AUTHOR : RAJA LAKSHMI R,  STUDENT OF CHRIST ACADEMY INSTITUTE OF LAW 

A significant case addressing the requirement for First Information Reports (FIRs) to be registered in cases of cognizable offences is “Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Others”. The case has important ramifications for Indian law enforcement practices and concerns the interpretation of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).    

In the midst of the Rafale lawsuit, the Indian Supreme Court, which is composed of a five-judge bench, issued a landmark decision on November 13, 2013. This judgement is not without criticism, though. The Five Judge Bench ruled that the police must automatically file a FIR when a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the CRPC is established.

 This case commentary examines Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of UP and Others, wherein a three-judge Supreme Court bench recommended against requiring the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs). According to the verdict, in order to avoid serious repercussions for the listed individual, the Station House Officer must obtain a prima-facie guarantee that a cognizable offence has been committed before making a formal complaint. This preliminary inquiry obligation is contained in Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and may be regarded as implicit in its provisions.


In this instance, petitioner Bhola Kamat reported Lalita Kumari missing to the police station after his young daughter failed to return for thirty minutes and he was unable to locate her. The police did not try to find Lalita Kumari, not even after filing a formal complaint against a few private respondents who were the main suspects. Bhola Kamat claims he was asked for money in order to start an investigation and make the accused people appear in court. In the end, the petitioner brought this case before the Court in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution. On April 14, 2008, the court issued a thorough judgement expressing its deep distress about the failure to register the FIR, even in cases where there was a cognizable offence.


Whether a police officer should  conduct a preliminary investigation to verify the veracity of the complaint before filing a formal complaint under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to a cognizable offence?


Section 154 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973

“154. Information in cognizable cases.

(1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub- section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.”

Contentions of the Parties

The petitioner’s attorney informed the court that the officer in charge of the police station is required by section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to register a formal complaint (FIR) upon receiving a complaint that discloses a cognizable offence. A number of Supreme Court rulings, including State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, Ramesh Kumari v. State (NCT of Delhi), and Parkash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab, were cited. The Attorney informs the court that the police officer is required by law to file a formal complaint (FIR) under Section 154(1) of the Code, where the word “shall” denotes the legislative intention.

He said that section 154 of the code does not leave the police officer with any discretion or implicit provisions pertaining to preliminary inquiry.

He cited the following rulings heavily to bolster his claims: Govindlal Chhaganlal Patel v. Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Godhra; Hiralal Rattanlal v. State of U.P.; and B. Premanand v. Mohan Koikal.

The respondent’s attorney argued that filing a formal complaint (FIR) is an administrative process that calls for careful consideration, fact-checking, and application of mind. As such, it cannot be subjected to a rigid formula. There can never be a mechanical administrative act. He cited Rajinder Singh Katoch, P. Sirajuddin v. State of Madras, State of U.P. v. Bhagwant Kishore Joshi, and Sevi v. State of T.N., which maintain that a police officer may conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether or not there is a prima facie case of commission of a cognizable offence prior to filing a formal complaint under Section 154 of the Code. The renowned attorney said that a statute shouldn’t be read in a way that leaves the police officer without any choice, particularly in fake cases where filing a FIR is only a pointless formality. 

Furthermore, the report is not a prerequisite for the initiation of a criminal inquiry; it is merely the acknowledgment and documentation of information. According to the attorney, there is already a framework for preliminary inquiries in situations involving medical negligence, corruption, and matrimonial offences. 

The attorney argued before the court that each statute ought to be read with consideration for the protections afforded to innocent persons by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution, which shield them against unjust accusations. These kinds of circumstances call for a police officer to be able to undertake a preliminary investigation.


In the case of Abhinandan Jha v. Dinesh Mishra, the Supreme Court highlighted the authority of law enforcement and the court to probe into offences. They cited sections 154–176 of Chapter XIV of the Code, which set up standards for police investigations. Section 154 pertains to information concerning cognizable offences and process, but Section 176 grants discretion for first investigations in situations when a complaint is unclear or raises questions regarding its accuracy.

In Nazir Ahmed case, H.N. Rishbud and Inder Singh v. State of Delhi:

The court ruled that the judiciary should refrain from interfering with the police in areas like investigations, particularly when it comes to crimes that the police are legally entitled to investigate. The court noted that the police do not require judicial authorization. The court held that, in light of individual liberty and the state of law and order in the nation, the roles of the police and courts are complementary and do not overlap. The judiciary’s function begins only after a charge is proven, not before. 

In Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court categorically stated that it is unreasonable to expect the police station officer in charge to file a formal complaint (FIR) for information that does not reveal the commission of a crime. The officer-in-charge should have the right to investigate further to determine whether a cognizable offence has been committed and to verify the accuracy of the complaint, the court said.

In Sevi v. State of Tamil Nadu also the court had explicitly decided that the station house officer (SHO) may conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether or not there is a prima facie case of commission of a cognizable offence before filing a FIR under section 154 of the CrPC.

Preliminary inquiry procedures have been created by the Bombay High Court, enabling police to avert needless complaints and unnecessary harassment of those who are implicated. In Kalpana Kutty v. State of Maharashtra, the court established standards for initial investigation. These include filing a First Information Report (FIR) upon learning of a cognizable offence, conducting a preliminary inquiry when required, conducting an inquiry if the information’s source is questionable, making sure the process is swift and discrete, and not only resuming the preliminary inquiry in cases involving public servants, physicians, or other professionals in high positions, but also taking each case’s facts and circumstances into consideration.

The document makes the case that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is violated by the ruling that a police officer is not required to file a formal complaint. According to the author, this interpretation would reconcile two opposing extremes: the requirement that an officer file a formal complaint (FIR) without conducting a thorough investigation, and the requirement that an officer conduct a thorough investigation prior to filing a formal complaint. To make sure that Article 21 requirements are followed, the author advises referring to the instructions from Kalpana Kutty v. State of Maharashtra.

In Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi, the Supreme Court held that Article 21 of the Constitution allows the court judicial review and ensures fair, reasonable, and just procedures for taking away a person’s life or personal liberty.

Crime proceedings can have serious repercussions for the accused, such as social humiliation, psychological distress, and diminished economic standing. Justice system lags can cause accused people to lose faith in the system and become sceptical. In addition to the accused, this drama has an impact on the victims and their dependents, who might endure unjustified anguish. An even bigger paradox is how callous the system has been in addressing these cases.

In Moti Ram v. State of M.P. Krishna Iyer, J. emphasized the severe consequences of pre-trial detention, including psychological and physical deprivation, job loss, and a burden on innocent family members. He compared the situation to a convicted defendant, highlighting the severity of the situation.

In State Of West Bengal & Ors. Vs. Nazrul Islam, the Supreme Court held that an individual cannot be deemed qualified for a government post even if they are free of charges or have been found not guilty; nonetheless, their acquittal cannot have resulted from a plea bargain or unfavourable testimony from witnesses.

The adjudicatory system is an abhorrent practice that, after being returned to judicial custody, frequently keeps men incarcerated for three or four years without the opportunity for a trial. Anxiety and mental pain brought on by this protracted pendency may be considered adequate punishment. Due to their responsibility for the large family they left behind, the accused, who is frequently the head of the household, may experience delays in the trial. In addition to losing their source of income, the family can experience social stigma and have to take out loans in order to support themselves and the accused.

Jail overcrowding is the biggest issue faced by prisoners, per a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report titled “Prison Statistics India 2015”. Prisons have an occupancy rate of 114.4%, which leads to problems with sleep, hygiene, and sanitation. This violates the detainees’ human rights. In addition, trials are underway for 67% of prisoners, and four people die every day on average. The percentage of illiterate prisoners is 78%. With at least 82% of inmates awaiting trial, Delhi’s Central Jail’s occupancy rate rose to 174.89% in 2019. Requiring the filing of formal complaints could make matters worse because those who are accused may face severe repercussions from filing a formal complaint. The lawmakers ought to take note of the fact that there are more undertrials in the Indian prison system than convicted criminals.


In light of this, the Hon’ble Apex Court declared that:1.) If the information reveals the commission of a crime that is punishable by law, the FIR under Section 154 of the Code must be filed, and no preliminary investigation is allowed in such a situation. A formal inquiry will be conducted if the information points to the need for one even in the absence of a clearly identifiable offence.

2.) The FIR needs to be filed if the inquiry discloses a crime that can be prosecuted. In the event that this is not the case, the first informant must receive a copy of the closure entry as soon as possible—preferably within a week. 

3.) Exemptions from the requirement to file a formal complaint before filing a preliminary injury claim include:

  • marital and family conflicts; 
  • commercial offences;
  • medical negligence; 
  • corruption; and 
  • situations in which the start of criminal prosecution is abnormally delayed.

These are not all-inclusive; they are merely examples.

4.) The preliminary inquiry must be completed within seven days, and all related documentation must be entered into the General Diary, which is stored at the police station.


The Lalita Kumari case stands as a landmark judgment that has had a profound impact on the criminal justice system in India. By emphasizing the mandatory registration of FIRs and limiting the scope of preliminary inquiries, the Supreme Court aimed to ensure a more efficient and accountable response to cognizable offenses. This case continues to be cited in legal discussions and has become a reference point for issues related to FIR registration in India. In summary, Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Others is a landmark judgment that reinforces the mandatory nature of FIR registration in cognizable offenses and restricts the police from conducting a preliminary inquiry before registering an FIR. It seeks to ensure a more transparent and accountable criminal justice system in India

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