RAMESH KUMARI (Appellant)
STATE (N.C.T OF DELHI) AND OTHERS (Respondent)
Citation - ((2006) 2 SCC 677)
The appellant in this present appeal challenges before the Supreme Court the order dated 24.01.2002, passed by the division bench of the Delhi High Court. The main issue involved in this case is about the non-registration of a case, which was of a cognizable offence, filed by the appellant before the Station House Officer (SHO), Kapashera on 09.09.1997 and 13.09.1997. It is stated that the appellant was in possession of land and a stay order was granted by the HC protecting the possession of appellant on 14.08.1997 and was extended by another order dated 10.09.1997 in presence of the opposite side, however, the respondent in that suit broke open the lock and removed various articles on 09.09.1997 & 10.09.1997. Nevertheless, no case was registered by the concerned SHO, and thereafter the matter was brought before the notice of the Police Commissioner, which didn’t make any difference. This led the appellant to approach the Delhi HC to file a Criminal Writ Petition to which the Delhi HC stated that the appellant has filed a Contempt Petition, which was pending before the HC, and found it difficult to register a case based on the information filed by the appellant. Aggrieved by this decision of the Delhi HC, the appellant appealed before the Supreme Court of India.
The issues before the Supreme Court in this appeal were:
- Whether the officer in charge of a police station is statutorily obliged to register a case based on information disclosing cognizable offence under Section 154 of CrPc, 1973.
- Whether the police officer before the registration of a case of a cognizable offence can embark upon an enquiry on the reliability and genuineness of the information provided by the complainant.
- The grievance of the appellant in this instant appeal is that the concerned SHO nor the Police Commissioner registered a case in terms of the mandatory provisions of Sec.154(1) of the CrPc. If any information of a cognizable offence is laid before an officer in charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of Sec.154(1) of the Code, the said police officer has no alternative but to register a case based on such information. An officer who is in charge of a police station if refuses to exercise the jurisdiction vested in him and to register a case on the information of a cognizable offence reported thereby violates the statutory duty that is cast upon him. On such refusal, the aggrieved person can send the information in writing to the Superintendent of Police concerned who if is satisfied, should either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him in the manner prescribed by Sec.154(3) of the Code.
- The genuineness or credibility of the information can only be considered after the registration of the case and is not a condition precedent for the registration of a case. When a case is reported based on the information disclosing a cognizable offence, in compliance with the mandate of Sec.154(1) of the Code, the concerned police officer cannot enquire on the reliability and genuineness of the case and refuse to register a case on the ground that the information is not reliable or credible.
- Further, the HC blundered in law by dismissing the Criminal Writ Petition solely on the ground that the contempt petition was pending and that the appellant had an alternative remedy available. These grounds would be no substitute in law not to register a case when a citizen makes a complaint of a cognizable offence before the police officer.
- It is argued that the appellant has filed a Contempt Petition and is pending before the High Court. The HC found it difficult to direct register a case on the basis of the information filed by the appellant. The High Court also upheld that the appellant had an alternative remedy available and hence, approaching the HC through a criminal writ petition was justiciable.
- It is further argued by the respondent that the non-disposal of the contempt petition is due to the non-prosecution by the appellant, as she did not contest the case by appearing in court.
The Court relied on the case of State of Haryana and Ors. v. Bhajan Lal and Ors., ( 1 SCC 335), wherein the SC established the law that the police officer mandatorily registers a case on a complaint of a cognizable offence by the citizen under sec.154 of the Code and is no more res integra.
The Supreme Court held that the provision of Sec.154 of the CrPc is mandatory and the concerned officer is duty-bound to register the case on the basis of such information disclosing cognizable offence. In the interest of justice, the Court directed the CBI to register the case and investigate the matter since the CBI would be an appropriate authority to register a case and investigate. Since, the matter was pending from 1997, the CBI was directed to register the case and complete the investigation within a period of three months. In addition, the Apex Court requested the Delhi High Court to expedite the disposal of contempt petition in any event not later than three months.
ANALYSIS CUM CONCLUSION
Information is the first communication in any investigation process of a criminal case. Registration of FIR is a medium through which the state maintains a record of the commission of cognizable offences and takes effective actions to curb the same. For instance, after the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013, registration of rape cases has risen since this amendment made registration of rape cases mandatory and a police officer refusing to register such information is liable to punishment. A bare reading of the language applied in sec.154 shows the mandatory nature of the provision. Sec.154 (1) of the CrPC, 1973, states that an FIR can be registered in cognizable offences, which are those offences in which a police officer can arrest an accused without a warrant. In 2013, the SC in its landmark judgment of Lalita Kumari v. the State of UP held that the registration of FIR is mandatory if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offense and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. In Lallan Chaundhary v. State of Bihar, the SC held that sec.154 casts a statutory duty upon police officer to register the case, as disclosed in the complaint and then proceed with the investigation.
By making a small comparative study regarding the provision of mandatory reporting of cognizable offences to the police authorities, it is discovered that a similar provision to that of First Information Report is also found in neighboring countries like of Pakistan, Bangladesh, including Myanmar. In United States, locals can report crimes through the medium of the Internet and Telephonic Calls, and a written report is not a mandatory condition. Different crimes in the US have different ways of reporting the same thereby making it easier for people to communicate the same at the earliest possible way. In the United Kingdom, the UK police have an official website regarding the communication of crimes. Similar arrangements and measures can be taken up in India as well. It is equally important to take into consideration the increasing fake FIR’s that are being registered lately. We find that under sec.203 of IPC and Bangladesh Penal Code provides for punishment up to 2 years and fines for reporting fake crime reports. But with the gravity of harm caused to the accused, it has become important to scrutinize the provision and add stricter punishments for the same.
The majority of the people are unaware of the offences committed against them whether it is cognizable or non-cognizable offence. In such cases, it is not to expect everyone to know the procedure of sending the content of their complaint in writing since many of them are not literate and taking a third person’s help might lead to the loss of genuineness of the case reported. Here are a few of my suggestions cum recommendations in my regard-
- The Station House officer is to be instructed about his duty to register a complaint immediately on reporting of a cognizable offence. Awareness regarding filing of cognizable offences should also be flourished among the public with proper methods like that of posters and street plays.
- Procedure for registering of a complaint should be widely published and the format for the same should be made easy.
- The Police officer should abstain from pressuring the complainant to withdraw the complaint. If such a case is reported then higher officers should take action against such erring police officers.