This section provides that when any person dies while in police custody, it is obligatory for the nearest Magistrate to hold an inquest personally. In any other case mentioned in Section 174 (1), the Magistrate may hold an inquest either instead of or in addition to, the inquest held by the police officer.
Whenever possible, the relatives of the dead person should be informed and allowed to be present in the inquiry. The proceedings under this section (i.e., Section 176) are judicial proceedings.
It must be noted that inquest under Section 174 is made by the police but an inquest under Section 176 has to be made only by a Magistrate particularly for ascertainment of the cause of death occurring in police custody. The Magistrate may administer oath to persons examined by him during Inquest.
In Yellappa v. State of Karnataka, the accused confessed before the Executive Magistrate at the time of holding inquest that he had killed his wife but his confession was neither tendered in evidence nor was it proved. No other witness was present when the accused made confession at the time of inquest. The High Court of Karnataka held that there was no sufficient material on the basis of which the accused could be convicted and, therefore, he was acquitted.