What is a Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offence in India?

हिंदी में पढ़ें
September 22, 2021
By Advocate Chikirsha Mohanty

Cognizable offences are those in which the police can arrest without any warrant. These are more serious in nature. Non-cognizable offences on the other hand are those for which a police officer has no authority to arrest, unless with a warrant.

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The Criminal Procedure Code lays (CrPC) the rules for the conduct of proceedings against any person who has committed an offence under any Criminal law, whether it is I.P.C or other Criminal law.

Classification of Offences

Depending on the nature and gravity of an offence they can be classified under any of the following heads:

  1. Bailable and non-bailable offence

  2. Cognizable and non-cognizable offence.

  3. Compoundable and non-compoundable offence

Basis of Classification

The basis of the classification of an offence depends on how serious it is. The punishment of each offence decides its seriousness. Serious offences are those that are punishable with an imprisonment of not less than 3 years and are, therefore, considered cognizable offences. While the word cognizable has not been defined in CrPC, and no exact test for determining the classification has been provided, it does state widely that an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of more than 3 years shall be cognizable offences. Further, in the case of State of West Bengal v. Swaran Kumar Guha & Ors., the Supreme Court held that the police cannot be handed over the complete discretion to decide the nature of the offence. To determine whether an offence is cognizable or not, principles of natural justice must be employed.

What are Cognizable Offences?

A cognizable offence is an offence in which the police officer as per the first schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, can arrest the convict without a warrant and can start an investigation without the permission of the court. Cognizable offences are generally heinous or serious in nature such as murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, dowry death etc. The first information report (FIR) is registered only in cognizable crimes.

Under section 154 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a police officer is bound to register an FIR in case of a cognizable crime. He can also conduct some kind of preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR. In these offences, a convict is arrested and produced before the magistrate in the stipulated time.Some of the examples of a cognizable offence are as follows:

  1. Waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting the waging of war against the government of India,

  2. Murder,

  3. Rape,

  4. Dowry Death,

  5. Kidnapping,

  6. Theft,

  7. Criminal Breach of Trust,

  8. Unnatural Offenses.

Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 provides that under a cognizable offence the Police Officer has to receive the First Information Report (FIR) relating to the cognizable offence.

Key Elements of cognizable offences:

  • Cognizable offences are those where a police officer can arrest without warrant.

  • And such cases, after arrest has been made, the accused will be produced before a magistrate, and he may require the police officer to investigate the matter.

  • After investigation, if the case is made out, i.e. charge sheet filed goes against accused, the magistrate can order for arrest.

  • During the pendency of trial, bail application can be moved before the concerned magistrate.

  • Cognizable offences are both bailable, and non-bailable.

What are Non-cognizable Offences?

A non-cognizable offence is the offence listed under the first schedule of the Indian Penal Code and is bailable in nature. In case of a non-cognizable offence, the police cannot arrest the accused without a warrant as well as cannot start an investigation without the permission of the court. The crimes of forgery, cheating, defamation, public nuisance, etc., fall in the category of non-cognizable crimes.

In this type of crimes, a criminal complaint is lodged with the metropolitan magistrate who is supposed to order the concerned police station to initiate an investigation. The police officer is supposed to file the charge sheet with the court which is followed by a trial. After the trial, if the accused is found guilty, the court passes the order to issue the warrant to arrest the accused.Some of the examples of a non-cognizable offence are as follows:

  1. Assault,

  2. Cheating,

  3. Forgery

Key Elements of non-cognizable offence:

  • Non cognizable offences are those, where a police officer cannot arrest without a warrant.

  • In such offences for arrest, all the steps have to be followed like

  • Filing of complaint/F.I.R.

  • Investigation

  • Charge sheet,

  • Charge sheet to be filed in court

  • Trial

  • Final order of arrest if case has been made out.

Difference between Cognizable and Non Cognizable offences

The difference between Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offenceshasbeen defined in Criminal Procedure Code as follows;

Cognizable Offence

  1. Cognizable offence has been defined under Section 2of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Cognizable offence means an offence for which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without a warrant or permission/order from the Magistrate.

  2. Cognizable offences are those offences which are serious in nature. Example- Murder, Rape, Dowry Death, Kidnapping, Theft, Criminal Breach of Trust, Unnatural Offences.

  3. Section 154 of CrPCprovidesthat under a Cognizable offence or case, the Police Officer has to receive the First Information Report (FIR) relating to the cognizable offence, which can be obtained without the Magistrate’s permission and enter it in the General Diary to immediately start the investigation. An FIR sets the criminal lawin motion.

  4. If a Cognizable offence has been committed, a Police Officer can investigate without the Magistrate’s permission.

    Consult:Top Criminal Lawyers in India

Non-Cognizable Offence

  1. A non-cognizable offence or a non-cognizable case has been defined in theCriminal Procedure Code as an offence for which the police have no authority to arrest without awarrant.

  2. Non-Cognizable offences are those which are lessserious in nature. Example- Assault, Cheating, Forgery, Defamation, etc.

  3. Section 155 of CrPCprovides thatif apolice officerreceives information regarding the commission of anon-cognizable offence, he is supposed to enter the substance of the case in the station diary and refer the informant to approach the concerned Magistrate.

  4. Under a Non-Cognizable offence/case, in order to start the investigation, it is important for the police officer to obtain the permission from the Magistrate.

What are the Powers of a Police Officer While Investigate Cognizable Cases?

Any officer-in-charge of a Police Station, without the order of a magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have power to inquire into or try under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. 1973.

The Supreme Court of India, in Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of UP on 12 November, 2013 held that ‘the police must compulsorily register the FIR on receiving a complaint if the information discloses a cognizable offence, and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation’.

The police cannot refuse to register the case on the ground that it is either not reliable or credible (Smt. Gurmito vs. State of Punjab And Ors 1996 CriLJ 1254 P&H). Further, refusal to record FIR on the ground that the place of crime does not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of the police station, amount to dereliction of duty. Information about cognizable offence would have to be recorded and forwarded to the police station having jurisdiction (State of Andhra Pradesh vs. Punati Ramulu And Others, AIR 1993 SC 2644).

It is the duty of the officer-in-charge of the police station to register an FIR when investigation under section 156(3) of CrPC is directed by the Magistrate, even when the Magistrate explicitly does not say so (Mohd. Yoysuf vs. Afaq Jahan, (2006), SCC 627).

What are the powers of the police officer while investigating a non-cognizable offence?

A non-cognizable offence is an offence where a police officer is not authorized to arrest in the absence of a warrant. The police cannot arrest any person without a warrant and start investigating the matter on their own. The police officer must seek an order from the magistrate under section 155(2) of CrPC. The aggrieved party must file a complaint in the concerned police station in order to initiate an investigation. After the completion of the investigation, the police officer must file the charge sheet in court. After the trial, the court passes orders regarding the issuing of a warrant to arrest the accused.

Cases consisting of both Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences

According to Section 155(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, when two or more offences are there in a case, of which at least one is of cognizable nature, and other of non-cognizable nature, then the entire case has to be dealt as a cognizable case, and the investigating officer will have all the powers and authority as he has in investigating a cognizable case.

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What is the Procedure to be followed in Cases of Cognizable Offences

The procedure relating to the Cognizable Offences has been described below:

1. First Information Report
F.I.R. means the information, given to the police that person known or unknown has committed an offence which is listed as cognizable offence in Schedule 1 of Cr.P.C. It has to be signed by the informant. A copy of F.I.R. has to be given to the informant and the second copy of F.I.R. has to be sent to the magistrate for his perusal and record. This is regarded as the basis or foundation of the prosecution case. F.I.R. is said to be the first, untainted, unguided version of the case and generally is never false.

2. Report to the Magistrate
When a cognizable offence has been reported, the officer-in-charge makes the reports to the concerned judicial magistrate and appoints himself or a subordinate officer for investigation.

3. Investigation
In cognizable offence, the investigation begins as soon as the information is received and recorded. All formalities of the order of the magistrate and warrants arrive later. The Police officer assigns proceeds to spot, arrest the suspect, ascertain facts and circumstances of the case.

For heinous offences, no time limit has been prescribed specifically by Section 468 of Cr.P.C. for completion of investigation but one can always approach the Supreme Court for unreasonable delay under Article 21 that is Right to Freedom as provided by the Indian Constitution.

4. Search and Production of Documents
If the Police believes that some search has to be made during investigation, he is authorized to do so for cognizable offence. He can also issue or order a person to produce any documents that are relevant for the case.

5. Arrest
Arrest refers to a physical restraint put on a person as a result of accusation made against him for an offence that is cognizable in nature. Three elements are present for the arrest of a person:

  1. Intention to arrest under authority;

  2. Detention in legal manner; and

  3. Arrested person understands why he is arrested and knows his rights.

Arrest in cognizable offences does not require a warrant. It can be done on the making of accusation that is so dangerous or serious in nature that it cannot be avoided. Within 24 hours of the arrest, the Police has to acquire an arrest warrant for the person in custody. Within 24 hours, the Police has all the time to investigate the offence and question the person.

6. Remand
When Police arrests a person in case if cognizable offence and investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours, then they make a written application to the magistrate and request him to keep the accused in police custody for further period otherwise the accused has to be released. The request of remand can be granted for not more than 14 days under the police custody.

7. Statement of Witnesses
During the investigation, the persons who are included in the case basically the witnesses, as well as the accused, are questioned and their statements of their side of the event are recorded.

8. Medical Examination
In case of rape and molestation or any such crime where medical examination is necessary, it’s the duty of the police officer to get it conducted within 24 hours of the offence being reported.

9. Chargesheet
When a Police officer concludes an investigation of a cognizable offence, he sends a report to the magistrate of that investigation in which the I.O. finds the material to proceed against the accused. This report includes F.I.R., statements of witnesses recorded by police, names of parties, brief facts and information gathered by the I.O. during investigation etc.

10. Inquiry
At the stage of inquiry, the judge doesn’t give a decision. He/she reaches a preliminary finding and leaves it to the parties to make further action like plead guilty etc. In this stage, witnesses are generally required to come to the court, take an oath and then give evidence in respect of what they have seen and stated before the police during the investigation.

11. Trial
The hallmark of trial is that every witness who gives evidence will now give the same evidence in court is binded by an oath. Trial has several categories:

  1. Trial of warrant case by a magistrate;

  2. Trial of summons case by a magistrate;

  3. Trial started on cognizance taken on a police report; and

  4. Sessions Trial.

In cognizable offences, the trial is usually under Warrant Case or Sessions Case as they deal with more serious and heinous offences.

12. Judgment
The judgment contains the points for determination, the decision on those points and reasons for the same by considering the examination, cross-examination of accused and the witnesses.

12. Punishment
In Cognizable cases, the punishment period is usually more than 3 years going upto life imprisonment or death penalty as they are serious and heinous in nature.

Consult:Top Criminal Lawyers in India

What is the Procedure to be followed in Non- Cognizable Cases?

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, no police officer should investigate a non-cognizable case without the order of concerned magistrate. When a police officer approaches the magistrate for permission, it is not incumbent on him to grant the permission invariably.

It is open to the magistrate either to grant permission or refuse to grant permission in such cases but should give reasons for his decision. In a case before the High Court, an accused challenged the order of a magistrate in according permission to the police to investigate the offence registered against him under Section 182 IPC (false information with the intent to cause public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person).

As for the case details, an official enquiry was conducted against some officials who indulged in corrupt practices while discharging their official duties. Prior to it, a preliminary enquiry was conducted by a police officer and as part of it, he recorded the statements of the petitioner-accused and some others.

However, during the official enquiry, they gave volte-face and did not support the version that was given by them before the police officer regarding the corrupt practices of the delinquent officials. On the contrary, they turned hostile and given false statements to help corrupt delinquent officials. Taking it seriously, the police officer lodged a complaint against them for the offence under Section 182 IPC.

Accordingly, the concerned sub-inspector of police registered the case against them for the said offence which was a non-cognizable offence and the officer (complainant) sought for permission of the concerned magistrate to investigate the matter. When the magistrate accorded permission to investigate, the accused challenged it before the High Court.

Prior permission
The counsel for the petitioner-accused contended that as per Section 155 CrPC, the police are not authorised to register FIR in respect of the information received by them which discloses the commission of a non-cognizable offence. The SHO of concerned police station should only enter the substance of the information in the diary and refer the informant to the concerned magistrate and upon receiving the order from the latter only, the officer should investigate into the matter. Except for according permission, the magistrate has not passed any “speaking order”, he pointed out.

On the other hand, the public prosecutor supported the impugned order and urged the court to dismiss the petition of the accused. After hearing both sides and perusing the material on record and various court judgments, the High Court said that in terms of Section 155 CrPC, the SHO is not authorised to investigate the non-cognizable offences without prior permission of the court.

In the present case, contrary to Section 155 CrPC and also the orders of the Andhra Pradesh police manual, the concerned SHO had registered the FIR on receiving complaint from the police officer and thereafter only sought for permission of the magistrate for investigation. The aforesaid violation is an incurable one in view of the mandatory provision laid down under Section 155 CrPC and also the AP police manual, the judge observed.

As for according permission to investigate the matter, the Court said that the concerned magistrate has not assigned any plausible reasons which prompted him to grant such permission. Besides, the magistrate has not recorded reasons for according permission. In view of the procedural violations, the Court allowed the petition by setting aside the impugned order.

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Sending a Report to the Magistrate under Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences (Section 158)

A report is sent to the Magistrate which is called the police report. It is sent by the superior police officer, so as to make the Magistrate aware that a particular case is being investigated by a police officer. The main objective of sending a report is to enable the Magistrate to control the investigation and give directions if required under Section 159 of the Code.

The report should be sent to the Magistrate without any delay. In Swati Ram v. State of Rajasthan, it was held that mere delay in sending the report does not throw away the prosecution case in its entirety.

At different stages of an investigation, different reports are to be submitted by the police to the Magistrate. These reports are:

  1. Section 157 of the CrPC requires the officer in charge of the police station to submit a report to the Magistrate, called a preliminary report.

  2. Section 168 of the CrPC requires a subordinate officer to submit a report to the officer in charge of the police station.

  3. Section 173 of the CrPC requires that a final report is to be submitted to the Magistrate as after the investigation gets over.

    Consult:Top Criminal Lawyers in India

Important Judgements relating to Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences

1. Lalita Kumari Vs State Of U.P, Air
The honourable Supreme Court held that under section 154 a police officer is bound to register FIR if the information suggest a cognizable offence , the court went even further to held that expression “Shall’ leaves no discretion to a police officer to hold premolar investigation before registering the FiR. The court also held that stringent action shall be taken against earing officers who had refused to register the FIR. However, the court held arrest and investigation are different concepts section 154 does not give the right to police to arrest the person if fir is registered against him without any evidence, It must be noted that section 154 shall have no application in below offences;

  • 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 the delay.

2. Sakiri Vasu Vs State Of Uttar Pradesh And Others
The Supreme Court observed that if a person has reason to believe that police is not investigating the matter or refusing to register FIR can send the substance of information to superintendent of police under section 154(3). If the aggrieved still is not satisfied with the investigation may file an application before magistrate under section 156(3) the magistrate if satisfied that information discloses a cognizable offence, he may direct the police to register the FIR.

3. Ravishwar Manjhi Vs State Of Jharkhand, Air 2009, SC 1262
It was held that mere information received on the telephone by a police Officer without any identity or description of the accused as well as nature of injuries caused by the victims as well as the name of the culprits may not be treated as FIR

4. Sunil Kumar Vs State Of M.P
In this case petitioners had a grievance that their said representation was not reduced to writing by the police station, The Supreme Court held that the petitioners should have approached superintendent of police before approaching the Court, the court directed that respondents to take cognizance of their matter as soon as possible

How can a lawyer help you in your criminal case?

A lawyer having substantial experience in handling criminal cases can guide you through the court procedure and can help you prepare a solid defense for your case. He can prepare you for cross-examinations and guide you on how to answer prosecution’s questions. A criminal lawyer is an expert in dealing with criminal cases knows how to tackle a particular case owing to his years of experience. Having a good criminal lawyer by your side you can ensure a successful result in your case in the minimum time possible.

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What happens if a criminal charge is not dismissed?

Being charged with a crime, whether major or minor, is a serious matter. A person facing criminal charges risks severe penalties and consequences, such as jail time, having a criminal record, and loss of relationships and future job prospects, among other things. While some legal matters can be handled alone, a criminal arrest of any nature warrants the legal advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case. Thus, it is crucial to have a good criminal lawyer by your side when charged with a crimewho can guide you with the criminal case and can help get the charges dismissed.You can alsoask a lawyer onlinea free legal question using LawRato's Ask a Free Question service.



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