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Report No. 14

34. Investigation by The Police

1. Cognizable and non-cognizable offences.-

For the purpose of police investigation, offences under the Indian Penal Code are divided into cognizable and non-cognizable offences. Cognizable offences are defined as those in which a police officer can effect an arrest without a warrant. Such cases are specified in column 3 of Schedule II to the Criminal Procedure Code.

2. The distinction.-

The principal difference between cognizable and non-cognizable offences is, that a police officer on receipt of information of a cognizable offence has the power of investigation, including the power of arrest. But in non-cognizable offences, a police officer has no such power, unless the investigation is authorised by a competent magistrate. In the case of offences against laws other than the Indian Penal Code, a broad classification is, that those which are punishable with imprisonment for three years and upwards are cognizable while those with lower limits of punishment are non-cognizable. The Code has also placed upon every police officer the general duty to interpose and prevent, to the best of his ability, the commission of any cognizable offence.

3. Investigation into cognizable offences (Procedure on receipt of complaint).-

The general authority to investigate a cognizable offence is found in section 156 of the Code. This section confers upon the police officer unrestricted power to investigate into cognizable offences without the orders of a magistrate. He may start the investigation either on a report by some person or, even of his own motion when on his own knowledge or on the basis of some reliable though informal intelligence, he may record a report and commence the investigation. In the case of cognizable offences, a police officer on receipt of a report has to reduce it to writing and get the statement signed by the complainant.

The substance of the report has also to be entered in a book kept for the purpose. He is also obliged to send a report of the commission of the offence to the magistrate through such superior police officers as the State Government may direct. He thereafter proceeds to the spot for the purpose of investigating into the case. It is however not obligatory upon the police to investigate into each and every cognizable case. It is open to a police officer not to undertake investigation, if the case is not of a serious nature or there is no sufficient ground for entering on an investigation.

In such cases, however, he is bound to report the fact with his reasons to the Magistrate competent to take cognizance of such offences on a police report. The police rules usually provide, that this discretion must be exercised by the police officers very cautiously and as a safeguard against the possible abuse of this power, it is generally provided, that all such cases should be brought to the notice of the Superintendent of Police.

4. Collection of evidence (Power to examine witnesses).-

The investigating officer has full powers to summon and examine witnesses (subject to certain exceptions) who appear to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case. The examination of witnesses is not on oath and it need not be in the presence of the accused. The person so questioned is bound to answer all questions, but not bound to give incriminating answers. Nor is an obligation cast on him to answer truly.

No prosecution can be launched against a person who refuses to answer incriminating questions or gives false answers in reply to the questions put by a police officer. A police officer is prohibited from offering any inducement or giving any threat to a person whom he examines, but he is not bound to caution such persons against making any voluntary statement which he may be disposed to make. The statements of these witnesses may be reduced to writing and, if the officer does so, a separate record of the statement of each witness has to be maintained.

5. Power to call for and seize articles (Power of search).-

Whenever any document, article or thing is required for the purpose of investigation, a police officer can call for the production before him of the same, and it is the duty of the person in possession or control of the document to produce it before him. But if this procedure is likely to prove ineffective, the police officer is authorised to make a search without warrant, if need be, after observing certain formalities which include the presence of respectable witnesses. A record of the proceedings of search along with any articles seized, is forthwith sent to the nearest magistrate. A copy of the record of such search has to be furnished to the owner or occupied of the place searched.

6. Non-cognizable cases.-

As pointed out earlier, a police officer is not competent to investigate non-cognizable offences without the orders of a magistrate. If a complaint of the commission of such an offence is made to him, he notes the substance of the complaint in a book kept for that purpose and refers the informant to the magistrate. It is open to the magistrate on taking cognizance of such complaint, to direct a police officer to make an investigation even if it is a non-cognizable offence; but in the absence of such a direction the police officer is not competent to undertake the investigation thereof.

7. Arrest and investigation.-

Normally, whenever any person is arrested or detained the investigation is expected to be completed within twenty four hours, but where the investigation cannot be so completed and there are grounds for believing that the accusation or information is well-founded, the police officer is bound to transmit to the nearest magistrate a copy of the entries in the diary and has to produce the accused before him. It is then open to the magistrate to authorise the detention of the accused for a term not exceeding fifteen days on the whole. Except for special reasons to be recorded in writing, a detention in the custody of the police is not contemplated.

8. Subsequent action.-

If after the investigation it appears to the police officer that there is not sufficient evidence in the matter, he can release the accused on a bond to appear before a magistrate if and when so required. If, however, there is sufficient evidence, the accused has to be produced before the magistrate or if the case is a bailable one and the accused is able to give security, he has to be bound over to appear before the magistrate. Any article necessary to be produced in the case and seized by the police has also to be forwarded to the magistrate. The police officer is also required to bind over the complainant to appear before the magistrate. Witnesses also may, at the discretion of the police officer, be bound over to appear before him.

9. Police report.-

At this stage, that is, the conclusion of the investigation, the police officer has to forward a report, called the police report to the magistrate setting out the names of the parties, nature of the information, names of the witnesses and stating whether the accused, if arrested, has been forwarded in custody or has been released on his bond. All these steps taken by the police officer as stated above ensure, that all the materials necessary for the prosecution of the offender are placed in the hands of the magistrate at the earliest opportunity.

10. Supply of documents to the accused.-

One of the very important details preceding the commencement of the enquiry or trial is the duty cast upon the police officer to furnish certain documents free of cost to the accused person. These are:-

(1) A copy of the police report submitted to the magistrate.

(2) A copy of the first information report recorded by the police officer.

(3) Copies of all other documents or relevant extracts thereof on which the prosecution proposes to rely.

(4) Copies of the statements of the witnesses recorded during the investigation whom the prosecution proposes to examine.

(5) Copies of the statements of confessions recorded under section 164 of the Code.

Its purpose.- This requirement of-furnishing copies of the above documents to the accused person has been introduced by the recent amendment of the Code. As the manner of holding an inquiry or trial in cases arising on police report has been altered by the amendment, the supply of these documents to the accused person is intended to make a full disclosure to him of all the facts and circumstances in the case against him. Every effort is thus made by the Code, as amended, to ensure that the accused person is not taken by surprise and is made aware of the evidence that is likely to be brought against him during the enquiry. This amendment of the Code has been generally welcomed.

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