Registration of FIR in light of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

Bhanu Srivastava

RMLNLU, Lucknow

Editor’s Note: The paper deals with the registration of FIRs under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Sections 154-156 and the various other provisions and rules of procedure that need to be followed. This is followed by an in-depth analysis of the case of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of Uttar Pradesh which is a 2014 Supreme Court case which deals with how information given in an FIR is to be dealt with.”

INTRODUCTION

The first information report is not defined in the code. However, it can be said to be an information given to the police first in point of time relating to a cognizable offence. It is the earliest report made to the police officer with a view to his taking action and on the basis of which investigation has commenced.[1]

The question whether or not a particular information constitutes a first information report depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.[2] But whether the information can be said to be a “First Information Report” within the meaning of section 154 of the code is a question of law.[3]

In the case of Ravi kumar v State of Punjab[4], the Supreme Court stated “the first information report is a report giving information of the commission of the cognizable crime which may be made by the complaint or by the complainant or by any other person knowing about the commission of such offence. It is intended to set the criminal law in motion. Any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence is required to be reduced to writing by the officer-in- charge of the police station which has to be signed by the person giving it and the substance thereof is required to be entered into the book to be kept by such officer in such form as the state government may prescribe in that behalf. The registration of the FIR empowers the officer – in –charge of the police station to commence investigation with respect to the crime reported to him. A copy of the FIR is required to be sent forthwith to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of such offence.”

MEANING OF FIR

The report first recorded by the police relating to the commission of a cognizable case is the First Information Report (FIR) giving first information of the cognizable crime. This is usually made by the complainant or by someone on his behalf. The FIR is made to the police with the object of putting the police in motion in order to investigate a crime.

The term FIR has not been defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, it is nothing but the statement of the maker of the report at a police station before a police officer recorded in the manner provided by the provisions of the Code; State v. Shiv Singh[5]

Whether or not a particular statement would constitute the first information is a question of fact and would depend upon the circumstances of the case. It is not every piece of information, however vague and indefinite or unauthenticated which will form the FIR, merely because it was the first to reach the police station. The special significance of the FIR lies in the fact that it is a record of the earliest information about an alleged offence, a statement given before the circumstances of the crime can be forgotten or embellished; State of Kerala v. Samuel[6] The information must not be vague, but definite enough to enable the police to start investigation; State of Assam v. Upendra Nath Rajkhosla[7]

First Information Report at the initial stage must disclose some cognizable offence so that the police may proceed with the investigation of the case, as it is prerogative of the police to investigate the same; Subhas Aggarwal v. State of Bihar[8]

Information in cognizable offence

Section 154 of the Cr PC, 1973 provides for the information in cognizable offence.

The section provides that if the information is given orally, it shall be reduced to writing by the officer-in-charge of the police station or under his direction and be read over to the informant and shall be signed by the person giving it. The substance of  information shall also be entered in a book kept by such officer in the form prescribed therefor; Hasan Adbulla v. State[9]

Any person aware of the commission of any cognizable offence may give information to the police and may, thereby set the criminal law in motion. Such information is to be given to the officer-in-charge of the police station having jurisdiction to investigate the offence. The   information so received shall be recorded in such a form and manner as is provided in section 154. That section is intended to ensure the making of an accurate record of the information given to the police.

According to this section:-

(1) If the information is given orally to the office-in-charge of the police station, it shall be reduced to writing by the officer himself or under his direction.

(2) If the information  is given in writing, or if reduced to writing as aforesaid, the writing shall be signed by the informant.

(3) The information as taken down in writing shall be read over to the informant.

(4) The substance of the information shall then be entered, by the police officer, in a book to be kept by such an officer in the form prescribed by the State Government. This book is called the Station Diary or General Diary.

(5) A copy of the information as recorded above shall be given forthwith free of cost to the informant.

(6) If the office-in-charge of the police station refuses to record the information  any person aggrieved by such refusal may send, in writing and by post, the substance of such information  to the Superintendent of Police concerned. If the Superintendent is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, he shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him. Such an officer shall have all the powers of an officer-in-charge of the police station in relation to that offence.

Section 154

  1. Information in cognizable cases.

(1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub- section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.

The provisions of the above mentioned provision has been held mandatory. Hence when-ever any information is received by an officer in charge of a police station about the commission of a cognizable offence, he is bound to register it.[10]  In the case of State of Haryana v Bhajan Lal[11] the Supreme Court of India has held that genuineness, reliability and credibility of the information is no ground to refuse to register the information.

To quote exact lines of the Supreme Court “it is, therefore manifestly clear that if any information disclosing a cognizable offence is laid down before an officer in-charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of section 154(1) of the code, the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form, that is to say, to register a case on the basis of such information.

Object of the First Information Report

In the case of Habib v State of Bihar[12], the court said that the principle object of the first information report from the point of view of the information is to set the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the commission of a cognizable offence with a view to take suitable steps for tracing and bringing to book the offender.

In the case of P.Sirajuddin v State of Madras[13] it has been held that another equally important object of recording of the  first information report is to obtain an early information of an alleged offence from the informant and to put into writing the statement before his memory fails or before he gets the time and opportunity to embellish it. The information so obtained is very important for the accused also inasmuch as he is entitled to know what were the facts stated immediately after the occurrence to connect him with the crime. It safeguards him against subsequent variations, additions and alterations.

Nature and scope of section 154 CrPC

The first information report is the first version of commission of a cognizable offence and on the basis of which investigation is commenced by the Police[14]. In the case of Surjit singh v State of Punjab[15] the Supreme Court said, “It is not an encyclopaedia of the entire case and it is, therefore not necessary that such information may be give by an eye-witness. It may be hearsay also”. Any person may provide such information to an officer-in-charge of a police station. In the case of Kishan Chand v State of Rajasthan[16] the Supreme Court held that an FIR need be in writing nor against a named person, even a telephonic message if it discloses a cognizable offence may constitute first information report. In a subsequent case of State of A.P. v Punati Ravulu[17] the Supreme Court has said that refusal to record information is declaration of duty by the police officer.

It should not however be forgotten that such information must disclose a cognizable offence. A vague, indefinite or unauthorised piece of information cannot be regarded as first information merely because it was received first in point of time. Likewise an unclear message over the phone simply stating that a person is lying dead on the road does not amount First information report.[18]

Requirements for an FIR under section 154 of CrPC.-

  1. The information must have been given to the officer in-charge of a police station.
  2. Such information must relate to commission of an offence
  3. It must have been the earliest report to the commission of a crime on the basis of which investigation would have commenced.
  4. It must be in writing or be reduced in writing (if oral) and must be signed by the informant.
  5. The information reduced in writing must be read out to the informant and a copy thereof should be given to the informant forthwith free of cost.
  6. The substance of the information must be entered in a book called station directory or general directory.

CONTENTS OF FIR

In the case of Hem Raj v State of Punjab[19] the Supreme Court has said that the section 154 of CrPC. requires an information of a cognizable offence to set the investigation machinery into action. First Information Report may or may not contain all details and particulars as to incident. It is sufficient if it indicates commission of a crime so as to enable police to start an investigation. Elaborate account of everything what had happened is not necessary. In the case of State of U.P. v Harbans Rai[20] the Supreme Court said that FIR is neither Magna Carta nor encyclopaedia nor chronicle of the exhaustive details of the occurrence, nor catalogue of every minute particular of the event.

The word information means something in the nature of a complaint or accusation, or at least information of a crime, given with the object of putting the police in motion in order to investigate, as distinguished from information obtained by the police when actively investigating a crime as has been held in the case of Gansa Oraon v King -Emperor[21]. First information report is supposed to contain details of the incident. It however, must contain necessary ingredients of offence as it is the basis on which the police starts investigation. It is sufficient if it indicates that an offence had been committed as stated in the case of ramnath v state of M.P[22].

Information received from the dead body in a hospital, by the police is not treated as FIR. Thus the law is well settled and very clear that a report which discloses the commission of a cognizable offence must be treated as the first information report under section 154 of CrPC. It does not matter whether the person lodging the FIR has witnessed the commission of the offence or not, nor is it necessary that the details should be mentioned in the report about the manner of occurrence, the participants in the crime, the time and place of occurrence etc. The requirements of section 154 CrPC. is only this that the report must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence and that is sufficient to set the investigation machinery in action.

A vague information about the commission of murder given to the police, without disclosing as to who was murdered or facts and circumstances leading  to the commission of the murder to police, without disclosing as to who was murdered or facts and circumstances leading to the commission of the murder was not treated FIR. Where the contents of FIR are cryptic, and does not disclose the commission of a cognizable offence, it is no FIR.

Entry in the police station diary just in point of time but no particulars of the offence given, cannot be treated as FIR. It is not necessary that the FIR should disclose all the ingredients of a cognizable offence. Even if a wrong section is mentioned in the FIR that does not prevent the court from framing appropriate charges. When the element of misrepresentation to the person who was induced to act on it is absent in the FIR. Court can interfere with the investigation.

It is manifest that an FIR is not intended to be a very detailed and is meant to give only the substance of the allegations made and therefore, the absence of the mention of a lathi in FIR would not put the prosecution case out of the court as has been held in the case of State of U.P. v Vallabh Das[23]. Mere information on the police about the burning of the complaint’s shed without stating as how the shed caught fire and who had set it on fire does not amount to first information report. FIR is not a chronicle of the exhaustive details of the occurrence, nor is it a catalogue of everything including minor particulars of the events which took place.

Critical Study of Section 154 of CrPC

Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence… shall be reduced to writing- A careful and accurate record of the first information has always been considered as a matter of the highest importance by the courts in India, the object of the first information being to show what was the manner in which the occurrence was related when the case was first started. The Supreme Court has held that the first information report is not substantive evidence, it cannot be preferred to the evidence given by the witness in court. However it can be used to corroborate or impeach the testimony of the person lodging it under section 145, 157 and 158 of the evidence act. It can also be used under section 32(1) and section 8 (j) and (k) of the evidence act.

The condition which is sine qua non for recording a FIR is that there must be an information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence. If any information disclosing a cognizable offence is laid before an officer – in – charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of section 154(1) the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form, that is to say, to register a case on the basis of such information. Where an FIR relating to a cognizable offence is filed, the officer in-charge of the police station is bound to register the same, he cannot refuse to register the FIR because there has been some inquiry. The provision of section 154 of the code is mandatory and the concerned officer is duty bound to register the case on the basis of an information disclosing cognizable offence, the police officer is bound to register it as FIR, he cannot refuse to register merely because the police officials have conducted the preliminary enquiry earlier and no substance was found in the complaint. The non- registration of FIR by the police officer is dereliction of statutory duty enjoined upon him. Where an information regarding cognizable offence is received and record the same and to act as per provision of section 154(1) he has no discretion in the matter. When information about cognizable offence is received, the police official is duty bound to record at as FIR under section 154 and then to hold investigation in the said offence. Where on the basis of information given by the witness FIR being hit by section 162.

An information relating to the prospect of suspicion of commission of a cognizable offence where it lacks authentic source cannot be called as FIR. A statement made by a witness during investigation after the police – officer has actually arrived at the scene and himself seen what has happened, is not “first information”. A written complaint sent by the petitioner to the commissioner of police alleging commission of an offence by the police officers, where the allegations were specific and replete with requisite information was treated as FIR as has been held in the case of Sudhir M. Vora v Commissioner of police for Greater Bombay[24].

The receipt and recording of an FIR is not a condition precedent to the setting in motion by the police of a criminal investigation, who may of their own motion undertake an investigation into the truth of matters alleged. It is not a requirement of this section that the person giving the information should have personal knowledge of the incident. If the names of the accused are not mentioned in the first information report, the inference arising from the fact will vary under circumstances of each case. It is not the requirement of law that FIR can be filed only by an eye- witness or the informant must have personal knowledge. Any person possessing knowledge of the commission of a cognizable offence by any person known or unknown can set the machinery of criminal law into motion by filing an FIR. Where first information report regarding a non-cognizable is filed with the magistrate and the with the magistrate and the magistrate decides not to take cognizance of an offence or drop proceedings against the some persons mentioned in the FIR, he must give a notice and hear the first informant before taking such a decision. The first information report should receive a liberal construction and not hair-splitting technicalities as sometimes allegations made in the first information report are expressed in words which may not expressly make out a case in accordance with the strict interpretation of law. In such a case, it is the duty of the court to ascertain the substance of the allegations made in the report.

In the case of N.Thirumoorthi v state[25] The mere fact that the FIR was scribed by another person and signed by the victim as grievously injured, he was admitted in the hospital and having treatment as in- patient, would not lead the court to hold that the informant had not lodged FIR.

The substance thereof shall be entered in a book etc- only the substance of information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence is to be entered in a book to be kept at every police station in such form as the state government may prescribe. This book is known as a “General Diary”. It is called a “Station Diary” or a “Station House Register”.

 The Magistrate of the district is at liberty to call for and inspect such diary.    

Lalita Kumari v Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

Citation- (2014) 2 SCC 1

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

The important issue which arises for consideration in the referred matter is 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?

FACTS: The present writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution, has been filed by one Lalita Kumari (minor) through her father, viz., Shri Bhola Kamat for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus or direction(s) of like nature against the respondents herein for the protection of his minor daughter who has been kidnapped. The grievance in the said writ petition is that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted by the petitioner before the officer in-charge of the police station concerned who did not take any action on the same. Thereafter, when the Superintendent of Police was moved, an FIR was registered. According to the petitioner, even thereafter, steps were not taken either for apprehending the accused or for the recovery of the minor girl child.

A two-Judge Bench of this Court in, Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. (2008) 7 SCC 164, after noticing the disparity in registration of FIRs by police officers on case to case basis across the country, issued notice to the Union of India, the Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories and Director Generals of Police/Commissioners of Police to the effect that if steps are not taken for registration of FIRs immediately and the copies thereof are not handed over to the complainants, they may move the Magistrates concerned by filing complaint petitions for appropriate direction(s) to the police to register the case immediately and for apprehending the accused persons, failing which, contempt proceedings must be initiated against such delinquent police officers if no sufficient cause is shown.

Pursuant to the above directions, when the matter was heard by the very same Bench in Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. (2008) 14 SCC 337, Mr. S.B. Upadhyay, learned senior counsel for the petitioner, projected his claim 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 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335, Ramesh Kumari vs. State (NCT of Delhi) (2006) 2 SCC 677 and Parkash Singh Badal vs. State of Punjab (2007) 1 SCC 1. On the other hand, Mr. Shekhar Naphade, learned senior counsel for the State of Maharashtra submitted 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 (1970) 1 SCC 595, Sevi vs. State of Tamil Nadu 1981 Supp SCC 43, Shashikant vs. Central Bureau of Investigation (2007) 1 SCC 630, and Rajinder Singh Katoch vs. Chandigarh Admn. (2007) 10 SCC 69. In view of the conflicting decisions of this Court on the issue, the said bench, vide order dated 16.09.2008, referred the same to a larger bench.

Ensuing compliance to the above direction, the matter pertaining to Lalita Kumari was heard by a Bench of three-Judges in Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. (2012) 4 SCC 1 wherein, this Court, after hearing various counsel representing Union of India, States and Union Territories and also after adverting to all the conflicting decisions extensively, referred the matter to a Constitution Bench while concluding as under:-

We have carefully analysed various judgments delivered by this Court in the last several decades. We clearly discern divergent judicial opinions of this Court on the main issue: whether under Section 154 CrPC, a police officer is bound to register an FIR when a cognizable offence is made out or he (police officer) has an option, discretion or latitude of conducting some kind of preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR.

The learned counsel appearing for the Union of India and different States have expressed totally divergent views even before this Court. This Court also carved out a special category in the case of medical doctors in the aforementioned cases of Santosh Kumar and Suresh Gupta where preliminary inquiry had been postulated before registering an FIR. Some counsel also submitted that the CBI Manual also envisages some kind of preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR.

The issue which has arisen for consideration in these cases is of great public importance. In view of the divergent opinions in a large number of cases decided by this Court, it has become extremely important to have a clear enunciation of law and adjudication by a larger Bench of this Court for the benefit of all concerned the courts, the investigating agencies and the citizens.

Consequently, we request the Hon’ble the Chief Justice to refer these matters to a Constitution Bench of at least five Judges of this Court for an authoritative judgment.

Contention of the advocates

At the foremost, Mr. S.B. Upadhyay, learned senior counsel, while explaining the conditions mentioned in Section 154 submitted that Section 154(1) is mandatory as the use of the word “shall” is indicative of the statutory intent of the legislature. He also contended that there is no discretion left to the police officer except to register an FIR. He further draw attention to the language used in Section 154(1) of the Code, contended that it merely mentions information without prefixing the words reasonable or credible.

Dr. Ashok Dhamija, learned counsel for the CBI, submitted that the use of the word “shall” under Section 154(1) of the Code clearly mandates that if the information given to a police officer relates to the commission of a cognizable offence, then it is mandatory for him to register the offence. According to learned counsel, in such circumstances, there is no option or discretion given to the police. He further contended that the word “shall” clearly implies a mandate and is unmistakably indicative of the statutory intent. What is necessary, according to him, is only that the information given to the police must disclose commission of a cognizable offence. He also contended that Section 154 of the Code uses the word “information” simplifier and does not use the qualified words such as “credible information” or “reasonable complaint”. Thus, the intention of the Parliament is unequivocally clear from the language employed that a mere information relating to commission of a cognizable offence is sufficient to register an FIR.

Dr. Manish Singhvi, learned Additional Advocate General for the State of Rajasthan, submitted that Section 154(1) of the Code mandates compulsory registration of FIR. He also highlighted various safeguards inbuilt in the Code for lodging of false FIRs. He also pointed out that the only exception relates to cases arising under the Prevention of Corruption Act as, in those cases, sanction is necessary before taking cognizance by the Magistrates and the public servants are accorded some kind of protection so that vexatious cases cannot be filed to harass them.

 Mr. G. Sivabalamurugan, learned counsel for the appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 1410 of 2011, after tracing the earlier history, viz., the relevant provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1861, 1872, 1882 and 1898 stressed as to why the compulsory registration of FIR is mandatory. He also highlighted the recommendations of the Report of the 41st Law Commission and insertion of Section 13 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 with effect from 03.02.2013.

Mr. R.K. Dash, learned senior counsel appearing for the State of Uttar Pradesh, though initially commenced his arguments by asserting that in order to check unnecessary harassment to innocent persons at the behest of unscrupulous complainants, it is desirable that a preliminary inquiry into the allegations should precede with the registration of FIR but subsequently after considering the salient features of the Code, various provisions like Sections 2(4) (h), 156(1), 202(1), 164, various provisions from the U.P. Police Regulations, learned senior counsel contended that in no case recording of FIR should be deferred till verification of its truth or otherwise in case of information relating to a cognizable offence. Finally, he concluded that when the statutory provisions, as envisaged in Chapter XII of the Code, are clear and unambiguous, it would not be legally permissible to allow the police to make a preliminary inquiry into the allegations before registering an FIR under Section 154 of the Code.

Mr. Sidharth Luthra, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the State of Chhattisgarh, commenced his arguments by emphasizing the scope of reference before the Constitution Bench. Subsequently, he elaborated on various judgments which held that an investigating officer, on receiving information of commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the Code, has power to conduct preliminary inquiry before registration of FIR, viz., Bhagwant Kishore Joshi (supra), P. Sirajuddin (supra), Sevi (supra) and Rajinder Singh Katoch (supra). Concurrently, he also brought to our notice the following decisions, viz., Bhajan Lal (supra), Ramesh Kumari (supra), Parkash Singh Badal (supra), and Aleque Padamsee (supra), which held that a police officer is duty bound to register an FIR, upon receipt of information disclosing commission of a cognizable offence and the power of preliminary inquiry does not exist under the mandate of Section 154. Learned ASG has put forth a comparative analysis of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 and of 1973. He also highlighted that every activity which occurs in a police station [Section 2(s)] is entered in a diary maintained at the police station which may be called as the General Diary, Station Diary or Daily Diary. He underlined the relevance of General Diary by referring to various judicial decisions such as Tapan Kumar Singh (supra), Re: Subbaratnam & Ors. AIR 1949 Madras 663. He further pointed out that, presently, throughout the country, in matrimonial, commercial, medical negligence and corruption related offences, there exist provisions for conducting an inquiry or preliminary inquiry by the police, without/before registering an FIR under Section 154 of the Code. He also brought to our notice various police rules prevailing in the States of Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P., Madhya Pradesh, Kolkata, Bombay, etc., for conducting an inquiry before registering an FIR.

Mr. Shekhar Naphade, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Maharashtra, submitted that ordinarily the Station House Officer (SHO) should record an FIR upon receiving a complaint disclosing the ingredients of a cognizable offence, but in certain situations, in case of doubt about the correctness or credibility of the information, he should have the discretion of holding a preliminary inquiry and thereafter, if he is satisfied that there is a prima facie case for investigation, register the FIR. A mandatory duty of registering FIR should not be cast upon him. According to him, this interpretation would harmonize two extreme positions, viz., the proposition that the moment the complaint disclosing ingredients of a cognizable offence is lodged, the police officer must register an FIR without any scrutiny whatsoever is an extreme proposition and is contrary to the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, similarly, the other extreme point of view is that the police officer must investigate the case substantially before registering an FIR. Accordingly, he pointed out that both must be rejected and a middle path must be chosen. He also submitted that before registering an FIR under Section 154 of the Code, it is open to the police officer to hold a preliminary inquiry to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case of commission of a cognizable offence or not.

Learned senior counsel pleaded that in the light of Article 21, provisions of Section 154 of the Code must be read down to mean that before registering an FIR, the police officer must be satisfied that there is a prima facie case for investigation. He also emphasized that Section 154 contains implied power of the police officer to hold preliminary inquiry if he bona fide possess serious doubts about the credibility of the information given to him.

, Mr. Naphade emphasized that in appropriate cases, it would be proper for a police officer, on receipt of a complaint of a cognizable offence, to satisfy himself that at least prima facie allegations levelled against the accused in the complaint are credible. He also contended that no single provision of a statute can be read and interpreted in isolation, but the statute must be read as a whole.

He further pointed out that it is impossible to put the provisions of Section 154 of the Code in a straightjacket formula. He also prayed for framing of some guidelines as regards registration or non-registration of FIR. Finally, he pointed out that the requirement of Article 21 is that the procedure should be fair and just. According to him, if the police officer has doubts in the matter, it is imperative that he should have the discretion of holding a preliminary inquiry in the matter. If he is debarred from holding such a preliminary inquiry, the procedure would then suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and unreasonableness. Thus, he concluded his arguments by pleading that Section 154 of the Code must be interpreted in the light of Article 21.

Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, learned senior counsel appearing for the State of Madhya Pradesh submitted that a plain reading of Section 154 and other provisions of the Code shows that it may not be mandatory but is absolutely obligatory on the part of the police officer to register an FIR prior to taking any steps or conducting investigation into a cognizable offence. She further pointed out that after receiving the first information of an offence and prior to the registration of the said report (whether oral or written) in the First Information Book maintained at the police station under various State Government regulations, only some preliminary inquiry or investigative steps are permissible under the statutory framework of the Code to the extent as is justifiable and is within the window of statutory discretion granted strictly for the purpose of ascertaining whether there has been a commission or not of a cognizable offence.

Issues

The issues before the Constitution Bench of this Court arise out of two main conflicting areas of concern, viz.,

(i) Whether the immediate non-registration of FIR leads to scope for manipulation by the police which affects the right of the victim/complainant to have a complaint immediately investigated upon allegations being made; and

(ii) Whether in cases where the complaint/information does not clearly disclose the commission of a cognizable offence but the FIR is compulsorily registered then does it infringe the rights of an accused.

Discussion

The FIR is a pertinent document in the criminal law procedure of our country and its main object from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps to trace and to bring to book the guilty.

Historical experience has thrown up cases from both the sides where the grievance of the victim/informant of non-registration of valid FIRs as well as that of the accused of being unnecessarily harassed and investigated upon false charges have been found to be correct.

In order to arrive at a conclusion in the light of divergent views on the point and also to answer the above contentions, it is pertinent to have a look at the historical background of the Section and corresponding provisions that existed in the previous enactments of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1861 “139. Every complaint or information preferred to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced into writing and the substance thereof shall be entered in a diary to be kept by such officer, in such form as shall be prescribed by the local government. Every complaint preferred to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced into writing, and shall be signed, sealed or marked by the person making it; and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in the form prescribed by the local government. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1882 “154. Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him, or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such form as the government may prescribe in this behalf Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the Government may prescribe in this behalf. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 Information in cognizable cases: 1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, it given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

The legal mandate enshrined in Section 154(1) is that every information relating to the commission of a “cognizable offence” (as defined Under Section 2(c) of the Code) if given orally (in which case it is to be reduced into writing) or in writing to “an officer incharge of a police station” (within the meaning of Section 2(o) of the Code) and signed by the informant should be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe which form is commonly called as “First Information Report” and which act of entering the information in the said form is known as registration of a crime or a case.

 At the stage of registration of a crime or a case on the basis of the information disclosing a cognizable offence in compliance with the mandate of Section 154(1) of the Code, the concerned police officer cannot embark upon an inquiry as to whether the information, laid by the informant is reliable and genuine or otherwise and refuse to register a case on the ground that the information is not reliable or credible. On the other hand, the officer in charge of a police station is statutorily obliged to register a case and then to proceed with the investigation if he has reason to suspect the commission of an offence which he is empowered under Section 156 of the Code to investigate, subject to the proviso to Section 157.

Be it noted that in Section 154(1) of the Code, the legislature in its collective wisdom has carefully and cautiously used the expression “information” without qualifying the same as in Section 41(1)(a) or (g) of the Code wherein the expressions, “reasonable complaint” and “credible information” are used. Evidently, the non- qualification of the word “information” in Section 154(1) unlike in Section 41(1)(a) and (g) of the Code may be for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record an information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence and to register a case thereon on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or credibility of the information. In other words, “reasonableness” or “credibility” of the said information is not a condition precedent for registration of a case. A comparison of the present Section 154 with those of the earlier Codes will indicate that the legislature had purposely thought it fit to employ only the word “information” without qualifying the said word. Section 139 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1861 (Act 25 of 1861) passed by the Legislative Council of India read that “every complaint or information” preferred to an officer in charge of a police station should be reduced into writing which provision was subsequently modified by Section 112 of the Code of 1872 (Act 10 of 1872) which thereafter read that “every complaint” preferred to an officer in charge of a police station shall be reduced in writing. The word “complaint” which occurred in previous two Codes of 1861 and 1872 was deleted and in that place the word “information” was used in the Codes of 1882 and 1898 which word is now used in Sections 154, 155, 157 and 190(c) of the present Code of 1973 (Act 2 of 1974). An overall reading of all the Codes makes it clear that the condition which is sine qua non for recording a first information report is that there must be information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence.

Consequently, the condition that is sine qua non for recording an FIR under Section 154 of the Code is that there must be information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence. If any information disclosing a cognizable offence is led before an officer in charge of the police station satisfying the requirement of Section 154(1), the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form, that is to say, to register a case on the basis of such information. The provision of Section 154 of the Code is mandatory and the concerned officer is duty bound to register the case on the basis of information disclosing a cognizable offence. Thus, the plain words of Section 154(1) of the Code have to be given their literal meaning.

The use of the word “shall” in Section 154(1) of the Code clearly shows the legislative intent that it is mandatory to register an FIR if the information given to the police discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.

Citing the case of   Khub Chand, this Court observed as under:

The term “shall” in its ordinary significance is mandatory and the court shall ordinarily give that interpretation to that term unless such an interpretation leads to some absurd or inconvenient consequence or be at variance with the intent of the legislature, to be collected from other parts of the Act. The construction of the said expression depends on the provisions of a particular Act, the setting in which the expression appears, the object for which the direction is given, the consequences that would flow from the infringement of the direction and such other considerations…

 It is relevant to mention that the object of using the word “shall” in the context of Section 154(1) of the Code is to ensure that all information relating to all cognizable offences is promptly registered by the police and investigated in accordance with the provisions of law.

Therefore, the context in which the word “shall” appears in Section 154(1) of the Code, the object for which it has been used and the consequences that will follow from the infringement of the direction to register FIRs, all these factors clearly show that the word “shall” used in Section 154(1) needs to be given its ordinary meaning of being of “mandatory” character.

The legislature has consciously used the expression “information” in Section 154(1) of the Code as against the expression used in Section 41(1)(a) and (g) where the expression used for arresting a person without warrant is “reasonable complaint” or “credible information”. The expression under Section 154(1) of the Code is not qualified by the prefix “reasonable” or “credible”. The non qualification of the word “information” in Section 154(1) unlike in Section 41(1) (a) and (g) of the Code is for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or credibility of the information. In other words, reasonableness or credibility of the said information is not a condition precedent for the registration of a case.

The above view has been expressed by this Court in Bhajan Lal (supra) which is as under:-

In Section 154(1) of the Code, the legislature in its collective wisdom has carefully and cautiously used the expression “information” without qualifying the same as in Section 41(1) (a) or

(g) Of the Code wherein the expressions, “reasonable complaint” and “credible information” are used. Evidently, the non-qualification of the word “information” in Section 154(1) unlike in Section 41(1) (a) and (g) of the Code may be for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record an information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence and to register a case thereon on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or credibility of the information. In other words, “reasonableness” or “credibility” of the said information is not a condition precedent for registration of a case. A comparison of the present Section 154 with those of the earlier Codes will indicate that the legislature had purposely thought it fit to employ only the word “information” At the stage of registration of a crime or a case on the basis of the information disclosing a cognizable offence in compliance with the mandate of Section 154(1) of the Code, the police officer concerned cannot embark upon an inquiry as to whether the information laid by the informant is reliable and genuine or otherwise and refuse to register a case on the ground that the information is not reliable or credible. On the other hand, the officer in charge of a police station is statutorily obliged to register a case and then to proceed with the investigation if he has reason to suspect the commission of an offence which he is empowered under Section 156 of the Code to investigate, subject to the proviso to Section 157 thereof. In case an officer in charge of a police station refuses to exercise the jurisdiction vested in him and to register a case on the information of a cognizable offence reported and thereby violates the statutory duty cast upon him, the person aggrieved by such refusal can send the substance of the information in writing and by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned who if satisfied that the information forwarded to him discloses a cognizable offence, should either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him in the manner provided by sub- section (3) of Section 154 of the Code without qualifying the said word.

In other words, “reasonableness” or “credibility” of the said information is not a condition precedent for registration of a case. A comparison of the present Section 154 with those of the earlier Codes will indicate that the legislature had purposely thought it fit to employ only the word “information” without qualifying the said word.

An overall reading of all the Codes makes it clear that the condition which is sine qua non for recording a first information report is that there must be an information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence.

It is, therefore, manifestly clear that if any information disclosing a cognizable offence is laid before an officer in charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of Section 154(1) of the Code, the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form, that is to say, to register a case on the basis of such information.

Significance and Compelling reasons for registration of FIR at the earliest

 The object sought to be achieved by registering the earliest information as FIR is inter alia two-fold: one, that the criminal process is set into motion and is well documented from the very start; and second, that the earliest information received in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence is recorded so that there cannot be any embellishment etc., later.

What is of significance is that the information given must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence and the information so lodged must provide a basis for the police officer to suspect the commission of a cognizable offence. At this stage it is enough if the police officer on the basis of the information given suspects the commission of a cognizable offence, and not that he must be convinced or satisfied that a cognizable offence has been committed. If he has reasons to suspect, on the basis of information received, that a cognizable offence may have been committed, he is bound to record the information and conduct an investigation. At this stage it is also not necessary for him to satisfy himself about the truthfulness of the information. It is only after a complete investigation that he may be able to report on the truthfulness or otherwise of the information. Similarly, even if the information does not furnish all the details he must find out those details in the course of investigation and collect all the necessary evidence. The information given disclosing the commission of a cognizable offence only sets in motion the investigative machinery, with a view to collect all necessary evidence, and thereafter to take action in accordance with law. The true test is whether the information furnished provides a reason to suspect the commission of an offence, which the police officer concerned is empowered under Section 156 of the Code to investigate.

The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System headed by Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath also noticed The Committee observed:-

According to the Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the office incharge of a police station is mandated to register every information oral or written relating to the commission of a cognizable offence. Non-registration of cases is a serious complaint against the police.  

The Committee recommends that all complaints should be registered promptly, failing which appropriate action should be taken. This would necessitate change in the mindset of the political executive and that of senior officers. There are two more aspects relating to registration. The first is minimization of offences by the police by way of not invoking appropriate sections of law. We disapprove of this tendency. Appropriate sections of law should be invoked in each case unmindful of the gravity of offences involved. The second issue is relating to the registration of written complaints. There is an increasing tendency amongst the police station officers to advise the informants, who come to give oral complaints, to bring written complaints. This is wrong. Registration is delayed resulting in valuable loss of time in launching the investigation and apprehension of criminals. Besides, the complainant gets an opportunity to consult his friends, relatives and sometimes even lawyers and often tends to exaggerate the crime and implicate innocent persons. This eventually has adverse effect at the trial. The information should be reduced in writing by the SH, if given orally, without any loss of time so that the first version of the alleged crime comes on record.

Direction

In view of the aforesaid discussion, it was held:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. iv) The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:
  4. a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
  5. b) Commercial offences
  6. c) Medical negligence cases
  7. d) Corruption cases
  8. e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 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.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, in view of various counter claims regarding registration or non-registration, what is necessary is only that the information given to the police must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence. In such a situation, registration of an FIR is mandatory. However, 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. But, if the information given clearly mentions the commission of a cognizable offence, there is no other option but to register an FIR forthwith. Other considerations are not relevant at the stage of registration of FIR, such as, whether the information is falsely given, whether the information is genuine, whether the information is credible etc. These are the issues that have to be verified during the investigation of the FIR. At the stage of registration of FIR, what is to be seen is merely whether the information given ex facie discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. If, after investigation, the information given is found to be false, there is always an option to prosecute the complainant for filing a false FIR.

Edited by Amoolya Khurana

[1] Takwani, “Criminal Procedure”, ed.3, pg. 69  , lexis nexis student series.

[2] Tapinder singh v state of Punjab. AIR 1970 SC 1566.

[3] Suprintendent of Police,CBI v Tapan Kumar. AIR 2003 SC 4140

[4] AIR 2005 SC 1929

[5] AIR 1962 Raj 3

[6] AIR 1962 Ker 99.

[7]  1975 Cr LJ 354 (Gau).

[8] 1989 Cr LJ 1752.

[9] AIR 1962 Guj 218.

[10] Supra note 1.

[11] Air 1992 SC 604

[12] AIR 1972 SC 283

[13] AIR 1971 SC 520

[14] Supra note 1.

[15] AIR 1992 SC 1389.

[16] AIR 1982 SC 1511.

[17] AIR 1993 SC 2644.

[18] Supra note 1.

[19] AIR 2003 SC 4259.

[20] (1998) 6 SCC 50.

[21] (1932) 2 Pat.517.

[22] 1984 (1) crimes 61 (MP)

[23] AIR 1985 SC 1384.

[24] 2004 Crlj 2278.

[25] 2007 CrLJ (NOC) 959 (Mad.)

One Reply to “Registration of FIR in light of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of Uttar Pradesh”

  1. Everything is extremely interesting and very instructive to read. I am proud that India has progressed rapidly with the legal system.

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