The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it mandatory for the police to register an FIR immediately after a cognizable offence is reported to them, saying it was a must to ensure transparency in the criminal justice system.
Cognizable offences are those in which the police can suo motu register an FIR and don’t require a complaint to initiate action. These offences include crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and dacoity.
“It leads to less manipulation in criminal cases and lessens incidents of ‘ante-dates’ FIR or deliberately delayed FIR,” said a constitution bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, adding that action must be taken against those officers who don’t register FIRs even when information received by them reveals a cognizable offence.
The bench observed that burking (suppressing) of crimes, a prevalent practice among the police, was adversely impacting the rule of law.
“If a discretion, option or latitude is allowed to the police in the matter of registration of FIRs, it can have serious consequences on the public order situation and adversely affect the rights of victims, including violating their fundamental right to equality,” it observed.
It also set aside the contention of various state governments that a preliminary inquiry was necessary before registering an FIR to avoid frivolous cases. It said, “While registration of an FIR is mandatory, arrest of the accused immediately on registration of FIR is not mandatory. In fact, registration of FIR and arrest of an accused person are entirely different concepts under law, and there are several safeguards against arrest.”
The court, however, said that depending on the facts of a case, preliminary inquiry may be allowed in matrimonial disputes, commercial offences, and in medical negligence and corruption cases. Preliminary inquiry would also be done in cases, including those involving cognizable crimes, where there is an abnormal and unreasonable delay of over three months in reporting the matter to the police. Such an inquiry would be made time-bound, not exceeding seven days.
The court further said that the fact of a delayed complaint and the causes must be reflected in the general diary (GD) entry maintained at every police station.
The SC, however, said a preliminary inquiry should be conducted not to verify the reliability of the information but to ascertain whether a cognizable offence was disclosed or not. If the inquiry ended in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such a closure must be supplied to the complainant within a week and reasons for it must be furnished.
It said 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 GD and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected.