At the very outset , I must record my utmost admiration for the landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. & Ors. 2013 ( 8 ) Supreme 1 in which it has been categorically held that if a complainant approaches the police for registration of First Information Report ( FIR ) in a cognizable offence , it is mandatory for police to register the same . Most of the times , it has been observed that the police tries to evade registering FIR on one pretext or the other and it is the common man who has no push and pull who has to silently suffer everything . Officially , all the higher ups including the Chief Ministers are happy that there is minimum crime in their State which really is not the case . Which is why I feel that this landmark judgment was needed urgently and I hope that it will send the right message and will make the police administration more serious in doing their job .
Let me point out here that the Supreme Court in this landmark case – Lalita Kumari v Govt. of U.P. & Ors. 2013 ( 8 ) Supreme 1 very explicitly mentioned that , “While registration of FIR is mandatory , arrest of accused immediately on registration of FIR is not at all mandatory . Registration of FIR and arrest of accused person are two entirely different concepts under law and there are several safeguards available against arrest . Accused person also has right to apply for anticipatory bail under provisions of Section 438 of Code if conditions mentioned therein are satisfied . In appropriate cases , he can avoid arrest under that provision by obtaining an order from Court . Arrest of a person and registration of FIR are not directly and/or irreversibly linked and they are entirely different concepts operating under entirely different parameters . If a police officer misuses his power of arrest , he can be tried and punished under Section 166 of IPC .”
Let me also cite here para 83 of the law journal ‘Supreme Today’ of this very judgment mentioned above wherein it is pointed out by Supreme Court that , “The object sought to be achieved by registering the earliest information as FIR is inter alia two fold : one , that the criminal process is set into motion and is well documented from the very start ; and second , that the earliest information received in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence is recorded so that there cannot be any embellishment etc. , later .” Needless to add , the more delay is made in recording of FIR , the more are the chances of FIR being embellished as the Supreme Court has itself pointed out in this very landmark judgment . So , registering of FIR brooks no delay and must be promptly registered by the concerned police officials as soon as the earliest information is received as FIR !
Para 89 of this very judgment also lays emphasis on prompt registering of FIR and enumerates the adverse fallouts of delay in lodging FIR . Let me mention the relevant part only . It quotes what the Apex Court held in Thulia Kali vs State of Tamil Nadu ( 1972 ) 3 SCC 393 that , “The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the report to the police in respect of commission of an offence is to obtain early information regarding the circumstances in which the crime was committed , the names of the actual culprits and the part played by them as well as the names of eyewitnesses present at the scene of occurrence . Delay in lodging the first information report quite often results in embellishment which is a creature of afterthought . On account of delay , the report not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity , danger creeps in of the introduction of coloured version , exaggerated account or concocted story as a result of deliberation and consultation . It is , therefore , essential that the delay in the lodging of the first information report should be satisfactorily explained…”
Let me also mention here what is contained in para 84 of this very landmark case in the law journal ‘Supreme Today’ . Supreme Court says in this para that , “Principles of democracy and liberty demand a regular and efficient check on police powers . One way of keeping check on authorities with such powers is by documenting every action of theirs . Accordingly , under the Code , actions of the police etc. , are provided to be written and documented . For example , in case of arrest under Section 41( 1 ) ( b ) of the Code , arrest memo along with the grounds has to be in writing mandatorily ; under Section 55 of the Code , if an officer is deputed to make an arrest , then the superior officer has to write down and record the offence etc. , for which the person is to be arrested ; under Section 91 of the Code , a written order has to be passed by the concerned officer to seek documents ; under Section 160 of the Code , a written notice has to be issued to the witness so that he can be called for recording of his/her statement , seizure memo/panchnama has to be drawn for every article seized etc .” Interestingly , it is further pointed out in para 85 that , “Moreover , every information received relating to commission of a non-cognizable offence also has to be registered under Section 155 of the Code .”
While craving for my readers indulgence , let me also bring out here that para 88 of this very case in law journal ‘Supreme Today’ highlights the advantages of registering FIR . Supreme Court says in this para that , “The registration of FIR either on the basis of the information furnished by the informant under Section 154 ( 1 ) of the Code or otherwise under Section 157 ( 1 ) of the Code is obligatory . The obligation to register FIR has inherent advantages :
a) It is the first step to ‘access to justice’ for a victim .
b) It upholds the ‘Rule of Law’ in as much as the ordinary person brings forth the commission of a cognizable crime in the knowledge of the State .
c) It also facilitates swift investigation and sometimes even prevention of the crime . In both cases , it only effectuates the regime of law .
d) It leads to less manipulation in criminal cases and lessens incidents of ‘antedates’ FIR or deliberately delayed FIR .”
A five-Judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam , Justices BS Chauhan , Ranjana Prakash Desai , Ranjan Gogoi and SA Bobde who pronounced this landmark judgment stated categorically that , “We hold registering of FIR is mandatory and no preliminary enquiry is permissible in cognizable offences .” The Bench added that , “Police officials cannot avoid registering the FIR and action must be taken against them if no FIR is registered .” Although the Criminal Procedure Code says that police must register FIR on receipt of complaint , generally it is the police which decides whether to formally register the complaint or not . A full stop must be put to this dangerous discretionary power of the police which is more often than not misused and this latest landmark judgment is precisely the right step in that direction .
We cannot be oblivious of the fact that Supreme Court itself has very strongly censored the police and expressed its severe displeasure in the strongest words and it has to be taken with full seriousness by the police and the Government . Expressing concern over the non-registration of FIR , the Bench said that number of FIRs not registered is approximately equivalent to the number of FIRs actually registered . A common man has to face more tension in registering an FIR than he does when some offence is committed . The worst part is , still his FIR is not registered and our Government both at the State and Centre hardly do anything to alleviate the harrowing troubles faced by common man and which is why the highest court in India , the Supreme Court had to give such a landmark judgment . It is most painful to see that our Government is not implementing the directions given by the Supreme Court in 2006 in Prakash Singh’s case pertaining to police reforms . Government is duty bound to implement whatever directives are given in the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court but I regret to say that has not been the case till now .
Let me divulge here for my readers benefit that the Constitution Bench delivered the verdict after a three-Judge Bench referred the case to the higher Bench on the ground that there were conflicting judgments on the issue . The matter pertains to a kidnapping of a minor girl in Uttar Pradesh and police refusing to register the FIR . The victim’s mother moved the Court challenging the refusal of local police to register an FIR on the basis of complaint by her against the kidnappers . “Burking of crime leads to dilution of the rule of law in the short run ; and also has a very negative impact on the rule of law in the long run since people stop having respect for rule of law . Thus , non-registration of such a large number of FIRs leads to a definite lawlessness in the society,” said the Court . It was also held that , “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 can also adversely affect the rights of the victims including violating their fundamental right to equality .” It was also clarified by the Court that arrest was not mandatory in all the cases where FIRs were registered . The Supreme Court further ruled that , “The underpinnings of compulsory registration of FIR is not only to ensure transparency in the criminal justice delivery system but also to ensure ‘judicial oversight’ . It is the first step to ‘access to justice’ for a victim . Action must be taken against police officers who refuse to register FIRs in such cases.
Let me also divulge here that the Court also clarified that before registering FIRs for cases involving matrimonial/family disputes , commercial offences , medical negligence cases or corruption cases , the police can conduct a preliminary enquiry . However , it should be completed within seven days and it has to be declared that whether the case would be closed or FIR would be registered . The Supreme Court also made it clear that registration of FIR is mandatory and also that it has to be recorded in FIR Book by giving a unique annual number to each FIR to enable strict tracking of each and every registered FIR by superior police officers as well as by competent Court to which copies of each FIR are required to be sent . Thus , we see that the Supreme Court has sent a loud and clear message that registration of FIR is mandatory if information given to police under Section 154 of CrPC discloses commission of a cognizable offence . It is the bounden duty of Centre and States to make ensure that this landmark judgment is implemented in lock , stock and barrel without any exception whatsoever in favour of anyone . They cannot abdicate their responsibility by passing the buck on someone else . Let there be no doubt of any kind on this score . It is the common man who will be the biggest gainer if this landmark judgment is implemented completely on the ground .