Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008, Contempt Petition (C) No. D26722 of 2008 in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008, S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 5986 of 2006, S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 5200 of 2009, Criminal Appeal No. 1410 of 2011 and Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2007. Case: Lalita Kumari Vs Govt. of U.P. and Ors.. Supreme Court

Case Number:Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008, Contempt Petition (C) No. D26722 of 2008 in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008, S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 5986 of 2006, S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 5200 of 2009, Criminal Appeal No. 1410 of 2011 and Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2007
Party Name:Lalita Kumari Vs Govt. of U.P. and Ors.
Judges:P. Sathasivam, C.J.I., Balbir Singh Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi and S.A. Bobde, JJ.
Issue:Prevention of Corruption Act; Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 - Section 13; Police Act, 1861 - Section 44; Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946; Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) - Sections 2, 2(4), 4(2), 5, 39, 41, 41(1), 55, 57, 91, 151, 154, 154(1), 154(2), 154(3), 155, 156, 156(1), 156(3), 157, 157(1), 158, 159, 160, 162, 1...
Judgement Date:November 12, 2013
Court:Supreme Court
 
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Judgment:

P. Sathasivam, C.J.I.

1. 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?"

2. 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.

3. A two-Judge Bench of this Court in, Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh and 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.

4. Pursuant to the above directions, when the matter was heard by the very same Bench in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh and 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 v. Bhajan Lal 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335, Ramesh Kumari v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2006) 2 SCC 677 and Parkash Singh Badal v. 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 v. State of Madras (1970) 1 SCC 595, Sevi v. State of Tamil Nadu 1981 Supp SCC 43, Shashikant v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2007) 1 SCC 630, and Rajinder Singh Katoch v. 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.

5. Ensuing compliance to the above direction, the matter pertaining to Lalita Kumari was heard by a Bench of three-Judges in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh and 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:

97. 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 Code of Criminal Procedure, 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.

98. 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.

99. 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.

100. 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.

6. Therefore, the only question before this Constitution Bench relates to the interpretation of Section 154 of the Code and incidentally to consider Sections 156 and 157 also.

7. Heard Mr. S.B. Upadhyay, learned senior counsel for the Petitioner, Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan, learned Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India, Mr. Sidharth Luthra, learned Additional Solicitor General for the State of Chhattisgarh, Mr. Shekhar Naphade, Mr. R.K. Dash, Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, learned senior counsel for the State of Maharashtra, U.P. and M.P. respectively, Mr. G. Sivabalamurugan, learned Counsel for the accused, Dr. Ashok Dhamija, learned Counsel for the CBI, Mr. Kalyan Bandopodhya, learned senior counsel for the State of West Bengal, Dr. Manish Singhvi, learned AAG for the State of Rajasthan and Mr. Sudarshan Singh Rawat.

8. In order to answer the main issue posed before this Bench, it is useful to refer the following Sections of the Code:

154. 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 Sub-section (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.

156. Police officer's power to investigate cognizable case. (1) Any officer in charge of a police station may, without the order of a Magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a Court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have power to inquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII.

(2) No proceeding of a police officer in any such case shall at any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one which such officer was not empowered under this section to investigate.

(3) Any Magistrate empowered under Section 190 may order such an investigation as above-mentioned.

157. Procedure for investigation: (1) If, from information received or otherwise, an officer in charge of a police station has reason to suspect the commission of an offence which he is empowered under Section 156 to investigate, he shall forthwith send a report of the same to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of such offence upon a police report and shall proceed in person, or shall depute one of his subordinate officers not being below such rank as the State Government may, by general or special order, prescribe in this behalf, to proceed, to the spot, to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and, if necessary, to take measures for the discovery and arrest of the offender:

Provided that-

(a) when information as to the commission of any such offence is given against any person by name and the case is not of a serious nature, the officer in charge of a police station need not proceed in person or depute a subordinate officer to make an investigation on the spot;

(b) if it appears to the officer in charge of a police station that there is no sufficient ground for entering on an investigation, he shall not investigate the case.

Provided further that in relation to an offence of rape, the recording of statement of the victim shall be conducted at the residence of the victim or in the place of her choice and as far as practicable by a woman police officer in the presence of her parents or guardian or near...

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