Investigation, Inquiry and Trial

Article authored by Praseedha Pradeep, law student from Government Law College Ernakulam Kerala


There are three distinct stages in a Criminal Case, which are Investigation, Inquiry and Trial. These three stages are crucial and inevitable. Investigations are usually done/ carried out by a Police Officer, with the aid of its department. At the same time, Inquiry is made by a Court/Magistrate to determine a person’s guilt. In Judicial Proceedings such as Trial, there might be two outcomes; Conviction or Acquittal. 


Under Section 2(h) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Investigation covers all the procedures, including the collection of evidence by a Police officer or an authorized person appointed by the Magistrate. The person included in this investigating procedure is known as a Criminal Investigator. Section 157 of the CrPC lays down the procedure for Investigation. There are specific procedures to be followed by a Police Officer while investigating a case. There are two types of offences, 

a) Cognizable Offence

b) Non-Cognizable Offence

A Non-Cognizable Offence is less severe for which a Police Officer/Criminal Investigator has to obtain a warrant from the Magistrate to proceed with the Investigation. Some of the non-cognizable offences are Defamation, Forgery, Assault etc.

Some of the guidelines to be followed

In People’s Unions for Civil Liberties v., Maharashtra stated some rules and standards while investigating.

  1.  Whenever the police department receives any information regarding criminal activity, it needs to be reduced to writing in any form(writing or electronic). 
  2. There need to be an involvement of the National Human Rights Commission if there is a doubt on Investigation in an encounter.
  3. The injured person’s statement should be recorded within the presence of an authorized person.
  4. Strict court supervision should be ensured regarding the submission of FIRS, GD,s and other records.
  5. Friends/Family Members of the victim/criminal must be informed about the situation at the earliest.
  6. Eligible compensations should be given to the dependents of the victim who suffered death in a police encounter. 


An inquiry is a process that occurs before the Trial of a case and after the Investigation. The main objective of Inquiry is to identify the nature of a crime, whether it is criminal or not. According to Section 2(g) of the Criminal Procedure Code defines Inquiry. It is also unnecessary that an inquiry should occur judicially; it can also occur in a non-judicial manner.

Types of Inquiry

  1. Judicial Inquiry- It is an inquiry proceeded related to a matter of public concern.
  2. Non-Judicial/Administrative Inquiry- An inquiry that is not for enforcement of the law.
  3. Local Inquiry-Sec 148 defines Local Inquiry in which Magistrate deputes subordinate Magistrate to make a local inquiry.
  4. Preliminary Inquiry- Sec 157 defines Preliminary Inquiry. In case information regarding a cognizable offence is received by Police Officer, he is obliged to make a preliminary inquiry into the offence.
  5. Inquire into offence- Inquire into an offence base up for Trial. It does not determine the climax of a case: Acquittal or Conviction. 
  6. Inquiry into matter other than the offence- This is a general inquiry other than concentrating on a crime.


The Trial is the last stage in a criminal case. It begins when an inquiry is completed. It determines the conclusion of a criminal case based on the judiciary’s collected facts and circumstances, which has the jurisdiction. It is a court’s decision on whether a person is proved guilty or not.

Types of trial

  1. Session’s Trial (a Trial before a session court) – The cases which are serious for which the punishment involves death or imprisonment for more than seven years are tried before the Sessions court. 
  2. Warrant Trial (Trial of warrant cases by the Magistrate) – A warrant case connects itself to the point where the crimes guilty with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years are considered. 
  3. Summons Trial (Trial of summons case by the Magistrate) – The person is served with a summons and called upon to appear before the court is called summons trial.
  4. Summary Trial – Summary Trials are those cases in which speedy justice is required; crimes of a less serious nature are tried in this. More complicated cases are tried in Warrant/ Summons Trial.

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