Criminal

Analyse whether the police has Powers to initiate preliminary Inquiry before Investigation.

Chapter XII of the CrPC carries the chapter heading “Information to the Police and their Powers to Investigate”.

The Chapter starts off with Section 154 carrying Section heading “Information in cognizable cases”. It declares that every information relating to a cognizable offence given to an officer in charge of the police station, if given orally, is to be reduced to writing and whether given in writing or reduced to writing it is to be signed by the informant. The key elements of Section 154 CrPC can be noticed. Information in relation to a cognizable offence reaching the officer in charge of a police station which is ordinarily understood as first information statement concerning cognizable offences sets the ball rolling so far as the police officer, in charge of a police station is concerned. The next provision to notice in the Chapter is Section 156. It provides that any officer in charge of a police station may without the order from a Magistrate investigate any cognizable offence within which a court, having jurisdiction over a local area within the limits of such station, would have the power to enquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII. In fact, Section 177 of the CrPC, which is the first Section in Chapter XIII dealing with jurisdiction of Criminal Courts Inquiries and Trial, proclaims that every offence shall ordinarily be enquired into and tried by a court within whose jurisdiction, the offence was committed. Thus, ordinarily, it is the Police Officer, within whose jurisdiction the cognizable offence is committed, would have the jurisdiction to investigate that offence. Section 178 onwards provide for the exceptions to Section 177 and we need not probe this matter further. Sub-section (2) declares the proceedings of police officer in a case of cognizable offence shall not in any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one which he was not empowered to investigate under the provision. Lastly, sub-section (3) provides that any Magistrate who is empowered under Section 190 may order such an investigation which the officer is to undertake under sub-section (1).

It is next relevant to notice Section 157 CrPC:

“157. Procedure for investigation preliminary inquiry.

(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.

(2) In each of the cases mentioned in clauses

(a) and (b) of the proviso to sub-section (1), the officer in charge of the police station shall state in his report his reasons for not fully complying with the requirements of that sub- section, and, in the case mentioned in clause (b) of the said proviso, the officer shall also forthwith notify to the informant, if any, in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government, the fact that he will not investigate the case or cause it to be investigated.”

 It comes under the section heading ’Procedure for investigation’.

The body of the Section can be split-up into the following parts –

(i) An officer in charge of a police station may from information received have reason to suspect the commission of an offence. He may also have reason to suspect the commission of cognizable offence not on the basis of any information but otherwise.

(ii) As far as information is concerned, it is clearly relatable to the information which has been provided to him within the meaning of Section 154. Cases where he acts on his own knowledge would be covered by the expression otherwise.

(iii) The offences must be an offence which he is empowered under Section 156 to investigate. We have noticed that a police officer is empowered to investigate a cognizable offence without an order of the Magistrate. As far as non-cognizable offence is concerned, he cannot investigate such offence without the order of the Magistrate having power to try or commit the case for trial.

(iv) However, a police officer who undertakes to investigate the matter is obliged to forthwith send a report of the same to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of an offence upon a police report. It is at once relevant to notice in the facts of this case that this indispensable element is not present. This is for the reason that under Section 32 of the Act, a Magistrate is not competent to take cognizance of the offences under Chapter IV of the Act upon a police report. At this juncture, we may notice Section 158 CrPC. It speaks about the manner of sending the report to the Magistrate under Section 157. It is a matter governed by a general or special order issued by the State Government. Quite clearly even Section 158 cannot apply in the case of a cognizable offence falling under Chapter IV of the Act for the reasons which we have adverted to. Section 159 enables the Magistrate on receiving such report to direct investigation or if he thinks fit at once to proceed or depute any Magistrate subordinate to him to proceed, to hold a preliminary inquiry or otherwise to dispose of the case in the manner provided in the Code.

It is clear that the purpose of Section 157 is to hold the police officer accountable to keep informed the Magistrate. It acts as an assurance that the reports are not tampered, and that the rights of the accused are sought to be secured. The purport of Section 159 is also to enable the Magistrate to exercise control over the investigation. All these aspects are irrelevant and out of bounds both for the police officer and the Magistrate in respect of an offence falling under chapter IV of the Act.

Section 160 refers to investigation under the Chapter, viz., Chapter XII.

Section 161 speaks about the examination of witnesses and how the statements are to be reduced to writing. Again, Section 161 speaks about an investigation carried out under Chapter XII. The use to which statements under Section 161 can be put and the limitation on the same are spelt out in Section 162 CrPC. Reverting back to Section 157, we have taken note of the requirement about the police officer reporting to the Magistrate about the reason to suspect entertained by the police officer about the commission of a cognizable offence on which the Magistrate is to take cognizance on a report. Be it remembered that the Magistrate can take cognizance under Section 190 of the CrPC on a complaint, a police report or information received from any person other than a police officer or otherwise.

Section 157 appears to contemplate information received under Section 154 or knowledge gained otherwise about the commission of a cognizance offence clothing the police officer with the power to investigate leading to the sending of the report to the Magistrate being confined to cases where officer intends to send the police report which has been defined as the report under Section 173 of the CrPC. Section 157 contemplates that the Officer proceeding either by himself or through his subordinate Officer to investigate the facts and circumstances, and if necessary, to take measures for the discovery and the arrest of the offender. But on reading the provisions, we gather the unmistakable impression that the law giver has empowered the police officer to investigate in the case of a cognizable offence without any order of the Magistrate where he ultimately in an appropriate case wishes the Court to take cognizance based on the material he gathers and transmits a police report. If this impression of ours is not flawed, an inevitable corollary would be that in the case of offence under Chapter IV of the Act though it be cognizable, a police officer would not have the power to investigate the matter. Section 169 speaks about the duty to release a person in custody if it is found on investigation that there is no sufficient evidence or reasonable ground of suspicion to justify forwarding such person to the Magistrate. Section 170 deals with cases where an officer conducting investigation finds sufficient evidence or reasonable ground and the accused is forwarded to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence upon a report. Again, the cardinal requirement for the officer to invoke Section 170 is availability of power with the Magistrate to take cognizance upon a police report. This key requirement is absent in the case of an offence falling under Chapter IV of the Act. The link therefore snaps. Section 173 speaks about the report on completion of the investigation for the police officer. Section 173 (5) is to be read with Section 170, that is to say, in a case where there is sufficient material for prosecuting the concerned person, the documents and the statements of witnesses are to be forwarded to the Magistrate as provided therein. We have already noted Section 190 of the CrPC. Sections 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 170 and 173 are part of a scheme of provisions geared to empower and require investigation of cognisable offences which are to culminate in a police report within the meaning of Section 190(b) of the CrPC.

IMPACT OF LALITA KUMARI V. GOVERNMENT OF UTTAR PRADESH AND OTHERS[ (2014) 2 SCC 1]

 In the said case, a Constitution Bench of supreme Court has held that registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the CrPC, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary  inquiry is permissible in such a situation. It was further held that a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not, if the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the need for such an inquiry. The Court has also indicated certain cases where a preliminary inquiry may be conducted, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. They include matrimonial disputes, commercial offences and cases where there is abnormal delay/latches. Supreme Court also held that the aforesaid were not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant a preliminary inquiry.

DUTY OF POLICE OFFICER UNDER SECTION 154 OF THE CRPC IRRESPECTIVE OF IMPACT OF TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION

In State of A.P. v. Punati Ramulu and others[AIR 1993 SC 2644] , the Police Constable had refused to record the complaint on the ground that the said Police Station had no territorial jurisdiction over the place of crime. It was held as follows:

“4. … It was certainly a dereliction of duty on the part of the constable because any lack of territorial jurisdiction, could not have prevented the constable from recording information about the cognizable offence and forwarding the same to the police station having jurisdiction over the area in which the crime was said to have been committed.” (Emphasis supplied)

 In Satvinder Kaur v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) and another[AIR 1999 SC 3596] Supreme Court held, inter alia, as follows:

“10. It is true that territorial jurisdiction also is prescribed under sub-section (1) to the extent that the officer can investigate any cognizable case which a court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such police station would have power to enquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII. However, sub-section (2) makes the position clear by providing that 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 to investigate. After investigation is completed, the result of such investigation is required to be submitted as provided under Sections 168, 169 and 170. Section 170 specifically provides that if, upon an investigation, it appears to the officer in charge of the police station that there is sufficient evidence or reasonable ground of suspicion to justify the forwarding of the accused to a Magistrate, such officer shall forward the accused under custody to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence upon a police report and to try the accused or commit for trial. Further, if the investigating officer arrives at the conclusion that the crime was not committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the police station, then FIR can be forwarded to the police station having jurisdiction over the area in which the crime is committed. But this would not mean that in a case which requires investigation, the police officer can refuse to record the FIR and/or investigate it.” (Emphasis supplied)

Categories: Criminal

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