Scope Of Inquiry by the Police at the Time Of Registration Of FIR (First Information Report)- The Supreme Court Landmark Judgement November 2013


Scope Of Inquiry by the Police at the Time Of Registration Of FIR (First Information Report)- The Supreme Court Landmark Judgement November 2013

Constitutional Bench of Hon'ble S.C. comprising Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice B.S. Chauhan, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.A. Bobde.

In a landmark judgment passed in November 2013 by the Constitutional Bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, it has been held that Police must register FIR upon receiving any information under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 relating to the commission of a cognizable offence.

The petition which was considered by Hon'ble Supreme Court is of great public interest. In view of the divergent opinions in a large number of cases earlier decided, it was important to have a clear judgement and clarification of law and adjudication by a larger Bench for the benefit of all concerned, the courts, the investigating agencies and the citizens.

The court's direction came on a reference by three judges' bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari in February 2012 in a matter relating to the kidnapping of a minor girl in Uttar Pradesh. The mother of the victim challenged before the court, the refusal of police to register an FIR against the kidnappers. Hon'ble Supreme Court, after hearing various counsel representing the Union of India, States and Union Territories referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

The important issue which was considered by the Constitutional Bench in the referred matter was whether "a police officer is bound to register a First Information Report (FIR) upon receiving any information under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 relating to commission of a cognizable offence or the police officer has the power to conduct a "preliminary inquiry" in order to test the veracity of such Complaint?".




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It was contended on behalf of petitioner that upon receipt of complaint by a police officer-in-charge of a police station disclosing a cognizable offence, it is necessary for police to lodge a fir under Section 154 of the Code and placed reliance upon two-Judge Bench decisions of this Court in the State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal, Ramesh Kumari vs. State (NCT of Delhi) and Parkash Singh Badal vs. the State of Punjab. On the other hand it was argued on behalf of State that an officer-in-charge of a police station is not obliged under law, upon receipt of information (complaint) disclosing commission of a cognizable offence, to lodge a case rather the discretion lies with him, in appropriate cases, to hold some sort of preliminary inquiry in relation to the veracity of the allegations made in the report. 

In support of his submission, he placed reliance upon two-Judge Bench decisions of this Court in P. Sirajuddin vs. the State of Madras, Sevi vs. State of Tamil Nadu, Shashikant vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, and Rajinder Singh Katoch vs. Chandigarh Admn.

Cognizable offences are those which attract punishment of three years or more in case of conviction and where an investigating officer can arrest an accused without the warrant.

The only question before this Constitution Bench relates to the interpretation of Section 154 of the Code and incidentally to consider Sections 156 and 157 also.

After hearing arguments as well as due interpretation of a statute in this regard, Hon'ble Supreme Court has held regarding registration or nonregistration, what is necessary is only that the information given to the police station by the victim or first informant must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence. In such cases or matter, lodging of an FIR is mandatory. However, if no cognizable offence is made out in the complaint given, then the FIR need not to be registered immediately and the police can conduct a sort of preliminary inquiry for ascertaining as to whether a cognizable offence has been committed.

Such a preliminary inquiry should be time-bound and not take more than one week.

But, if the information or complaint has given clearly indicates the commission of a cognizable offence then A FIR must be lodged. The Hon'ble Constitutional Bench has concluded its findings and directions below:

(i) Lodging of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of the criminal procedure if the information discloses commission of cognizable offences and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a matter.

(ii) If the information received in the police station does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the need for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not.

(iii) If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be lodged. In matters where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of such closure must be given to the Victim or first informant of the matter within a one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the information.

(iv) The police officer cannot deny of lodging a cognizable offence. Disciplinary Action must be taken against denying officers who deny lodging the FIR if information discloses a cognizable offence.

(v) The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity of the complaint received by police but only to ascertain whether the complaint reveals any cognizable offence or not.

(vi) In which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances. The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:

(a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
(b) Medical negligence cases
(c) Commercial offences
(d) Corruption cases
(e) Cases of abnormal delay in the lodging of the Information, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.
Above may warrant preliminary inquiry.

(vii) A preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case, it should not exceed 7 days. the causes of delay, it must be reflected in the General Diary of a police station.

(viii) The General of police station is the record of all information received in a police station, the apex court directed that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or initiating an inquiry, must be mandatorily written in the General Diary and the reason to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be written in the GD.

CONCLUSION
Registration of an FIR in cognizable offences is mandatory and no preliminary inquiry by a police officer is permissible as a condition for registering FIR in cognizable offences. Police officials can't avoid registration of FIR and action must be taken against them for not lodging FIR in cognizable offences.
If a police officer decides to conduct a preliminary inquiry and finds that information does not merit lodge of FIR, then the same shall be recorded and a copy of the closure report shall be given to the first informant within seven days.
Preliminary inquiry can be conducted in certain matters relating to matrimonial disputes, family disputes, and commercial offences, cases of medical negligence, corruption cases and cases of abnormal delay in the lodging of the Information.
Failure to comply with said direction would entail disciplinary action against erring investigating officer.



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