From Justice Definitions Project

Meaning of Panchanama

The word panchanama[1] literally means “record of observation by five people”. A Panchanama is a crucial document in the criminal justice delivery system. It documents specific incidents that take place in front of the Panchas, or witnesses, and that they see and hear. The words "panch," which means a respected person, and "nama," which means written document, are the roots of the name "Panchanama". It is utilized in criminal investigations to bolster evidence gathered from the crime scene, any evidence that may have been seized from the accused, the accused's identity, etc. Its purpose[2] is to persuade the Court that the officer-in-charge actually conducted the investigation, search, or seizure, or that the officer-in-charge followed the Court's instructions if so directed.

Official Definition of Panchanama

In criminal law the panchanama has corroborative value. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) and the Bhartiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) also do not define panchanama anywhere. But the same is indirectly incorporated in the CrPC. Chapter VII of CrPC and BNSS is titled as “Process To Compel The Production Of Things”. Under this chapter, the power to carry out searches of particular places is given to officers as laid down in sections 93, 95, 97, and 98 of CrPC, and Sections 96, 98, 100, and 101 of BNSS. The provision of panchanama is made to convince the court that officers have in fact carried out such searches or made such seizures.


There is no particular Act that specifies how panchanama should be prepared. However, panchanama is provided for in situations where a search is conducted under Sections 100(4) and (5) of the CrPC and Section 103(4) and (5) of the BNSS. The panchas, or attesting witnesses, must consist of two or more credible, independent individuals. It is imperative that the panchas peruse the contents of the panchanama subsequent to its preparation.

‘Panchas’ [3]should be independent and respectable people as per Section 100(4) of the CrPC and Section 103(4) of the BNSS. Normally, they should be residents of the area around the location where the panchanama is drawn. If there are no Panchas (Witnesses) available when needed, the Officer-in-Charge will search the area, seize the items without Panchas (Witnesses), and compile a record of the entire event, known as a Special record.

Any search and seizure action violates the fundamental and constitutionally protected right to privacy, which was established as intrinsic to Article 21 by the landmark K.S. Puttaswamy v. UOI[4] judgment. When a right is violated, every administrative error, no matter how small, can result in accusations and criticism. Thereby, it is customary and appropriate to provide a copy of the search warrant to the subject of the search or the occupier whenever a search is conducted under warrant.

Types of Panchanama

There are several kinds of Panchanama[5] prepared during an investigation:

During search in a closed place

According to Section 100 of the CrPC and Section 103 of the BNSS, if a place subject to search or inspection under this law is closed, the person living there or in charge must allow the officer executing the warrant to enter and search, providing all necessary cooperation. The search must happen in their presence, with a list of seized items and their locations prepared and signed by witnesses. Those witnessing the search aren't obligated to testify unless summoned by the court. Additionally, the occupant or their representative has the right to be present during the search and receive a copy of the list afterward.


As per Section 102 of CrPC and Section 106 of BNSS, any police officer may confiscate any item that is found in circumstances that raise suspicions of theft or that may be claimed to have been stolen. It is vital to note that under Section 105 of the BNSS, there is increased use of electronic evidence during investigation, such that if any item is seized by the investigating officer, then a list of all things seized in the course of such search and seizure, along with signing of such list by witnesses, shall be recorded through any audio-video electronic means preferably cell phone and the police officer shall without delay forward such recording to the District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate, or Judicial Magistrate of the first class.

Inquest Panchanama

As per Section 174 of CrPC and Section 194 of BNSS, when a police officer receives information about a suicide, murder, accidental death, or suspicious circumstances leading to a death, they must inform the nearest Executive Magistrate empowered for inquests. Unless directed otherwise, the officer must investigate the scene of the death with witnesses, document any injuries, and report the apparent cause of death, sending the report promptly to the District or Sub-divisional Magistrate for further action. In this context, an “Inquest Panchanama” is prepared when a person dies under suspicious circumstances. It contains details about how he died, his physical condition at the time of death, etc.


When someone gets arrested, Arrest Panchanama is prepared. It includes information about his physical state at the time of the arrest, his personal items, how and where he was detained, and other things.

Test Identification Parade

Test Identification Parade Panchanama is prepared when a suspect is recognized by witnesses during a test identification parade. It includes information about who led the procession, how it was organized, who was there, and other specifics. Section 9 of the Indian Evidence Act and Section 7 of the The Bharatiya Sakshya Act, which deals with the relevancy of facts proving the existence of relevant facts, principally governs the process for a test identification parade. Moreover, identification parade protocol is outlined under Section 54 of the CrPC and Section 53 of the BNSS.

Site/Spot Inspection Memo/ Naksha Mauka

When the investigating officer visits an informant or someone who knows where the crime was committed, he usually draws a spot inspection panchanama. When one of these informants or individuals shows the investigating officer where the crime occurred, the investigating officer marks the spot panchanama[6] in the presence of both panchas. The location of the crime site, its size (if a room), and if it is a public area with an open sky or secluded are some examples of the details that could be included. The location of the items that are lying in the room, spot, or place. All of these details must be recorded in the panchanama in order to effectively corroborate them when the pancha witness is being cross-examined.

As dealt in case laws

In the case of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon v. State of Maharashtra through CBI Bombay (2013)[7], the court observed that the primary purpose of the “Panchanama” is to protect against potential deceit and unfair practices on the part of the officers tasked with carrying out the search. It also serves to guarantee that anything incriminating that may be claimed to have been found in the searched premises was actually found there and was not introduced or planted by the search party’s officers.

Recently, the Supreme Court[1] held that are records of searches and seizures, known as “panchanama”, would not be admissible in court if they were compiled in a way that violated Section 162 of CrPC and Section 181 of BNSS. The Court expressed concern, in particular, about the role that witnesses played in these proceedings and their inadequate disclosure of the methods by which objects were located during an investigation.

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