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Lalita Kumari v/s State of U.P

The present writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution by Lalita Kumari (minor) through her father for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus or directions of like nature for the protection of his daughter who has been kidnapped.

The grievance of the petitioner is that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted to the officer in-charge of the police station who did not take any action on the same. Afterwards, an FIR was registered by the Superintendent of Police and yet, no steps were taken for apprehending the accused or for recovery of the girl.

Lalita Kumari v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., 2013
In The Supreme Court of India
Criminal Original Jurisdiction
Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 OF 2008
Bench : P Sathasivam, B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi, S.A. Bobde
Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. & Ors., 2013, was delivered by a Five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court on 12th November 2013. In the present appeal, the appellant Lalita Kumari has appealed against the Government of UP through a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Whether a police officer is bound to register an FIR upon receiving any information relating to the 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?

Petitioner's Contentions
  1. The use of word 'Shall' in Section 154(1) indicates that there is no discretion left to the police officer except to register the FIR. In support of the proposition, reliance was placed on the following decisions, viz., B. Premanand v. Mohan Koikal[i], M/s Hiralal Rattanlal v.State of U.P. and Anr.[ii], and Govindlal Chhaganlal Patel v. Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Godhra and Ors[iii].
  2. Section 154(1) mentions the word 'Information' without prefixing the words 'reasonable' or 'credible' which indicates that genuineness or credibility of the information is not a condition precedent for registration of case. In support of the proposition, reliance was placed onthe following decisions, viz.,Ganesh Bhavan Patel and Another v. State of Maharashtra[iv],State of Harayana v. Bhajan Lal[v],and Aleque Padamsee and Others v. Union of India and Others[vi].

Respondent's Contentions
  1. States of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh contended that the registration of FIR is mandatory u/s 154 of the CrPC, if the information discloses a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is allowed in such situations.
  2. States of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra contended that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the registration of FIR on the following basis:
    1. The provisions of Section 154(1) must be read in the light of Articles 14, 19 and 21 which provides that no citizen shall be subjected to malicious prosecution and an innocent shall not be implicated in a criminal case. The liberty of a citizen would be in jeopardy if a police officer proceeds to register an FIR, despite not being satisfied about the commission of a cognizable offence.
    2. No single provision of a statute can be read and interpreted in isolation, but the statute must be read as a whole. Accordingly, the provisions of Sections 41, 57, 156, 157, 157, 167, 190, 200 and 202 of the Code must be read together.
    3. Section 154(3) enables the complainant to approach the Superintendent of Police to register the FIR if the same is refused by the officer in-charge of the police station. This indicates that the police officer is not bound to register the FIR if he has doubts about the veracity of the complaint.
    4. The recording of FIR under Section 154 in the book is subsequent to the entry in the General Diary, maintained in police station. Therefore, information is a document at the earliest in the General Diary, then if any preliminary inquiry is needed, the police officer conduct the same and thereafter, the information is recorded as FIR.
    5. Rule of purposive interpretation has been preferred over literal interpretation in Chairman Board of Mining Examination and Chief Inspector of Mines & Anr. v. Ramjee[vii].

  1. The FIR is a pertinent document that helps in setting the criminal law in motion and obtaining information about the alleged criminal activity.
  2. The first rule of interpretation of a statute is the literal rule of interpretation. The use of 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 discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. In this regard, reliance was placed on the observations in M/s Hiralal Rattanlal[viii] and B. Premanand[ix].
  3. The word 'complaint' used in previous Codes of 1861 and 1872 was replaced by the word 'information' as it occurs in the present Code of 1973. Also, it is not prefixed by the words reasonable' or 'credible' unlike Section 41(1)(a) or (g). This indicates that the only condition which is sine qua non for recording an FIR is that there must be information disclosing a cognizable offence. In this regard, reliance was placed on Lallan Chaudhary v. State of Bihar[x].
  4. A record in the General Diary u/s 44 of the Police Act, 1861 is not the fulfillment of the requirements of Section 154 of the Code. In Madhu Bala v. Suresh Kumar[xi], it was held that the registration of FIR must be done in FIR Book/Register as General Diary contains only the substance of each FIR being registered at the police station. It is also noted that in view of Article 254(1) of the Constitution, if there is any inconsistency between the laws made by the Parliament (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973) and the laws made by the State Legislatures (The Police Act, 1861), the former will prevail.
  5. Registration of FIR u/s 154 and arrest of an accused u/s 41 are different concepts under the law, and several safeguards are available against arrest along with the provision of anticipatory bail u/s 438 of the Code.

    In Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P.[xii], that no arrest can be made on a mere allegation of commission of an offence against a person. Also, police officer can be tried and punished u/s 166 for misusing his power of arrest. Therefore, Section 154 of the Code is not in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.
  6. Although, it is mandatory to register an FIR on receipt of information about cognizable offence, yet, there may be instances where preliminary inquiry may be required, like, in cases related to medical negligence (Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab [xiii]) and corruption (P. Sirajuddin v. State of Madras [xiv]).

In view of the aforesaid observations, the hon'ble Supreme Court gave various directions-
  1. It is mandatory to register an FIR u/s 154 of the Code, if the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. If the information does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted to ascertain whether information reveals any cognizable offence.
  2. If the inquiry discloses a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. If not, a copy of the entry of closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week.
  3. Cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made before the registration of FIR
    1. Matrimonial disputes/Family disputes
    2. Commercial offences
    3. Medical Negligence cases
    4. Corruption cases
    5. Cases where there is abnormal delay in initiating criminal prosecution.
      These are only illustrative and not exhaustive.
  4. The completion of preliminary inquiry must not exceed 7 days and all the information related to the same shall be recorded in the General Diary, maintained in the police station.
    Present status of the Judgment � Still Applicable

  1. (2011) 4 SCC 266
  2. (1973) 1 SCC 216
  3. (1975) 2 SCC 482
  4. (1978) 4 SCC 371
  5. 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335
  6. (2007) 6 SCC 171
  7. (1977) 2 SCC 256
  8. (1973) 1 SCC 216
  9. (2011) 4 SCC 266
  10. (2006) 12 SCC 229
  11. (1997) 8 SCC 476
  12. (1994) 4 SCC 260
  13. (2005) 6 SCC 1
  14. 1970 SCC 1 (595)

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