"Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognisable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation," and, "If the information received does not disclose a cognisable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognisable offence is disclosed or not," the constitution bench said in its judgment.
The apex court constitution bench comprising Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice B.S. Chauhan, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.A. Bobde said action will be taken against the police officer who fails to register First Information Report (FIR) on the complaint of a cognisable offence.
"A perusal of the provisions manifests the legislative intent in both old codes and the new code for compulsory registration of FIR in a case of cognisable offence without conducting any preliminary inquiry," said Chief Justice Sathasivam, speaking for the bench.
The court direction came as it addressed the question whether "a police officer is bound to register a first information report (FIR) upon receiving any information relating to commission of a cognisable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 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?"
The question in reference was made by a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari in February 2012 in a matter relating to kidnapping of a minor girl in Uttar Pradesh.
Cognisable 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 warrant.
However, the court added a rider that if a complainant prima facie does not disclose a cognisable offence, then the investigating officer is entitled to conduct preliminary inquiry just to ascertain whether the complaint constitutes one.
Such a preliminary inquiry should be time-bound and not take more than one week.
The court clarified that preliminary inquiry can be conducted in certain matters only to determine if there was cognisable element in the complaint relating to matrimonial dispute/family dispute, commercial offences, cases of medical negligence, corruption cases and cases of abnormal delay in the lodging of the complaint.
The court clarified the list is illustrative and not exhaustive. 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 court said.
"If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognisable 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," the judgment said.
"The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognisable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognisable offence", the court said in its direction.
It further said 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 cognisable offence."
--IANS (Posted on 12-11-2013)