The word Panchanama is not used as such or defined particularly anywhere in any book of Law, but the same can be read into Section 100 under Chapter VII of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (Cr.P.C.). The said Section 100 (with portions highlighted in bold alluding that an Investigating Officer is bound to make a Panchanama) is reiterated below.
100. Persons in charge of closed place to allow search
(1) Whenever any place liable to search or inspection under this Chapter is closed, any person residing in, or being in charge of, such place, shall, on demand of the officer or other person executing the warrant, and on production of the warrant, allow him free ingress thereto, and afford all reasonable facilities for a search therein.
(2) If ingress into such place cannot be so obtained, the officer or other person executing the warrant may proceed in the manner provided by sub- section (2) of section 47.
(3) Where any person, in or about such place is reasonably suspected of concealing about his person any article for which search should be made, such person may be searched and if such person is a woman, the search shall be made by another woman with strict regard to decency.
(4) Before making a search under this Chapter, the officer or other person about to make it, shall call upon two or more independent and respectable inhabitants of the locality in which the place to be searched is situated or of any other locality if no such inhabitant of the said locality is available or is willing to be a witness to the search, to attend and witness the search and may issue an order in writing to them or any of them so to do.
(5) The search shall be made in their presence, and a list of all things seized in the course of such search and of the places in which they are respectively found shall be prepared by such officer or other person and signed by such witnesses; but no person witnessing a search under this section shall be required to attend the Court as a witness of the search unless specially summoned by it.
(6) The occupant of the place searched, or some person in his behalf, shall, in every instance, be permitted to attend during the search and a copy of the list prepared under this section, signed by the said witnesses, shall be delivered to such occupant or person.
(7) When any person is searched under sub- section (3), a list of all things taken possession of, shall be prepared, and a copy thereof shall be delivered to such person.
(8) Any person who, without reasonable cause, refuses or neglects to attend and witness a search under this section, when called upon to do so by an order in writing delivered or tendered to him, shall be deemed to have committed an offence under section 187 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
The power to carryout search of particular places and of the persons is given to officers as laid down in Section 93, 95, 97 and 98 of the Cr.p.C.
What is the need of the Panchanama? - Panchanama is one of the essential parts of criminal as well as civil investigation procedures. In criminal investigation it is used to support evidence of the investigation conducted at the crime scene, seizure if any from accused, identification of accused etc. In civil cases it is used to show that the decree has been executed by handing over possession of the property as directed in the decree. The provision of the Panchanama is made to convince the Court that the Officer-in-charge has in fact carried out the investigation, search, or any seizure or have acted upon the directions of the Court if so directed.
Reason behind the word "Panchanama" – In the ancient judicial system in India, the justice system at the lowest rung, i.e. village level, which is still the case in in certain kinds of issues, was in form of Panch, which is a group of 5 elected learned members of the village who would preside and decide over a dispute amongst the villagers. In the said system, the proceedings before the Panch that were recorded on paper, was often called as a Panchanama and from this practice, the word was adopted for a document prepared by the investigating office noting facts and proceeds of an investigation.
Contents of Panchanama - There is no guidance or prescription about the contents of Panchanama under CrPC or any other statute. The witnesses are called "Panchas". It is to be noted that the Panchas are to be two or more independent and respectable persons i.e. persons who are not of disrepute. If there is no eyewitnesses to an offence and the case is totally based on circumstantial evidence, then such a Panchanama is of immense value. The Panch (witness) can refresh his memories while giving evidence in the Court as per section 159 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Following things can be said to be important to be incorporated in a Panchanama:
- Name and Place of Police Station or any other Authority conducting the same
- Name, age and address of Panchas (Witness)
- Record of time when it was commenced and when ended
- Name and Rank of the officer conducting the Panchanama
- Details of particular place or persons
- Signature of the officer and all the panchas
- Details of the seizure if any
- Details of the place where panchanama is to be done.
Kinds of Panchanamas-
Panchanamas in Criminal Trials
- Spot Panchanama - This panchanama is generally drawn by Investigating officer (IO) when he visits the crime scene. This Panchanama contains details of the crime scene during the visit of the IO and the Panchas (Witness). The details may include description of the place, how big or small the place is if it's a room, whether it's an isolated place or a public space with open sky. The position of the things lying in the room/spot/place - for instance if the allegation is of murder then the Panchanama shall consist of the details of where the dead body of victim was lying, the weapon of the crime is lying anywhere at the spot, other articles lying at the spot, the condition of the room, the light in the room, etc. all these things shall be noted in the panchanama for effective corroboration during the time of Cross Examination of the Pancha Witness.
- Seizure Panchanama - As the name suggests, this Panachnama is drawn when the IO seizes some articles from the accused person or from any other person at the crime scene and/or articles seized from the crime scene or from any other place. There can be number of seizure Panchanamas in one single case depending on the articles seized from several spots/places.
- Inquest Panchanama - The inquest Panchanama has to be done in accordance with Section 174 of the Cr.P.C., when any person dies under any suspicious circumstances, i.e. suicide, murder, accident etc. In this Panchanama, the details of how the dead body was lying and descriptions such as of any mark of injuries found on person of deceased, apparent cause of death or by what weapon or instrument such marks appear to have been inflicted are to be mentioned. This Panchanama helps to find out whether at the first sight of dead body it can be gathered that cause of death is unnatural.
- Memorandum Panchanama - also known as "Nivedan Panchanama" in Maharahstra. As per Section 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, any statement made before the Police Officer has no value and is not admissible before the Court. But exception to Sections 25 & 26 are given in Section 27, which states that if any information/document is received from the accused or any discovery is made on account of accused, then such fact(s) can be placed before the court. The statement made by the accused is recorded before the Pancha (Witness) while the accused is in police custody. The accused mostly informs the Police in front of the witness, any information he has about the crime in question, which can be the location of the hidden weapon, or other articles used in the course of crime, he may even admit of committing the crime. These Panchas (Witnesses), before whom the Memorandum Panchanama is drawn, will be summoned to court during course of evidence in order to prove that such a confession of the accused was made in their presence by the accused.
- Arrest Panchanama - As the name suggests, this Panchanama is drawn when the suspected person/ accused is arrested by the police. It notes the appearance of the accused when he was arrested, his identification marks and articles found with him. Details of the clothes he is wearing etc. This helps in identifying the accused when he is produced in the Court.
Panchanamas in Civil Law
- Panchanama of execution of Decree - In civil law the Panchanma is made by the Decree Executing officer like the Court Receiver, Official Liquidator, Thalsildar, Thalathi. When the decree of handing over the possession is executed the panchanama is to be drawn in from of the decree holder bearing his/her signatures. This panchanma notes details of condition of the property while giving the possession, the time and date when the process of possession handing over started. The same is to be made in front of at least 2 Panchas (Witnesses). A report along with the said Panchanma has to be submitted to the Court informing that the said decree has been executed.
- Panachnama of Inspection of Sealed Property - This kind of Panchanama is drawn when the Court instructs for inspection of a property which has been sealed by its order. Such a process is conducted under the supervision of an officer from the office of the concerned department who has been directed to conduct such an act of sealing the property. This Panchanma will note the name of the persons represented by the sides, the details that the seal has been broken, and the condition of the property from inside and the details of the inspection taken. It will be signed by the representative of the parties to the litigation as well as by the Panchs (Witnesses).
- Panchanama under Food Adulteration Act - The Food Inspectors in order to give authentication to their act of inspection of restaurants, godowns, shops etc prepare a Panchanama in presence of 2 Panchas (Witnesses) and conduct all the actions in their presence.
Other panchanmas, in addition to the above mentioned, would include panchanamas prepared upon inspections and raid under Forest Act, under IT Tax Act, under Essential Commodities Act, etc. It is necessary to draw a Panchanama of the inspection or raid conducted in order to prove in the Court of Law or Other Authority that the said raid and inspection has been conducted in appropriate manner and to authenticate the information recorded therein under the signatures by the Panchs (Witnesses) to such raid and inspection.
A Panchanama is a record of what the Panchs (Witness) see and the same can be proved only when the said Panchs stand in the witness box and testify on oath as to what they saw during the Panchanama. The main intention behind conducting Panchanama is to guard the case from unfair dealings on the Part of the Officers. The Panchanama can be used as a corroborative piece of evidence. It cannot be said to be a substantive piece of evidence, and hence relying only on the Panchanama in absence of any substantive evidence cannot attract conviction. In case no Panchs (Witness) are available when required, the Officer-in-charge shall conduct the search and seize the articles without Panchs (Witness) and draw a report of entire such proceedings which is called a Special Report.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.