Case Number

Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008 with S. L. P. (Cri.) Nos. 5986 of 2006 and 5200 of 2009 with Criminal Appeal Nos. 1410 of 2011 and 1267 of 2007 and Contempt Petition (C) No. D26722 of 2008

Equivalent Citation

2013(13) SCALE 559


P Sathasivam, B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi, S.A. Bobde

Author of the Judgment

P. Sathasivam, CJI.

Decided On

12 November 2013

Relevant Section

Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Brief Facts

In 2008, Lalita Kumari, a minor girl, was kidnapped. Her father submitted a written report to the Officer In-charge of the concerned police station but he did not register the F.I.R. Later, he moved to the Superintendent of the Police, F.I.R. was lodged but still, no action was taken upon it. Neither the girl was rescued nor the accused was apprehended. Hence, a writ petition of Habeas Corpus was filed in the Supreme Court under Article-32 of the Constitution. 

The Contention Raised by the Petitioner

It was contended that It is imperative for the Officer In-charge of the police station on receiving information that discloses a cognizable offence, to register a case under section 154, CrPC.

The Contention Raised by the Respondent

It was contended that discretion lies with the police to do a preliminary inquiry to check the veracity of the case or the accusations laid down, before registering the case under section 154, CrPC.

Procedural History

14 July 2008, Supreme Court observations and the direction given

The Supreme Court observed that it is has been seen over the years that police authorities do not register F.I.R.s until they are directed by Chief Judicial Magistrate or High Court or the Supreme Court itself and even if they do, they take no further action on it. As a result, if the Judiciary passes any harsh orders, the police become hostile towards them. They also pointed out that there was bias when it came to the registration of F.I.R.s and further investigation as if the complainant is influential and belongs to a high profile background, the process moves with jet speed.

The Supreme Court gave directions and asked Governments of all States and Union Territories besides their Director Generals of Police/Commissioners of Police as the case may be to show cause as to why those directions not be put to application. The direction was as follows: –

If steps are not taken to register F.I.R.s immediately and to hand over copies of such F.I.R.s to the complainant, then they have the option to move to the concerned Magistrates to issue necessary directions to register the F.I.R. immediately or take steps like apprehending the accused etc. failing which contempt proceeding will be initiated against such delinquent police officers.

Surprisingly, responses were received only from two States of Uttar Prades and Arunachal Pradesh.

Issue before the Court

Whether a police officer is bound to file an F.I.R. on receiving information related to the commission of a cognizable offence under section-154 of CrPC,1973, or does he have the power to conduct a preliminary inquiry to test the veracity of such information before registering the same.   

Ratio of the Case

Author of the judgment- P. Sathasivam, CJI.

The Supreme Cort made the following observations: –

  1. Kinds of F.I.R. under the Code both of them being obligatory.
  • The duly signed F.I.R. u/s 154(1) on the information given by the informant to the concerned police officer.
  • F.I.R. registered by the police itself based on the information received other than that from the informant u/s 157(1). This information also has to be properly recorded, duly signed and a copy sent to the Magistrate.
  1. Advantages of registration of F.I.R. being obligatory: –
  • Facilitates swift investigation and sometimes prevents further crime too.
  • F.I.R. is the first step to “access to justice” for the victim.
  • Upholds the Rule of Law as an ordinary person brings a commission of cognizable offence to the knowledge of the State.
  • Results in less manipulation as there won’t be deliberately delayed F.I.R.s or ante-dates F.I.R.
  1. Relation between F.I.R. and arrest: –

It is not necessary that just because an F.I.R. is registered u/s  154, CrPC that the arrest will be made u/s 42, CrPC immediately. These two are entirely different concepts and are in no way irreversibly linked. This can also be seen in section 151, CrPC under which police can arrest a person even before he has committed any cognizable offence. This is what you know as a preventive arrest. And as far as arbitrary arrest goes, a police officer can be tried and punished u/s 166 if he misuses his powers of arrest.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court held the following: –

  1. If the information discloses cognizable offence, Registration of F.I.R. is mandatory u/s 154, CrPC and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a case.
  1. A preliminary inquiry may be conducted in cases where the information does not disclose any cognizable offence but necessitates the need for such inquiry to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not.
  1. If such an inquiry: – 
  • Discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, then F.I.R. is to be registered.
  • Ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant immediately and not later than one week, also reasons must be given in brief for closing the complaint.
  1. If any police officer does not register F.I.R. when a cognizable offence is disclosed then action must be taken against such officers.
  1. The scope or purpose of preliminary inquiry is not to check the veracity of the information received but to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.
  1. In what cases a preliminary inquiry could be conducted depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. The Supreme Court listed such cases, calling the list merely illustrative and non-exhaustive. 
  • Matrimonial/family disputes
  • Commercial offences
  • Medical negligence cases
  • Corruption cases
  • Cases where there is an abnormal delay in initiating criminal prosecution
  1. Also laid down that such preliminary inquiry should be made time-bound and not exceed 7 days (Modified in March 2013 to 15 days in general cases and in exceptional circumstances, after giving adequate reasons – 6 weeks). Also, the fact of delay and the causes of it shall be mentioned in the General Diary entry.
  1. Another direction was issued that all information regarding a cognizable offence- whether it was registered or decision to make an inquiry, mandatorily be recorded in the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary.

The above directions were given and the matter was asked to be listed before the appropriate Bench to be disposed off on the merits of it.

This case analysis is done by Munmun Kaur, a Law student at Law Centre-I, Faculty of Law, Delhi University.

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