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Indian Case Summary

Lalita Kumari vs Govt.Of U.P.& Ors on 12 November, 2013 – Case Summary

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In the case of Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Others, the Supreme Court of India grappled with a significant question concerning the duties of police officers upon receiving information about a cognizable offense. The case was heard by a bench comprising of P Sathasivam, B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi, and S.A. Bobde.

Facts of the Case

The case was initiated by a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution by Lalita Kumari, a minor, through her father, Bhola Kamat. The petition sought protection for Lalita, who had been kidnapped. The petitioner’s grievance was that despite submitting a written report to the officer in charge of the concerned police station on 11th May 2008, no action was taken. It was only after the Superintendent of Police was approached that an FIR was registered. However, the petitioner alleged that even after the registration of the FIR, no steps were taken to apprehend the accused or recover the minor girl.

Issues Raised

The primary issue raised in the case was whether a police officer is obligated to register a First Information Report (FIR) upon receiving any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or whether the officer has the power to conduct a preliminary inquiry to test the veracity of the information before registering it.

Court’s Observations

The court observed a disparity in the registration of FIRs by police officers across the country. The court issued a notice to the Union of India, the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, and Director Generals of Police/Commissioners of Police, stating that if steps were not taken for immediate registration of FIRs and providing copies to the complainants, the complainants could move the Magistrates by filing complaint petitions for appropriate directions to the police.

The court also noted conflicting decisions on the issue. Some decisions suggested that upon receipt of information disclosing a cognizable offense, it was imperative for the officer in charge of a police station to register a case under Section 154 of the Code. Other decisions suggested that the officer in charge of a police station was not obliged under law to register a case upon receipt of such information, and that the officer had discretion to hold a preliminary inquiry into the veracity of the accusations made in the report.

Given the conflicting decisions, the matter was referred to a larger bench. The larger bench, after hearing various counsel representing the Union of India, States, and Union Territories, referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

The Constitution Bench was tasked with interpreting Section 154 of the Code and incidentally considering Sections 156 and 157 as well. The court heard arguments from various parties, including senior counsel for the petitioner, the Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India, and counsel for the State of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, U.P., M.P., and the accused.

The court examined the language used in Section 154(1) of the Code, which mandates that every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction. The court noted that the section does not prefix the word ‘information’ with ‘reasonable’ or ‘credible’, suggesting that a mere information relating to commission of a cognizable offense is sufficient to register an FIR.

The court also considered various safeguards provided under the Code against filing a false case. The court noted that the only exception relates to cases arising under the Prevention of Corruption Act, where sanction is necessary before taking cognizance by the Magistrates and the public servants are

accorded some kind of protection to prevent vexatious cases filed to harass them.

The court also examined various police rules prevailing in the States of Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P., Madhya Pradesh, Kolkata, Bombay, etc., for conducting an inquiry before registering an FIR. It was noted that throughout the country, in matrimonial, commercial, medical negligence, and corruption-related offenses, there exist provisions for conducting an inquiry or preliminary inquiry by the police, without/before registering an FIR under Section 154 of the Code.

Court’s Decision

The court’s decision was not provided in the extracted content. However, based on the arguments presented, it is clear that the court was considering whether a police officer is obligated to register an FIR upon receiving any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense, or whether the officer has the power to conduct a preliminary inquiry to test the veracity of the information before registering it. The court’s decision would likely hinge on its interpretation of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and its application to the facts of the case.

Implications of the Case

The case of Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Others is significant as it addresses a critical aspect of criminal procedure in India. The court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for the duties of police officers and the rights of individuals reporting crimes. If the court were to rule that a police officer is obligated to register an FIR upon receiving any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense, it could potentially lead to an increase in the number of FIRs registered and expedite the process of criminal investigation. On the other hand, if the court were to rule that a police officer has the power to conduct a preliminary inquiry before registering an FIR, it could potentially provide a safeguard against the registration of frivolous or false FIRs.