Preliminary probe or FIR first?


Issue in cognisable offence referred to Constitution Bench

The Supreme Court has referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench the question whether the police are duty-bound to register a First Information Report on receipt of a complaint or information of commission of a cognisable offence or there is discretion on their part to order a preliminary probe before that exercise.

A Bench of Justices Dalveeer Bhandari, T.S. Thakur and Dipak Misra referred to Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia a writ petition which raised the important issue: whether it is imperative on the part of the officer in-charge of a police station to register a case under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 or whether he or she has the option or latitude of conducting some sort of preliminary enquiry before registering it. Writing the order, Justice Bhandari said: “We have carefully analysed various judgments delivered by this court in the last several decades. We clearly discern divergent judicial opinions on the main issue.”

The Bench said: “This court also carved out a special category… in the cases of Santosh Kumar and Dr. Suresh Gupta where a preliminary enquiry had been postulated before registering an FIR.”

Counsel for some States also submitted that the CBI Manual “envisages some kind of preliminary enquiry before registering the FIR,” the Bench said. “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 for the benefit of all concerned — the courts, the investigating agencies and the citizens.”



  1. The position of law on this issue was quite clear and there was no ambiguity. The text of the section also admits no confusion. The section (154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) casts a duty and obligation on the police to register the crime on receipt of FIR i.e. “Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence”. The refusal to do so by an officer in charge of the Police Station has also been taken care or provided for in sub section 3 of Section 154. Prior to registration of the Crime which is merely an official or statutory act, no inquiry or investigation in to the truth or veracity of the information is envisaged. Once the investigation is commenced under chapter XII of the Code of Criminal Procedure it culminates and attains finality on submission of report under section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Code of Criminal Procedure which is the conclusion of the investigation officer. Section 173 (2)(i)(d) “whether any offence appears to have been committed and, if so, by whom” The investigation officer can book an informer if upon investigation it is revealed that the complaint/information given was false under section 182 and possibly also under section 211 of the Penal Code.
    However the judgement of the Apex Court in 2007 AIR SCW 6453 “Rajinder Singh Katoch v. Chandigarh Administration” has in my opinion unsettled the position and has helped the cause of the laggard, dishonest and shirker police establishment.

  2. i think there have also been instances where the court has quashed a FIR on the grounds that the Police should have made certain preliminary probe before registering the FIR and taking cognisance of the offence which otherwise could be for malicious intention. in those cases the alleged accused are been harassed and also arrested in the pretext of investigation. this has been noticed specially with respect of 498A offences based on frivolous complaints. how we will deal with such situations?

  3. The act, CRPC sec 154 is very clear i.e. The information is to be reduced in writing and duely signed by the Complainant. Then and then only the Police can comence investigation/enquiry.

    The Courts have added ambiguity to the section which is illegal. All the pronouncements contrary to the section needs to be ignored as being illegal.

  4. it is no doubt that sec 154 is mandatory and they cannot abdicate their duty in registering the same irrespective of the falsity or truthfulness of the allegations. in fact the S C came down heavily on the police for not registering F I R in the allegations of cognizable nature. any how if found false then the fisrst informant should be procedded with in accordance with law to deter the mischief mongers.


  5. The dust needs to be cleared. Quashing of an FIR in exercise of powers under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or under article 226 of the Constitution of India again on settled principles and parameters set out by catena of Apex Court judgements (Bhajanlal’s case etc.) is an entirely different matter. If a given FIR does not spell out a cognizable criminal offence or the basic necessary ingredients to constitute the offence are absent etc, the FIR can & should be quashed for securing the ends of justice or to prevent the abuse of the process of criminal law and the Court. What needs to be understood is that this is a subsequent stage. It has also been held by the Apex Court that no arrest should be made in a routine manner unless complicity of the offender is established after carrying out some investigation (Joginder Kumar) and also that unless the police can justify the need for arrest it should not be made. More so in abuse of section 498A of IPC. This again is a different matter pertains to sensitizing and police reforms.
    The registration of FIR and the Crime in accordance with section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure is however sacrosanct for an efficient rule of law. Those who abuse the system and for whatever reason lodge false FIR should also be dealt with sternly and there are provisions in law for the same, which may be further strengthened if required.

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