A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on November 12, 2013, in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P, has held that registration of First Information Report (FIR) is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. 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.
A five-judge Constitution Bench comprising of then Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam and Justices B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi and S.A. Bobde passed the landmark decision while hearing an appeal filed by the appellant Lalita Kumari against the Government of UP through a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
The writ petition was filed by Lalita Kumari for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus or directions of like nature against the respondents for the protection of her daughter who had been kidnapped. The grievance of the petitioner was that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted by her before the officer-in-charge of the police station but the said officials did not take any action. Thereafter, when the Superintendent of Police was approached an FIR was registered. But no course had been taken by the police authorities to apprehend the accused or recover the kidnapped daughter.
Issue before the Court
Whether a police officer is bound to register an FIR upon receiving any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the police officer has the power to conduct a preliminary inquiry to test the veracity of such information before registering the same?
On the basis of the observations made by the Supreme Court, the court issued the following Guidelines regarding the registration of FIR:-
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
- 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.