By Vivek Nasa
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 relating to commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short 'the Code') or the police officer has the power to conduct a "preliminary inquiry" in order to test the veracity of such information before registering the same?"
It was contended on behalf of petitioner that upon receipt of information by a police officer in-charge of a police station disclosing a cognizable offence, it is imperative for him to register a case under Section 154 of the Code and placed reliance upon two-Judge Bench decisions of this Court in State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal, Ramesh Kumari vs. State (NCT of Delhi) and Parkash Singh Badal vs. 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 disclosing commission of a cognizable offence, to register a case rather the discretion lies with him, in appropriate cases, to hold some sort of preliminary inquiry in relation to the veracity or otherwise of the accusations made in the report. In support of his submission, he placed reliance upon two- Judge Bench decisions of this Court in P. Sirajuddin vs. State of Madras , Sevi vs. State of Tamil Nadu , Shashikant vs. Central Bureau of Investigation , and Rajinder Singh Katoch vs. Chandigarh Admn
If no cognizable offence is made out in the information given, then the FIR need not be registered immediately and perhaps the police can conduct a sort of preliminary verification or inquiry for the limited purpose of 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 given clearly mentions the commission of a cognizable offence, there is no other option but to register an FIR forthwith.
The Supreme Court issued the following Guidelines regarding the registration of FIR.
(i) Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.
ii) If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not.
(iii) If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.
(iv) The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who donot register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.
(v) The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.
(vi) As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:
(a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
(c) Medical negligence cases
(e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay. The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.
(vii) While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case it should not exceed 7 days. The fact of such delay and the causes of it must be reflected in the General Diary entry.
(viii) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, we direct that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry, must be mandatorily and meticulously reflected in the said Diary and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected, as mentioned above.
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Posted by Vivek Nasa