Brief facts of the Case-
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.
A two-Judge Bench of this Court in, Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh [(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. 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 [(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.
Therefore, the only question before the Constitution Bench relates to the interpretation of Section 154 of the Code and incidentally to consider Sections 156 and 157 also.
Relevant Provisions- Sec-154,156,157, 166A, of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
Legal Issue- The issues before the Constitution Bench of this Court arise out of three main conflicting areas of concern, viz.,
(i) Whether the immediate non-registration of FIR leads to scope for manipulation by the police which affects the right of the victim/complainant to have a complaint immediately investigated upon allegations being made?
(ii) Whether in cases where the complaint/information does not clearly disclose the commission of a cognizable offence but the FIR is compulsorily registered then does it infringe the rights of an accused?
(iii) 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?
The Supreme Court gave following directions –
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 fifteen days generally and in exceptional cases, by giving adequate reasons, six weeks time is provided. 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.
Decision- Supreme Court With the above mentioned directions dispose of the reference made to them.