A.D.V. Reddy, J.
1. The appellants, 25 in number who are accused in S. C. 31/66 on the file of the Sessions Judge, Krishna, have been convicted for various offences under SB. 147, 148/302 read with 34 on three counts and also under Sections 321, 323 and 352, I. P. C.
2. On 19.3.1966 at about 5 P.M., the bus A. P. W. 14 proceeding from Yijayawada to Jakkampudi was stopped by about 50 persons armed with spears and sticks about one or one and half furlongs south of Nandipativari choultry and as the driver, cleaner, checker and most of the other passengers ran away, six passengers, who stayed in the Bus viz., Adam, Jamalayya and Yesupadam (herein, after referred to as Deceased Nos. 1, 2 and 3 respectively) as well as P. Ws. 1 to 3 were attached, as a result of which Adam (D1) died on the spot and Jamalayya (D2) and Yesupadam (D3) died in the hospital on 20-3-1966 at 4 P.M. and 21-3-1966 at 9-10 P.M. respectively and P. Ws. 1 to 3 sustained injuries,
3. The case for the prosecution is that on account of factions in the villages of Jakkampudi and Shahabada, the accused, of whom A5 to A8, A18 and A15 belonged to Shaba-bada and the rest to Jakkampudi, formed themselves into an unlawful assembly with the common object of attacking and causing the death of three deceased, A1 to Ai and A18 arming themselves with spears, A5 to A17, A19 to A25 with sticks, and committed rioting and in the prosecution of that common object attacked the three deceased as well as P. Ws. 1 to 3 as they were coming in the bus and caused the injuries on 19-3.1966 as a result of which D1, D2 and D3 died and P. Ws. 1 to 3 sustained injuries.
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(After giving the evidence, the Judge pro-coeds-Ed.).
4 to 12. It is now the contention of the learn-ed counsel for the defence that this procedure adopted by P. W. 27 the Circle Inspector of reading the dying declaration and the earlier statements of P. Ws. 1 and 3 recorded at previous inquests, is highly irregular, as according to him, what is contemplated under Section 174, Criminal P. C., is the examination of eye witnesses at the inquest and not regarding the prior statements or dying declarations of witnesses not examined at the inquest. This contention is not tenable. The primary purpose and object of holding an inquest is to ascertain the cause of death whether it is accidental, suicidal or homicidal. For this purpose the Police Officer is directed to make an investigation and draft a report describing the wounds and stating in what manner or by what weapon or instrument such wounds appear to have been inflicted. This power given to him to investigate is not limited to the examination of eye witnesses only. If it is so limited, it disables him from finding out from whatever sources available, the cause of death. The contention is that Section 175, Criminal P. C , limits the power given to the officer holding the inquest to summon eye witnesses and examine them only. This is not correct as Section 175, Criminal P. C., only empowers the officer to summon the witnesses to appear at the inquest for their examination. It is only an enabling provision and does not in any way cripple the powers of investigation in order to find out the apparent cause of death. It may be that eye witnesses may not be available and he may have to rely on other circumstances to find out the cause of death and he would be at liberty to explore those sources which reveal the information regarding the cause of death. We are not prepared to say what he should do or what he should not do with regard to the investigation at the inquest, as each case may give rise to different problems. It is not however, correct to say that investigation at the inquest should be limited to the examination of eye wit. nesses only.
13. However, whatever material is used at the inquest for coming to a conclusion regarding the cause of death, it must be clear and available to defence very often, even the statements of the witnesses examined at the inquest are not recorded. What is being done is filling up the columns by the condensed or concised version the gist of what all had been stated. For investigation under Section 174, Criminal P. C., it is no doubt not incumbent on the Police Officer to record verbatim the statement as per the provisions of Section 174, Criminal P. C., as pointed out in in Re Pentayya : AIR1960AP545 . In so far as the scope of the inquest is for the limited purpose of ascertaining the cause of death, it is neither necessary that all eye witnesses should be examined at the inquest nor is it incumbent on the Police Officer to record verbatim and separately, the statements of each of the persons examined, by him under Section 175, Criminal P. C., and investigation under Section 174, Criminal P. C., should not be confounded or equated with an investigation into a cognizable offence which is governed by provisions of Sections 160 and 161, Criminal P.C.
14. We may, however, point out that in the Police Standing Orders Standing Order No. 635 (2) directs that statements of wit. nesses examined during the time of inquest should be reduced into writing in form No. 72 and such statements should be made a record, separate from the investigation report that they should be signed by the investigating officer and Panchayatdara and not by the deposing witnesses and Standing order No. 645 (28) prescribes that the procedure for the despatch of the (AIR 1960 Andh-Pra 545 at p. 551) inquest report to the Court as prescribed in respect of the first information re. ports should be followed. These instructions, though they do not have a statutory force, have been designed with a view to safeguard clean investigation and as far as possible prevent further manipulations or improvements in the evidence. It is highly desirable that these instructions are strictly followed. But however we cannot say that the non-recording of statements, by itself, vitiates the proceedings or cause irreparable prejudice to the accused.
15. With regard to the admissibility of the entries made in the inquest Report based on the statements made by the witnesses examined at the inquest they suffer from the same infirmities as the statements made under S. 161, Criminal P. C., in cages where the inquest is conducted under Section 174, Criminal P. C., by a Police Officer. The Inquest Re-port is admissible to the extent of showing the apparent cause of death as provided under Section 174, Criminal P. C., and the other entries will not be admissible in so far as they are statements made to a Police Officer except to the extent provided for under Section 162, Criminal P. C., for purposes of eliciting contradictions from the witnesses in the course of their examination in Court in the manner provided under Section 145 of the Evidence Act. If the statements of the witnesses examined at the inquest are reduced into writing they will facilitate the defence to elicit the contradictions. In cage they are not reduced into writing and a gist of those statements, in so far as it is required to fill up each column in the inquest report, is incorporated, still it is open to the defence to cross-examine the witnesses who are said to have been examined there in relation to those entries to elicit contradictions with regard to the death or with regard to the person who had last seen alive or the person who had first seen him dead etc. Otherwise, the statements contained in the inquest report are not substantive evidence and ought not to be relied on to arrive at a conclusion whether they be against the defence or in its favour.
16. With regard to the furnishing to the defence of the copies of the statements, if recorded at the inquest of witnesses examined therein, the defence is entitled to such copies being furnished to them as provided under Section 173(4), Criminal P. C.
17. In the present ease, at the inquest of Adam (D1) only P. Ws. 1 and 3 were examined and at the inquest of Jamalayya (D2), P. W. 26 the Sub-Inspector. But P. W. 26 Says that he did not record their statements when they were examined at the inquests. P. W. I, as can be seen by Exs. D2, D3, D4 and D5, has admitted in the Committal Court that his statement was recorded at the inquest, P. W. 3 also had admitted in the Committal Court, as can be seen from Ex. D-13, that his statement was written and was read over. P. W. 19 the Triune Officer (Village Munsif) who is the scribe of the inquest report at the inquest of Adam (D1) and one of the panchayatdars at the inquest, has stated that P. Ws. 1 and 3 were examined at the inquest and the Sub-Inspector recorded that statements of the witnesses and he is the scribe of the inquest report Ex. P. 7. P. W. 20, the Panchayatdar at the inquest of Jatnalayya (D2) stated that the Sub-Inspector recorded the statement of P. W. 2. On the face of this evidence, the statement of the Sub-Inspector P. W. 26 that he did not reduce into writing the statements of those witnesses, cannot be accepted. Admittedly the copies of these statements have not been made available to the defence. The learned Counsel for the accused relies on the decision reported in Kotayya v. Emperor AIR 1947 P C 67 to the effect that where statements (AIR 1947 P C 67 at p. 69) were never made available to the accused, an inference which is almost irresistible, arises of prejudice to the accused. He has also relied on the observations in In re Jayarami Reddy, (AIR 1969 Andh Pra 325). Where it was stated on the fact that the statements recorded at the inquest had been suppressed, there can be little doubt that it resulted in great prejudice to the accused, as the accused are deprived of a fair opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses in the light of their earlier statements, for testing the truth of the statements of the witnesses examined with reference to other statements made by them and that it is a valuable right which the legislature has chosen to confer on the accused by enacting Section 162, Criminal P. C.
18. As pointed out in W. Slaney v. State of M.P. : 1956CriLJ291 in all procedural laws, certain things are regarded as vital and full effect must be given to its provisions and except where there is something so vital as to cut at the root of jurisdiction or so abhor-rent to what one might term natural justice, the matter resolves itself to a question or prejudice. Considering the question of supply : AIR1959AP325 ; : 1956CriLJ291 of copies of the statements of the witnesses to the accused, the Supreme Court has this to say in Noor Khan v. State of Rajasthan : 1964CriLJ167 .
The object of 8a. 162, 173 (.4) and 207-A (3) is to enable the accused to obtain a clear picture of the case against him before the commencement of the inquiry. The sections impose an obligation upon the investigation officer to supply before the commencement of the inquiry copies of the statements of witnesses who are intended to be examined at the trial so that the accused may utilize these statements for cross- examining the witnesses to establish such defence as he desires to put up, and also to shake their testimony. Section 161(3) does not require a police-officer to record in writing the statements of witnesses examined by him in the course of the investigation, but if he does record in writing any such statements, he is obliged to make copies of those statements available to the accused before the commencement of proceedings in the Court so that the accused may know the details and particulars of the case against him and how the case is intended to be proved. The object of the provision is manifestly to give the accused the fullest information in the possession of the prosecution, on which the case of the state is based, and the (AIR 1964 8 C 286 at p. 291), statements made against him. But failure to furnish statements of witnesses recorded in the course of investigation may not vitiate the trial. It does not effect the jurisdiction of the Court to try a case, nor is the failure by itself a ground which affects the power of the Court to record a conviction, if the evidence warrants such a course, The provision relating to the making of copies of statements recorded in the course of investigation is undoubtedly of great importance, but the breach thereof must be considered in the light of the prejudice caused to the accused by reason of its breach.
It is therefore necessary in this case to see whether any prejudice was caused to the accused by the non-supply of the statements recorded at the inquest. In this case, as already pointed out, P. Ws. 1 and 8 only had been examined at the inquest of Adam (D1) and only P. W. 2 was examined at the inquest of Jamalayya (D2) and no one was examined at the inquest of Yesnpadam (D3). These three witnesses P. Ws. 1, 2 and 3 who had been examined at the inquests, had been examined prior to the inquest by the Sub-Inspector P. W. 26. He had gone to Jakkampudi after visiting the scene of occurrence on 19-3-66 itself and according to him he had traced P. W. 1 at his house at 10 P. M. and recorded the statement Ex. P. 1. Copies of the separate statements of the witnesses P. Ws. 1 to 3 recorded earlier to the inquests had been furnished to the accused and in relation to these statements P. W. 26 had been questioned to elicit contradictions and omissions. With regard to the statements at the inquests also, P. Ws. 1, 3 and 3 having been questioned in cross examination as to what they had stated. Under these circumstances we do not consider that any appreciable prejudice, so as to occasion a failure of justice, has been caused. * * *