CASE STUDY on Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of U.P. & Ors 2014 2SCC 1

FACTS OF THE CASE-

The petitioner, a minor girl was kidnapped by local goons. Her father, Bhola Kamat went to police station to lodge FIR which police refused. The father further went to the superintendent of police and under his direction a FIR was registered. But even then, investigation was not started and the police did not take any measure to nab the accused or recover the minor girl either.

Hence, a writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution by Lalita Kumari (minor) through her father for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus or directions of like nature for the protection of his daughter who has been kidnapped.

REASON FOR THE LAWSUIT-

The grievance of the petitioner is that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted to the officer in-charge of the police station who did not take any action on finding of minor kidnapped girl. Afterwards, FIR was registered by the Superintendent of Police and yet, no steps were taken by the police for apprehending the accused or for recovery of the girl. So, a writ petition in the form of Habeas Corpus is filed in the Supreme Court under Article- 32.

THE LOWER COURT’S DECISION-

In the 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 FIR 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 and Commissioners of Police to the effect that if steps are not taken for registration of FIRs immediately and the copies are not handed over to the complainants, they may move the Magistrates concerned by filing complaint petitions for appropriate direction to the police to register the case immediately and for apprehending the accused persons. On failing, contempt proceedings must be initiated against such delinquent police officers if no sufficient cause is shown.

In three-judge bench of the court –The court came across contradictory judgments on whether a police officer is bound to register FIR when he is informed of the commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of CrPC.

A cognizable offence is one where the police can make an arrest without a warrant. Section 154 of the CrPC – Information received on commission of cognizable offences needs to be treated. It includes offences such as murder, rape, dowry death, kidnapping, etc.

The question on the mandatory registration of FIR was then referred to a 5-judge bench. In this, Police officers cannot avoid their duty. The Supreme Court in the Lalita Kumari case framed guidelines to be followed by the police.

ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES-

Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner-

The Petitioner contended that upon receiving an information disclosing commission of a cognizable offence, it is imperative on part of the officer-in-charge of the police station to register a case under section 154 of CrPC. The use of word ‘Shall’ in Section 154(1) indicates that there is no discretion left to the police officer except to register the FIR. In support there are following cases like- B. Premanand v. Mohan Koikal, M/s Hiralal Rattanlal v.State of U.P. and Anr., and Govindlal Chhaganlal Patel v. Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Godhra and Ors.

Section 154(1) mentions the word ‘Information’ without prefixing the words ‘reasonable’ or ‘credible’ which indicates that genuineness or credibility of the information is not a condition precedent for registration of case. In case, State of Harayana v. Bhajan Lal- it has been held that if a complaint alleging commission of a cognizable offence is received in the police station, then the SHO has no other option but to register FIR under Section 154 of the Code.

Arguments on behalf of the Respondent-

The defendant contention was that the officer-in charge of the police station is not obliged under law to register a case on disclosure of commission of a cognizable offence, rather to hold a preliminary inquiry to check the veracity of the allegations made in the report. 

In many states, the registration of FIR is mandatory u/s 154 of the CrPC, if the information discloses a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is allowed in such situations. In States of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra contended that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the registration of FIR on the following basis-

The provisions of Section 154(1) must be read in the light of Articles 14, 19 and 21 which provides that no citizen shall be subjected to malicious prosecution and an innocent shall not be implicated in a criminal case.

The liberty of a citizen would be in jeopardy if a police officer proceeds to register FIR, despite not being satisfied about the commission of a cognizable offence. No single provision of a statute can be read and interpreted in isolation, but the statute must be read as a whole.

Section 154(3) enables the complainant to approach the Superintendent of Police to register the FIR if the same is refused by the officer in-charge of the police station. This indicates that the police officer is not bound to register the FIR if he has doubts about the veracity of the complaint.

The recording of FIR under Section-154 is done in entry in the General Diary maintained in police station. Therefore, information is a document at the earliest in the General Diary, then if any preliminary inquiry is needed, the police officer can conduct the same and the information is recorded as FIR. There are various safeguards provided in the Code against filing a false case.

ISSUE-

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 CrPC 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?

DECISION-

The FIR is a pertinent document that helps in setting the criminal law in motion and obtaining information about the alleged criminal activity. The first rule of interpretation of a statute is the literal rule of interpretation. The use of word ‘Shall’ in Section 154(1) of the Code clearly shows the legislative intent that it is mandatory to register FIR if the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. In this regard, reliance was placed on the observations in M/s Hiralal Rattanlal.

The word ‘complaint’ used in previous Codes of 1861 and 1872 was replaced by the word ‘information’ as it occurs in the present Code of 1973. Also, it is not prefixed by the words reasonable’ or ‘credible’ unlike Section 41(1)(a) or (g). This indicates that the only condition which is sine qua non for recording FIR is that there must be information disclosing a cognizable offence. In this regard, reliance was placed on Lallan Chaudhary v. State of Bihar.

A record in the General Diary u/s 44 of the Police Act, 1861 is not the fulfillment of the requirements of Section 154 of the Code.

In Madhu Bala v. Suresh Kumar, it was held that the registration of FIR must be done in FIR Book as General Diary contains only the substance of each FIR being registered at the police station.

It is also noted that in view of Article 254(1) of the Constitution, if there is any inconsistency between the laws made by the Parliament and the laws made by the State Legislatures, the former will prevail.

In Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P- no arrest can be made on a mere allegation of commission of an offence against a person. Also, police officer can be tried and punished u/s 166 for misusing his power of arrest. Therefore, Section 154 of the Code is not in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

As it is mandatory to register FIR on receipt of information about cognizable offence, yet, there may be instances where preliminary inquiry may be required, like-

In medical negligence case – Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab-no medical professional should be prosecuted merely on the basis of the allegations in the complaint. 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, the remedy available to an aggrieved person of approaching higher police officer, he can also move the concerned Magistrate by making a complaint under Section 190.

In corruption case- P. Sirajuddin v. State of Madras- it has been held that 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, FIR is necessary.

GUIDELINES-

The Supreme Court gave guidelines –

1. Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section -154, if information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is to be done in such case.

2. If 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 there was a commission of a cognizable offence or not.

3. If unanimous complaint is lodged, it must first be put in the list of preliminary inquiry, if there is well found substance regarding commission of cognizable offence, then FIR is to be registered.

4. If there is a chance that a certain complaint could be false, preliminary inquiry is to be conducted.

5. If preliminary inquiry discloses commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, the copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant within 7 days disclosing the reason behind closing the case.

6. The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers.

7. Scope of preliminary inquiry is not to check veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether information received discloses commission of cognizable offence or not.

8. As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on facts and circumstances of each case. Preliminary inquiry must be done in cases like-

a.)matrimonial disputes or family disputes

b.)commercial offences

c.)medical negligence

d.)corruption cases

e.)cases where there is an abnormal delay or laches in reporting the matter.

9. While ensuring and protecting rights of accused and complainant, a preliminary inquiry must not exceed 7 days. In case of further delay, the reason behind the delay must be noted down in the General Diary. Cases where there is abnormal delay in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay, then the reason behind the delay must be noted down in the General Diary.

10. According to Section -44 of CrPC- Since general diary or station diary is the record of all information received in a police station, it is directed that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry must be meticulously noted in such diary. If preliminary inquiry is done, the reason behind doing so is to be noted.

The bench ruled that registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 CrPC. if the information received by the police discloses commission of a cognizable offence.

REASON-

FIR is the first information of a cognizable offence recorded by officer-in-charge of a police station. The information given to the Police Officer for registration of a case must be authentic and bona fide. FIR should not be result of rumour. FIR can be filed by-any aggrieved person or somebody on his behalf, or any person who is aware of the offence, or accused himself. It is not necessary for him to be the victim or an eye-witness. It is not essential for a FIR to be true, it can be a hearsay and need not necessarily be given by the person who has firsthand knowledge of the facts. FIR should be filed in the police station of area in whose jurisdiction the offence took place.

 FIR not being a substantive piece of evidence because it can be used as-

1)Used for Corroboration purposes.

2)For contradicting purpose the evidence of person giving the information is important.

 3)As an admission against the informer.

 4)To refresh former’s memory.

 5)To impeaching the credit of an informer.

 6)To prove the informer’s conduct.

 7)In order to establish identity of accused, witnesses & for fixing spot time as relevant facts.

The main legislative intent behind Section 154, is to ensure compulsory registration of FIR in case of a cognizable offence without conducting preliminary inquiry. Further, according to the provisions of section 154(1) of the code, reasonableness or credibility of the said information is not a condition precedent for the registration of a case. Accordingly, the right of the accused under Article 21 of the Constitution is protected if the FIR is registered first and then the investigation is conducted in accordance with the provisions of the law. The advantage of compulsory registration of FIR is not only to ensure transparency in the criminal justice delivery system but also to ensure judicial oversight.

There are various other compelling reasons for the compulsory registration of FIR. The objective of registering the earliest is necessary- 1) The criminal process is set into motion and is well documented from the very start and 2)The earliest information received in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence is recorded so that there cannot be any embellishment later.

The issue 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 launching the investigation. 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 adverse effect at the trial. The information should be reduced in writing by the SHO, if given orally, without any loss of time so that the first version of the alleged crime comes on record.

OBJECTIVE-

The objectives of filing FIR are-

(1) To reduce the substance of data of cognizable offence.

(2) To have it signed by the complainant if submitted in writing.

(3) To maintain a record of information of the cognizable offences committed.

(4) To initiate investigation on receipt of information of commission of cognizable offence.

(5) To inform Magistrate regarding the nature of the information received.

Accordingly, under the Code, actions of the police etc., are provided to be written and documented.

For example, Section 41(1)(b) of the Code, arrest memo along with the grounds has to be in writing mandatorily.

The police required to maintain several records including Case Diary which helps in documenting every information collected, spot visited and all the actions of the police officers so that their activities can be documented. Moreover, every information received relating to commission of a non-cognizable offence also has to be registered under Section 155 of the Code. The compulsory registration of FIR is not only to ensure transparency in the criminal justice delivery system but also to ensure ‘judicial oversight’.

The registration of FIR on Section 154 of the Code is obligatory.

a) It is the first step to ‘access to justice’ for a victim.

b) It upholds the ‘Rule of Law’.

c) It also facilitates swift investigation and sometimes even prevention of the crime.

d) It leads to less manipulation in criminal cases and lessens delayed FIR.

Sometimes the police twist facts to bring the case within the cognizable category even though it is non-cognizable, due to political or other pressures or corruption. This menace can be stopped by making it obligatory on the police officer to register every complaint received by him. Breach of this duty should become an offence punishable in law to prevent misuse of the power by the police officer. Therefore, to provide access to justice when there is commission of cognizable offence, registration of FIR by police officer is mandatory.

ANALYSIS-

This landmark case is on the mandatory registration of FIR by the police officer. In this case-Lalita kumari v govt. of UP, even after orders are passed by the concerned courts for registration of the case, the police did not take the necessary steps and when matters are brought to the notice of Superintendents of Police then only F.I.R are registered. In large number of cases investigations do not commence even after registration of F.I.R and in case like the present one, steps are not taken for recovery of the kidnapped person or apprehending the accused person with reasonable despatch.

On the other hand, there are innumerable cases, where F.I.Rs are registered immediately, copies are made over to the complainant on the same day, investigation proceeds with supersonic jet speed, immediate steps are taken for apprehending the accused and recovery of the kidnapped persons and the properties which were subject matter of theft or dacoity.The Police must register case immediately upon production of copy of the orders and make over copy of the F.I.R to the complainants, within 24 hours. The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System headed by Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath also noticed the plight faced by several people due to non-registration of FIRs and recommended that action should be taken against police officers who refuse to register such information and will be awarded stringent punishment.

According to the analysis, the number of FIRs not registered is approximately equivalent to the number of FIR actually registered. Keeping in view the NCRB figures that show that large number of FIRs are not registered every year, which is a clear violation of the rights of the victims of such a large number of crimes. Burking of crime leads to dilution of the rule of law in the short run; and also has a very negative impact on the of law in the long run since people stop having respect for rule of law. Thus, non-registration of such a large number of FIR leads to a definite lawlessness in the society.

Therefore, a delicate balance has to be maintained between the interest of the society and protecting the liberty of an individual. A balance has to be struck between speedy trial and fair trial and the principles of natural justice cannot be compromised with in order to achieve speedy dispensation of justice. Liberty of an individual has to be guarded by the law. Detention for even a single minute would amount to an invasion of liberty. According to this, protection of the interests of the poor is clearly one of the main objects of the Code. Making registration of information relating to commission of a cognizable offence mandatory would help the society, especially, the poor in rural and remote areas of the country. Therefore, the registration of FIR by police officer is mandatory.

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