowledge of the circumstances, the cause of the death or the identity of the deceased, as the case may be, and the coroner may postpone the holding of the inquest for such time as may be necessary to enable him to obtain and peruse any such statement.

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