Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. [12 November 2013 SC]

The important issue which arises for consideration in the referred matter is whether “a police officer is bound to register a First Information Report (FIR) upon receiving any information relating to commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the police officer has the power to conduct a “preliminary inquiry” in order to test the veracity of such information before registering the same?”

The present writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution, has been filed by one Lalita Kumari (minor) through her father, viz., Shri Bhola Kamat for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus against the respondents for the protection of his minor daughter who has been kidnapped. The grievance in the said writ petition is that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted by the petitioner before the officer in-charge of the police station concerned who did not take any action on the same. Thereafter, when the Superintendent of Police was moved, an FIR was registered. According to the petitioner, even thereafter, steps were not taken either for apprehending the accused or for the recovery of the minor girl child.

39) The condition that is sine qua non for recording an FIR under Section 154 of the Code is that there must be information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence. If any information disclosing a cognizable offence is led before an officer in charge of the police station satisfying the requirement of Section 154(1), the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form, that is to say, to register a case on the basis of such information. The provision of Section 154 of the Code is mandatory and the concerned officer is duty bound to register the case on the basis of information disclosing a cognizable offence.

40) The use of the word “shall” in Section 154(1) of the Code clearly shows the legislative intent that it is mandatory to register an FIR if the information given to the police discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.

46) It is relevant to mention that Section 39 of the Code casts a statutory duty on every person to inform about commission of certain offences which includes offences covered by Sections 121 to 126, 302, 64-A, 382, 392 etc., of the IPC. It would be incongruous to suggest that though it is the duty of every citizen to inform about commission of an offence, but it is not obligatory on the officer-in-charge of a Police Station to register the report. The word ‘shall’ occurring in Section 39 of the Code has to be given the same meaning as the word ‘shall’ occurring in Section 154(1) of the Code.

48) The First Information Report is in fact the “information” that is received first in point of time, which is either given in writing or is reduced to writing. It is not the “substance” of it, which is to be entered in the diary prescribed by the State Government. The term ‘General Diary’ (also called as ‘Station Diary’ or ‘Daily Diary’ in some States) is maintained not under Section 154 of the Code but under the provisions of Section 44 of the Police Act, 1861 in the States to which it applies, or under the respective provisions of the Police Act(s) applicable to a State or under the Police Manual of a State.

52) The question that whether the FIR is to be recorded in the FIR Book or in General Diary is no more res integra. Registration of FIR is to be done in a book called FIR book or FIR Register. Of course, in addition, the gist of the FIR or the substance of the FIR may also be mentioned simultaneously in the General Diary.

55) The General Diary is a record of all important transactions/events taking place in a police station, including departure and arrival of police staff, handing over or taking over of charge, arrest of a person, details of law and order duties, visit of senior officers etc. It is in this context that gist or substance of each FIR being registered in the police station is also mentioned in the General Diary since registration of FIR also happens to be a very important event in the police station. Since General Diary is a record that is maintained chronologically on day-to-day basis (on each day, starting with new number 1), the General Diary entry reference is also mentioned simultaneously in the FIR Book, while FIR number is mentioned in the General Diary entry since both of these are prepared simultaneously.

56) It is relevant to point out that FIR Book is maintained with its number given on an annual basis. This means that each FIR has a unique annual number given to it. This is on similar lines as the Case Numbers given in courts. Due to this reason, it is possible to keep a strict control and track over the registration of FIRs by the supervisory police officers and by the courts, wherever necessary. Copy of each FIR is sent to the superior officers and to the concerned Judicial Magistrate.

58) The signature of the complainant is obtained in the FIR Book as and when the complaint is given to the police station. On the other hand, there is no such requirement of obtaining signature of the complainant in the general diary.

63) It is thus unequivocally clear that registration of FIR is mandatory and also that it is to be recorded in the FIR Book by giving a unique annual number to each FIR to enable strict tracking of each and every registered FIR by the superior police officers as well as by the competent court to which copies of each FIR are required to be sent.

64) The legislature has consciously used the expression “information” in Section 154(1) of the Code as against the expression used in Section 41(1)(a) and (g) where the expression used for arresting a person without warrant is “reasonable complaint” or “credible information”. The expression under Section 154(1) of the Code is not qualified by the prefix “reasonable” or “credible”. The non qualification of the word “information” in Section 154(1) unlike in Section 41(1)(a) and (g) of the Code is for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or credibility of the information. In other words, reasonableness or credibility of the said information is not a condition precedent for the registration of a case.

73) In terms of the language used in Section 154 of the Code, the police is duty bound to proceed to conduct investigation into a cognizable offence even without receiving information (i.e. FIR) about commission of such an offence, if the officer in charge of the police station otherwise suspects the commission of such an offence. The legislative intent is therefore quite clear, i.e., to ensure that every cognizable offence is promptly investigated in accordance with law. This being the legal position, there is no reason that there should be any discretion or option left with the police to register or not to register an FIR when information is given about the commission of a cognizable offence. Every cognizable offence must be investigated promptly in accordance with law and all information provided under Section 154 of the Code about the commission of a cognizable offence must be registered as an FIR so as to initiate an offence. The requirement of Section 154 of the Code is only that the report must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence and that is sufficient to set the investigating machinery into action.

74) The insertion of sub-section (3) of Section 154, by way of an amendment, reveals the intention of the legislature to ensure that no information of commission of a cognizable offence must be ignored or not acted upon which would result in unjustified protection of the alleged offender/accused.

75) The maxim expression unius est exclusion alterius (expression of one thing is the exclusion of another) applies in the interpretation of Section 154 of the Code, where the mandate of recording the information in writing excludes the possibility of not recording an information of commission of a cognizable crime in the special register.

87) The Code contemplates two kinds of FIRs. The duly signed FIR under Section 154(1) is by the informant to the concerned officer at the police station. The second kind of FIR could be which is registered by the police itself on any information received or other than by way of an informant [Section 157(1)] and even this information has to be duly recorded and the copy should be sent to the Magistrate forthwith.

88) 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.

89) In Thulia Kali vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1972) 3 SCC 393, this Court held as under:-

“First information report in a criminal case is an extremely vital and valuable piece of evidence for the purpose of corroborating the oral evidence adduced at the trial.

97) Another, stimulating argument raised in support of preliminary inquiry is that mandatory registration of FIRs will lead to arbitrary arrest, which will directly be in contravention of Article 21 of the Constitution.

98) While registration of FIR is mandatory, arrest of the accused immediately on registration of FIR is not at all mandatory. In fact, registration of FIR and arrest of an accused person are two entirely different concepts under the law, and there are several safeguards available against arrest.

100) The registration of FIR under Section 154 of the Code and arrest of an accused person under Section 41 are two entirely different things. It is not correct to say that just because FIR is registered, the accused person can be arrested immediately. It is the imaginary fear that “merely because FIR has been registered, it would require arrest of the accused and thereby leading to loss of his reputation” and it should not be allowed by this Court to hold that registration of FIR is not mandatory to avoid such inconvenience to some persons.

101) This can also be seen from the fact that Section 151 of the Code allows a police officer to arrest a person, even before the commission of a cognizable offence, in order to prevent the commission of that offence, if it cannot be prevented otherwise. Such preventive arrests can be valid for 24 hours. If a police officer misuses his power of arrest, he can be tried and punished under Section 166.

102) Besides, the Code gives power to the police to close a matter both before and after investigation. A police officer can foreclose an FIR before an investigation under Section 157 of the Code, if it appears to him that there is no sufficient ground to investigate the same. The Section itself states that a police officer can start investigation when he has a ‘reason to suspect the commission of an offence’. Therefore, the requirements of launching an investigation under Section 157 of the Code are higher than the requirement under Section 154 of the Code. The police officer can also, in a given case, investigate the matter and then file a final report under Section 173 of the Code seeking closure of the matter. Therefore, the police is not liable to launch an investigation in every FIR which is mandatorily registered on receiving information relating to commission of a cognizable offence.

103) Likewise, giving power to the police to close an investigation, Section 157 of the Code also acts like a check on the police to make sure that it is dispensing its function of investigating cognizable offences.


106) Although, we, in unequivocal terms, hold that Section 154 of the Code postulates the mandatory registration of FIRs on receipt of all cognizable offence, yet, there may be instances where preliminary inquiry may be required owing to the change in genesis and novelty of crimes with the passage of time. One such instance is in the case of allegations relating to medical negligence on the part of doctors.

108) In the context of offences relating to corruption, this Court in P. Sirajuddin expressed the need for a preliminary inquiry before proceeding against public servants.

110) what is necessary is only that the information given to the police must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence. In such a situation, registration of an FIR is mandatory. However, if no cognizable offence is made out in the information given, then the FIR need not be registered immediately and perhaps the police can conduct a sort of preliminary verification or inquiry for the limited purpose of ascertaining as to whether a cognizable offence has been committed. But, if the information given clearly mentions the commission of a cognizable offence, there is no other option but to register an FIR forthwith. Other considerations are not relevant at the stage of registration of FIR, such as, whether the information is falsely given, whether the information is genuine, whether the information is credible etc. These are the issues that have to be verified during the investigation of the FIR. At the stage of registration of FIR, what is to be seen is merely whether the information given ex facie discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. If, after investigation, the information given is found to be false, there is always an option to prosecute the complainant for filing a false FIR.


111) In view of the aforesaid discussion, we hold:

i) Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.

ii) If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not.

iii) If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.

iv) The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.

v) The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.

vi) As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:

  • Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
  • Commercial offences
  • Medical negligence cases
  • Corruption cases
  • Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay.

The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.

vii) While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case it should not exceed 7 days. The fact of such delay and the causes of it must be reflected in the General Diary entry.

viii) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, we direct that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry, must be mandatorily and meticulously reflected in the said Diary and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected, as mentioned above.