In a criminal prosecution, there is an obligation cast on the investigator not only to be fair, judicious and just during investigation, but also that the investigation on the very face of it must appear to be so, eschewing any conduct or impression which may give rise to a real and genuine apprehension in the mind of an accused and not mere fanciful, that the investigation was not fair. In the circumstances, if an informant police official in a criminal prosecution, especially when carrying a reverse burden of proof, makes the allegations, is himself asked to investigate, serious doubts will naturally arise with regard to his fairness and impartiality. It is not necessary that bias must actually be proved. It would be illogical to presume and contrary to normal human conduct, that he would himself at the end of the investigation submit a closure report to conclude false implication with all its attendant consequences for the complainant himself. The result of the investigation would therefore be a foregone conclusion. Mohan Lal v. State of Punjab, (2018) 17 SCC 627.
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The reasonableness and credibility of the information is not a condition precedent to the registration of a case. The import of casting a mandatory obligation on the Officer-in-Charge of a police station to record information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence and to register a case thereon, has been emphasized in the decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1991 (28) ACC 111 (SC) and in Prakash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab, (2007) 1 SCC 1. At the same time arrest of an accused immediately on the registration of an FIR has been held not to be mandatory. The Criminal Procedure code confers a power upon the police to close a matter both before and after the investigation. A police officer can foreclose an FIR before an investigation under Section 157, if appears to him that there is no sufficient ground to investigate it. The police officer is empowered also to investigate the matter and file a final report under Section 173. In Lalita Kumari v.Government of Uttar Pradesh, 2014 (84) ACC 719 (SC), it was held that the police is not liable to launch an investigation in every FIR which is mandatorily registered on receiving information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence. The scheme of the Code not only ensures that the time of the police should not be wasted on false and frivolous information but also that the police should not intentionally refrain from doing its duty of investigating cognizable offences. Jagannath Verma v. State of U.P., 2015 (88) ACC 1 (FB).
The principles relating to exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to quash complaints and criminal proceedings are:
(i) A complaint can be quashed where the allegations made in the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out the case alleged against the accused.
For this purpose, the complaint has to be examined as a whole, but without examining the merits of the allegations. Neither a detailed inquiry nor a meticulous analysis of the material nor an assessment of the reliability or genuineness of the allegations in the complaint, is warranted while examining prayer for quashing of a complaint.
(ii) A complaint may also be quashed where it is a clear abuse of the process of the court, as when the criminal proceeding is found to have been initiated with mala fides/malice for wreaking vengeance or to cause harm or where the allegations are absurd and inherently improbable.
(iii) The power to quash shall not, however, be used to stifle or scuttle a legitimate prosecution. The power should be used sparingly and with abundant caution.
(iv) The complaint is not required to verbatim reproduce the legal ingredients of the offence alleged. If the necessary factual foundation is laid in the complaint, merely on the ground that a few ingredients have not been stated in detail, the proceedings should not be quashed. Quashing of the complaint is warranted only where the complaint is so bereft of even the basic facts which are absolutely necessary for making out the offence.
(v) A given set of facts may make out: (a) purely a civil wrong; or (b) purely a criminal offence; or (c) a civil wrong as also a criminal offence. A commercial transaction or a contractual dispute, apart from furnishing a cause of action for seeking remedy in civil law, may also involve a criminal offence. As the nature and scope of a civil proceeding are different from a criminal proceeding, the mere fact that the complaint relates to a commercial transaction or breach of contract, for which a civil remedy is available or has been availed, is not by itself a ground to quash the criminal proceedings. The test is whether the allegations in the complaint disclose a criminal offence or not.” Binod Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 10 SCC 663.
Section 145(1) of the Negotiable Instruments Act gives complete freedom to the complainant either to give his evidence by way of affidavit or by way of oral evidence. The court has to accept the same even if it is given by way of an affidavit. The second part of Section 145(1) provides that the complainant’s statement on affidavit may, subject to all just exceptions, be read in evidence in any enquiry, trial or other proceedings. Section 145 is a rule of procedure which lays down the manner in which the evidence of the complainant may be recorded and once the court issues summons and the presence of the accused is secured, an option be given to the accused whether, at that stage, he would be willing to pay the amount due along with reasonable interest and if the accused is not willing to pay, the court may fix up the case at an early date and ensure day-to-day trial. Indian Bank Association v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 590.
In a recent Judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court it was held as under:
“(1) The registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the CrPC, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary enquiry is permissible in such a situation.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) 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.
(5) 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.
(6) As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:
(a) Matrimonial disputes/family disputes
(b) Commercial Offences
(c) Medical Negligence cases
(d) Corruption cases
(e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over three months’ delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay.
(7) 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.
(8) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, it was held that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registering 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. Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, (2014) 2 SCC 1.
In many judgments, the person giving the report under Section 154 of CRPC is described as the “complainant” or the “de facto complainant” instead of “informant”, assuming that the State is the complainant. These are not words of literature. In a case registered under Section 154 of the Code, the State is the prosecutor and the person whose information is the cause for lodging the report is the informant. This is obvious from sub-section (2) of Section 154 of the Code which, inter alia, provides for giving a copy of the information to the “informant” and not to the “complainant”. However the complainant is the person who lodges the complaint. The word “complaint” is defined under Section 2(d) of the Code to mean any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate and the person who makes the allegation is the complainant, which would be evident from Section 200 of the Code, which provides for examination of the complainant in a complaint case. Therefore, these words carry different meanings and are not interchangeable. In short, the person giving information, which leads to lodging of the report under Section 154 of the Code is the informant and the person who files the complaint is the complainant. Ganesha v. Sharanappa and another, (2014) 1 SCC 87.