The police must compulsorily register the First Information Report on receiving a complaint if the information discloses a cognizable offence, and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation, the Supreme Court has ruled.
If the information does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, “a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognisable offence is disclosed or not,” said a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Desai, Ranjan Gogoi and S.A. Bobde.
Interpreting Section 154 of the Cr.PC, the Bench said it was mandatory for the police to register an FIR on receipt of a complaint. Since conflicting judgments had been given by courts on the issue, the matter was referred to the five-judge Bench for an authoritative ruling.
The Court in its judgement has ruled:
“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”.
In view of the aforesaid discussion, we hold:
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 do not 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
b) Commercial offences
c) Medical negligence cases
d) Corruption 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.
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.