Inspection of Crime Site by Magistrate not to Collect Evidence

Judge can conduct local inspection

A criminal court, suo motu or by application of a party, can inspect a place where crime has occurred during the course of trial, enquiry or other proceedings under Section 310 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC).

The inspection is for proper appreciation of the evidence in the case in hand. This power cannot be exercised when investigation is going on. In all cases the subordinate court should not conduct local inspection. The local inspection should be resorted to sparingly.

Inspection should not be for collection of evidence

In Keisam Kumar Singh and Another v State of Manipur [AIR 1985 SC 1664] it was held that normally a court is not entitled to make a local inspection and even if such an inspection is made, it can never take the place of evidence or proof but is really meant for appreciating the position at the spot. The court added that in the above case, the Sessions Judge by making a local inspection converted himself into a witness in order to draw full support to the defence case by what he may have seen. By doing so the Sessions Judge exceeded his jurisdiction.

In State of UP v Het Ram [AIR 1976 SC 2124], the Supreme Court (SC) observes that the local inspection is to inspect the topography of the place in which the offence was committed or its local peculiarities for the purpose of appreciating the evidence which was already on record.

In Himachal Pradesh v Mast Ram the SC states that normally court is not entitled to make a local inspection and even if such an inspection is made it cannot take the place of evidence or proof but really meant for appreciating the evidence on record before the court.

inspection is only to appreciate evidence

In Re: Sr. Abhaya vs Unknown [ 2006 (2) KLT 1001] the SC disapproved the order of a Magistrate to conduct local inspection while considering the final report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under Section 172 (2) of the CrPC in a case which is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions. The SC held that the section 159 of CrPC does not enable a Magistrate to conduct a local inspection during the period of investigation.

Court should not turn into a witness

The court in the Sr Abhaya case added that the only purpose of local inspection being to properly appreciate the evidence given at the trial and it is only reasonable that the local inspection should, as a rule, come after all the evidence is recorded. Even that should be resorted to very sparingly. The court should take special precautions so as to prevent itself becoming a witness unconsciously. On some occasions, it is practically impossible for the court to make a local inspection, and not import new materials collected by it. The moment the court collects new materials it becomes a witness, and as it cannot cross-examine itself, it cannot try the case.