Oct 11, 2008

FIR a must? SC's own order called for preliminary probe first

New Delhi: After "cracking the whip" on cops refusing to immediately register FIRs on receipt of complaints pertaining to commission of a cognizable offence, the Supreme Court on Wednesday hit an air, pocket on finding that its earlier judgment had allowed preliminary inquiry prior to registration of FIRs.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Maharashtra, pointed out the dichotomy to a bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal and G S Singhvi, saying that in a 2007 judgment in Rajinder Singh Katoch case, the SC had allowed preliminary probe "in appropriate cases" before registration of an FIR.

Naphade said the state was ready to abide by the bench's latest directive putting the onus on police for immediate registration of FIR, but it would be difficult to punish errant cops who were sure to take refuge under the 2007 judgment that allowed them to exercise discretion.

The bench agreed with him that the judgment was definitely an impediment to its August 8 order prescribing stringent action against cops refusing to register FIRS and wanted the counsel for states to find out the law laid down by the apex court on this issue. "We were under the impression that the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code left no scope for any dilly-dallying on registration of an FIR But, it seems we have created confusion through the 2007 judgment," the bench said.
Unless "what is an appropriate case" is defined and guidelines laid down, it would be difficult to catch the culprit, Naphade said. This plea drew support from Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Chandigarh, Haryana and Puducherry.

Arguing for Chandigarh administration, advocate Kamini Jaiswal contended that making registration of FIRS mandatory would increase the misuse of anti-dowry provisions and confer a power that would surely be misused by police for extorting money. "We have seen complaints under 498A of IPC being filed not only against the husband but aged parents-in-law and all other in-laws that led to arrest of even people on the death bed. Making registration of FIRS mandatory will make the situation worse," she said.

Agreeing with Jaiswal, Naphade said one has to be careful in registering FIRs during polls when reckless allegations are made by political rivals as well as in civil disputes and matrimonial matters. Convinced that the matter required elaborate hearing, not only on what the law provided but also on the interpretations given by the apex court, the bench adjourned hearing on the matter asking the counsel to research the issue thoroughly.
Source : Times of India

(by T.P.C. Gupta, Advocate)

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