Cognizable Offences under the Code of Criminal Procedure

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Cognizable Offences under the Code of Criminal Procedure
Cognizable Offences under the Code of Criminal Procedure


The legal system consists of 3 categories.

  1. Evidentiary law
  2. Procedural law
  3. Substantive law.

The first one is called evidentiary law which defines the rules and regulations that define how the evidence brought into a case is to be handled. It defines how evidence is to be recorded, how it is to be checked, how it is to be presented in court and at what time it should be submitted in court. To put it in better words, it deals with any facts or evidence that is to be presented at court that is crucial in convincing the judges to grant a judgment in one party’s favour.

The second one is known as procedural law which states how an individual can seek help from an authority to get justice. You will be able to gain knowledge regarding various information about the procedure for getting arrested, the different categories of crimes, the process of applying for bail, how an investigation is conducted etc. A crime or an offence is something that goes against the morals of society and can be punishable. It is illegal and people can lodge complaints with the police or magistrate. There are two types of crimes classified by the Indian Penal Code, of 1890. They are known as cognizable and non-cognizable crimes or offences. All crimes that are committed by human beings are not the same. Their investigation procedure, bail process, and their punishments differ according to the severity of the crime. These crimes are majorly classified into 3 types based on the severity of the crime and the nature of the crime. They are:

  1. Cognizable and Non-Cognizable crime
  2. Compoundable and Non-Compoundable crime
  3. Bailable and Non-Bailable crime.

This article will give an elaborate understanding of the Cognizable and Non-Cognizable crimes listed by the Indian Penal Code. You will also be able to distinguish properly between cognizable and non-cognizable offences. The third one is called substantive law. Substantive law is all about how the society should behave as a whole. It defines the citizen’s basic rights and privileges. It is like a guide or a code that dictates the do’s and don’ts that an individual has to follow while co-existing with other members of the community. It contains both private and public law which defines contracts, torts, property transfer etc.


A Cognizable crime is an offence that gives the power to authorities to arrest the suspects without a warrant issued by the higher-ups. The severity of such crimes is extremely high. Examples of cognizable crimes are murder, robbery, abduction, rape etc. Such crimes are extremely harmful to society and pose a threat to the citizens of the country. The police have full authority to arrest the accused without having to wait to receive a warrant from the magistrate. They will be able to proceed with the investigation without having to face any obstacles or hindrances. A minimum of 3 years of imprisonment is awarded to criminals after the trial proceedings if found guilty. The criminals can also be penalised with life imprisonment by the court if the crime committed is too heinous. In certain circumstances, the criminals might be able to escape imprisonment by applying for bail. The power to grant bail is with the magistrate. They might decide to grant bail or not, it is up to them.

The Transition of a Criminal Case into a Cognizable Cases

A crime is usually targeted towards the society rather than an individual. When highly dangerous crimes are committed, an FIR is filed and then an investigation is conducted by the magistrate. When a crime is committed that affects society on a large scale, then it becomes a cognizable offence. When we look at a non-cognizable offence, it is not as serious as a cognizable offence. In Non-Cognizable offences, the police do not have the authority to arrest suspects without a proper warrant. But, in some cases, a cognizable case can become a non-cognizable case if the magistrate decides so.

Procedure for Investigation of Cognizable Crimes

The first step is to file a complaint with the police office. It is known as an FIR that contains vital information about the case in oral or writing. It will be treated as crucial evidence when an investigation is conducted, and a trial starts. Police officers are given complete authority to start investigating a cognizable crime if it is under their scope or jurisdiction. The officers will not face any punishment for carrying out an investigation or an arrest without a warrant because the magistrate has offered them full authority to do so in such crimes. Also, the magistrate should mandatorily hand over the authority to police officers to investigate a cognizable crime. The magistrate does not have the power to refuse the authority to be given to the officers.

The protocol followed by the officers while initiating the investigation are:

Report of Initial Information (FIR)

Filing a formal complaint is the first step towards starting an inquiry when a cognizable crime has been committed. In the 2013 case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, it was decided that if the FIR reveals the conduct of a cognizable offence, it must be filed under Section 154 of the CrPC, and no preliminary investigation is allowed in such circumstances. However, if the information points to the need for an investigation but does not reveal a crime that may be prosecuted, it may merely be done to determine if the crime was committed. An FIR may be filed by the following individuals for the conduct of a specific offence: The victim, the person who is the target of the offence, anybody who has any kind of relationship with the victim, or any eyewitness to the offence.


The purpose of the FIR is to:

  • Start up the criminal justice system.
  • Protect society’s interests.
  • Assist the police officers in carrying out their investigation.
  • Get firsthand knowledge of the offence that was committed.
  • Process

The CrPC’s Section 154 outlines the process for filing a First Information Report.

  • Any information provided orally by the police regarding the commission of an offence must be documented in writing.
  • The person who created the record has to hear the officer read it out to them.
  • The individual providing the information must sign it.
  • The individual must make a thumb impression if they are unable to sign.
  • The individual who filed the FIR has to receive a copy of it.

Additionally, if the police station’s officer of record neglects or declines to register the FIR. The person who feels wronged has two options: either go to the chief of police or if he does the same, use Section 156 of the CrPC to submit a complaint to the magistrate. In the 2003 case of Damodar v. State of Rajasthan, the court ruled that information provided to the police over the phone regarding the conduct of an offence does not result in a formal police report (FIR), even if the officer records the information and it exposes a crime that is punishable by law unless it is confirmed.


The next stage is to investigate a cognizable offence in line with Section 156 of the CrPC; non-cognizable offences are investigated in line with Section 155 of the Code. In the 2006 case of Mohd. Yousuf v. Afaq Jahan, it was decided that the magistrate has implicit authority under Section 156 of the Code to guarantee that any inquiry into a cognizable offence is carried out correctly. Should this not be the case, he may direct the police to undertake a proper investigation. Furthermore, an arrested individual must appear before the closest magistrate and cannot be held in custody for longer than 24 hours, per Section 57 of the Code.

Review of the testimony

Police question witnesses and have the authority to record their testimonies under Section 161 of the CrPC. But in court, these kinds of remarks are not admissible as substantial evidence. Additionally, the Section mandates that the witness respond truthfully to all inquiries save those that might lead to his exposure. It is based on the adage which says that no one is required to blame themselves for a crime.

Conversely, the admissions and declarations made in front of the magistrate under Section 164 of the Code are made under oath and have the signature of the individual providing them. If someone makes such a confession, the magistrate has to warn them that they might be used against them as evidence in court. In the 2001 case of Mahavir Singh v. State of Haryana, this took place.

Chargesheet submission

Following the conclusion of the inquiry, the police submit a charge sheet by Section 173 of the CrPC, which includes the following details:

  • Names of the involved parties,
  • kind of information or offence,
  • Observers,
  • Whether an offence is committed prima facie,
  • If the defendant is taken into custody,
  • Whether or if he gets freed on bond,
  • Reports on medical examinations, etc.


Under Section 190 of the Code, the court takes jurisdiction of the matter, and if the case is proven, it either punishes the accused or releases them. After the court has given the matter its attention, the trial starts.

Rules Outlined in Section 154 of the Crpc

Details in Situations That Can Be Prosecuted.

  1. Any information regarding the commission of a crime that is given through speech to an officer in control of a police department must be put on paper by him or under his supervision, and the informant must be given the information. All information, whether provided orally or put in writing as described above, must be signed by the person providing it, and the content must be recorded in a book that the officer will keep in the format that the State Government may specify.
  2. An immediate, cost-free copy of the data as documented under sub-section (1) must be sent to the informant.
  3. Anyone who feels wronged by a police station officer’s rejection to document the information mentioned in subsection (1) may submit the information in question, in written form and via post, to the Chief of Police in question. If the Superintendent of Police is convinced that the information reveals an act of a crime, he will either look into the matter personally or assign another officer to look into it by this Code. In the latter case, the Superintendent of Police will have all the authority of an officer in possession of the police station about that crime.

By that specific law, an officer can file a First Information Report, establish custody of, and arrest a suspect without first obtaining permission from the court. if they are certain that making an arrest is the right course of action and have “reason to believe” that someone has committed the crime. The officer next has to approach the competent judicial magistrate to approve the custody within 24 hours after the arrest. Before filing an F.I.R., a police officer may also choose to perform a preliminary inquiry to confirm the facts, but he is solely responsible for the results. This is because it will be a thoughtless error if the police officer fails to file a First Information Report (FIR) at the time the information is received and anything goes wrong because he was unaware that a severe crime, such as murder, was committed and someone was killed.

Process Must Be Followed in Situations When Offenses Are Punishable

Details Obtained? Added to the General Diary? F.I.R. registration? Accused person arrested? Remand? Look into matters under Section 156. An indictment under Section 173? Question? Trial? Evaluation

Below is a description of each of these processes about the Cognizable Offenses.


F.I.R. refers to information provided to the police about the commission of a crime that is included in Schedule 1 of the Cr.P.C. as a cognizable offence by a known or unknown individual. It needs to be the informant’s signature. The informant must get a copy of the F.I.R., and the magistrate must receive a second copy for his review and records. This is thought to be the prosecution’s case’s cornerstone. It is stated that F.I.R. is the initial, pure, uninformed account of the case and is rarely untrue.


The officer-in-charge notifies the relevant judicial judge of any recorded cognizable offences and designates either themselves or a lower-ranking official for enquiry.


The inquiry into a cognizable offence starts right away as the evidence is obtained and documented. Warrants arrive later, along with all the formalities of the magistrate’s order. The police officer is assigned to locate the culprit, apprehend them, and gather information on the case’s facts and circumstances. Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. does not set a deadline for the conclusion of the inquiry into crimes against humanity. Still, in the event of an unjustified detention, the honour of freedom guaranteed by Composition 21 of the Indian Constitution may be used as grounds for a challenge to the Supreme Court.


For crimes that are punishable by law, the police are allowed to conduct quests if they suppose it’s necessary to do so while conducting their disquisition. In addition, he has the authority to demand the product of any papers that are material to the case.


When someone is physically restrained after being indicted of a crime that falls under the governance of the state, it’s known as an arrest. For someone to be arrested, three conditions must be met: the arrested person must be detained fairly, have the intent to arrest under power, and be apprehensive of his rights. In cases of cognizable offences, apprehensions can be made without a warrant. However, it can be carried out, If a complaint is made that’s ineluctably dangerous or serious. The police must get a leave of arrest for the subject within twenty-four hours following the arrest.


If an arrest is made for a cognizable offence and the investigation is not finished in a day, the police will file a formal application with the magistrate asking him to extend the accused’s detention in police custody; if not, the accused must be released. The motion for detention may be approved for a maximum of 14 days while the person is in police custody.


During the inquiry, the parties involved in the case—essentially, the accused and the witnesses—are inquired, and their accounts of what happened are documented.


It is the responsibility of the police officer to arrange for a medical examination to be done as soon as possible after the crime is reported, especially in cases of rape, molestation, or other crimes where one is required.


Upon completion of an investigation into a cognizable offence, a police officer submits a report to the magistrate detailing the evidence the investigator believes warrants further prosecution of the accused. This report contains the following: F.I.R., police-recorded witness testimonies, party identities, a synopsis of the facts and information acquired by the I.O. during the investigation, etc.


The judge renders no ruling at this point in the investigation. After reaching a preliminary conclusion, he or she leaves the parties to take additional action, such as pleading guilty. Witnesses must typically appear in court at this point, take an oath, and then testify about what they saw and said to the police while the investigation was on.


The distinguishing feature of a trial is that, under oath, each witness will now provide identical testimony in court. The trial falls into many categories: Trials of warrant cases, summons cases, trials initiated upon police report cognizance, and session trials are all handled by magistrates. Since warrant cases and session cases handle more serious and egregious offences, they are typically used for trials involving cognizable offences.


The judgment includes the issues for determination, the conclusion on those points, and the reasoning behind the decision based on the accuser’s testimony and the eyewitnesses’ cross-examination and examination.


Given the seriousness and heinousness of the offences involved, sentences for cognizable cases often last longer than three years and can even include the death penalty or life in prison.


  • The Supreme Court’s precedents, which update definitions of offences to conform to the Constitution, are not binding on law enforcement. They adhere to antiquated laws, regulations, and methods of dealing with criminal activity.
  • The concept of sedition was narrowed down to include just speech or behaviour that has the potential to “encourage violence” or “involve an intent or propensity of causing disorder.” The Supreme Court ruled that before taking cognizance of a crime, an officer reviewing a sedition FIR must correctly comprehend and apply Kedarnath Singh. Nevertheless, there has been a rise in F.I.R. for crimes that are punishable by law, such as sedition and inciting animosity between religious groups.
  • There are no limitations on police authority that would prevent them from making an arrest in the instance of a cognizable offence. It has many difficulties and issues:
  1. Judging whether the suspect’s actions will have a negative downstream consequence or not can be done incorrectly.
  2. This could incite animosity between religious groups or inspire anger, disdain, or disenchantment against the government.
  3. Arresting someone for a mistake of this kind would unconstitutionally restrict their freedom of expression and behaviour (as stated in Article 19) as well as their right to be free from arbitrary detention (as stated in Article 22).
  • Numerous Supreme Court rulings and the 154th and 177th Law Commission Reports criticized the broad authority of arrest for crimes that qualify for criminal prosecution.
  1. This resulted in the 2009 modification, which limited the authority to arrest those who are suspected of having “committed a cognisable offence” based on “reliable information,” “an appropriate complaint,” or “justifiable suspicion.”
  2. But the word “reasonable” is very subjective and open to interpretation.
  • As a result, the CrPC neither discourages nor provides incentives for making arbitrary arrests that are in line with people’s autonomy and right to personal freedom.




Cognizable offences are those for which the police have the authority to arrest without a warrant or the court’s previous approval.

Methodology of the inquiry

Section 156 of the CrPC outlines the process for looking into offences that are subject to legal action.

Authorities of law enforcement personnel

Without a magistrate’s approval, the police can carry out an arrest with no warrant and begin an inquiry as soon as a formal complaint is filed.

Make an arrest.

The accused may be taken into custody without a warrant or judicial approval.

Crime’s severity

Compared to crimes that are not recognized, the offences committed are more horrible and severe.

The extent of the penalty

For such offences, the sentence carries a minimum of three years imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison or death.

Bail for the defendant

The court’s jurisdiction and the nature of the offence determine whether a recognized offence is subject to bail or not.

As an example

Murder, assault, abduction, kidnapping, etc.



Non-cognizable offences are those for which the police are not allowed to arrest without the court’s previous approval.

Methodology of the inquiry

Section 155 of the CrPC outlines the inquiry process in such circumstances.

Authorities of law enforcement personnel

The magistrate must give the police the go-ahead before they can begin the inquiry.

Make an arrest.

Need the court’s prior approval.

Crime’s severity

These offences are more terrible and less serious.

The extent of the penalty

Most sentences are for fewer than three years.

Bail for the defendant

As non-cognizable offences are less serious, they are subject to bail.

As an example

Assault, dishonesty, slander, etc.


State of Bihar v. Arnesh Kumar (2014)

Case facts

In this instance, the woman claimed that she was kicked out of her marital home because her parents did not provide the dowry that the parents of her husband had demanded. After being taken into custody alongside his parents, the applicant filed a motion for bail, which was later denied by the High Court. He said that his wife had made up all of the untrue accusations. In this decision, the Supreme Court discussed the topic of lenient and careless arrest in dowry instances that are egregious and constitute crimes that are punishable by law.

Problems with the case

Does the person being accused of a crime have to be taken into custody?
What options does the individual who was detained have if the accusations and the FIR that led to his detention were made up and fraudulent?

Court’s ruling

In this case, the Supreme Court limited police officers’ ability to arrest for crimes that are punishable by law, particularly those covered under Section 498 A of the IPC, and it established rules for the same:

  • Police personnel need to be trained not to immediately arrest someone for accusations made by Section 498A of the IPC.
  • As per Section 41 of the CrPC, they are required to be given a checklist.
  • The magistrate must get a written explanation from the police officer for not arresting the criminal.
  • The magistrate has the authority to grant further custody if he is pleased with the grounds for the accused’s apprehension.
  • According to Section 41A of the Code, the accused must receive a notice to appear within two weeks after the case’s initiation.
  • The police officer will be held in defiance before the High Court if he disobeys and disregards the instructions.
  • The magistrate will face disciplinary actions if he issues a detention order without carefully weighing the available information.

West Bengal State v. DK Basu (1996)

Case specifics

In this instance, a letter from DK Basu—the Executive Chairman of Legal Aid Services—was regarded as a writ petition. Numerous custodial fatalities resulting from police arrests were cited in the letter sent to the Supreme Court.

Problems with the instance

Is it necessary to have regulations regarding the arrest and incarceration of accused individuals?

Ruling from the court

In addressing the matter, the Supreme Court provided criteria for arrests that the police must adhere to in cases when they are arrested for a crime that is punishable by law. They are as follows:

  • The arresting police must have their designations displayed on their identity labels, which must be accurate, visible, and clear.
  • They have to draft an arrest memorandum that needs to be signed by a minimum of one witness, who might be the detained person’s relative or just anybody who was there when the arrest was made. The time and date of the arrest must be written on this, which the individual who was arrested must sign.
  • It is necessary to notify the person’s friends or relatives of his arrest, including the date, time, and location of the arrest.
  • To do this, an appropriate case journal has to be kept.
  • Additionally, they have to have an inspection document on file, signed by both the arrested individual and the arresting police officer. The individual who was arrested has to be provided with a duplicate of the inspection note.
  • Each of the 48 hours that the accused individual is detained in custody, he is required to go through a medical checkup.
  • For the magistrate’s reference, all required paperwork must be supplied, including the memo and case diary.

2022: XYZ v. Madhya Pradesh State

Case facts

In one instance, police turned down a woman’s request to report harassment against the vice chancellor of the organization where she worked. She complained to the Superintendent of Police, but nothing was done about it. She decided to complain to the Judicial Magistrate First Class as a result. Following receipt of the allegation, the magistrate directed the police to launch an inquiry. However, the Covid-19 epidemic caused an extension in the proceedings. The petitioner was able to grill the witnesses at the beginning of the hearings, and the Magistrate granted them the opportunity to be examined. His motion was denied by the High Court because the Magistrate was not required to order an inquiry.

Problems with the case

If an inquiry under Section 156 of the Crpc is required, does the Judicial Magistrate First Class have to order one?

Court’s ruling

In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a magistrate is only required to request an inquiry if it appears, at least on the surface, that the offence committed is legally cognizable. It was noted that the term “may,” which is employed in the Section, grants the magistrate discretionary authority; ordering an inquiry is not required. Only in the event of a cognizable offence would he have the authority to request an inquiry. The Supreme Court further noted that the High Court made the right conclusion in ruling that a magistrate is not required to order an investigation.

Dr Saleem ur Rehman v. State of Jammu and Kashmir (2021)

Case facts

In this instance, the High Court invalidated the FIRs filed under the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act (1949) and the Ranbir Penal Code (1989) because the magistrate’s prior approval was not obtained before beginning an inquiry. The Code did not recognize the offences that were performed. The Supreme Court considered this matter.

Problems with the case

Is the magistrate’s previous approval required to initiate an inquiry into non-cognizable offences?

Court’s ruling

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court pointed out that the High Court erred in determining whether a magistrate’s approval is required before conducting an inquiry into non-cognizable offences. It was decided that conducting an inquiry into non-cognizable offences in addition to cognizable offences does not need obtaining any kind of permission from the magistrate.


  • India needs to implement the inquisitorial investigative system, which is used in nations like France and Germany and is overseen by a court magistrate.
  • Law and Order’s investigative branch was split off.
  • In contrast to many other regions of the globe where there are 50 judges per million inhabitants, India has one judge for every 19.66 persons as of 2017. As a result, the government must appoint people to open judicial positions.
  • Creating the National Judicial Administration will be a positive move.
  • Judges with specialized training in criminal law should comprise a distinct criminal division within the higher courts, especially the Supreme Court. The Malimath Committee recommends that crimes be categorized as social welfare codes, correctional codes, criminal codes, and economic and other offences codes rather than the present categorization of crimes as cognisable and non-cognizable crimes.
  • It also suggested setting up a Presidential Commission to conduct a recurring evaluation of the penal justice System’s operation.


Considering the type and severity of the offence, offences can be divided into three categories. These include offences that are cognizable and non-cognizable, compoundable, and non-compoundable, and bailable and non-bailable. The criminal justice administration’s powers take further action based on the type of offence. The severity and nature of the offence are taken into account in matters relating to investigation procedures and providing a fair ruling to both parties. India has an antagonistic legal system, meaning that police conduct the investigation, and a judge renders a decision based only on the reasons put out by the prosecutor and opposition. The magistrate and the legal authorities are granted powers in handling crimes and offences committed in society. Additionally, this causes case delays, which is a serious issue in our nation. Complex procedures must be followed by the parties, and it is very time-consuming. This is not how things are done under the system of inquisition, where the magistrate may investigate matters on his own and make decisions much more quickly compared to a system based on conflict. The magistrate takes matters into their own hands and is an expert who specialises in the crime division. They will be able to quickly analyse the case and the evidence presented. Based on various important factors, they will be able to give a ruling which provides justice to the case. Several committees have made several suggestions and occasionally taken action to address the matter. Each party is given a fair opportunity to state their case and their rights are protected by our criminal justice system. Their opinions and arguments are thoroughly scrutinised by the magistrate and after serious discussions and analysis, a judgement is passed that will decide the fate of both the parties.


What distinguishes bailable offences from those that are not?

Bailable offences are a type of crime in which the accused is entitled to apply for bail. They do not pose much threat to society and the severity of such offences is very low. These are harmless crimes, and the punishment is not very huge compared to non-bailable cases. Slander, defamation, and bribery are classic examples of bailable offences. When we take a deeper look at non-bailable offences, the suspects do not have the right to apply for bail. They are not entitled to apply for bail, but they do have the option of applying for bail voluntarily. They should apply for bail directly with the court. The magistrate or the court has the sole authority in determining whether the suspect is worthy of bail or not. It is under the discretion or jurisdiction of the court. They may or may not grant bail after thoroughly assessing the crime committed by the suspect and scrutinising the nature of the crime at hand.

Compoundable offences: what are they?

Compoundable offences are those in which the innocent party can reach an agreement with the person being charged outside of court to have the allegations against him dropped. Both parties can make an arrangement where both of them get to benefit from each other. Such crimes are minor and do not pose much threat to the society. The damage and trauma suffered by the victim is not very high and it can be easily resolved by communicating to one another instead of taking the matter to the court. Taking such trivial matters to court is a waste of time as there is a need to follow complex procedures and it is extremely expensive too. Therefore, it is better to settle by both parties instead of filing a case that will drain both parties. These are provided by CrPC Section 320. These offences include but are not limited to, criminal breaches of trust and grievous harm.

What does “Zero FIR” mean to you?

“Zero FIR” refers to a police report that is filed in any law enforcement station, regardless of jurisdiction, to address the issue. This can be filed by any officer-in-charge, and they do not have to wait for a warrant. For certain cognisable offences, due to the severity of the crime committed, the magistrate has granted the power to any legal authority that possesses the proper authority to handle cognisable cases and start an investigation. This is done for the benefit of society as such cases pose an immediate threat to the people and the society as a whole. Following the Nirbhaya Rape Case, the Committee of Justice Verma recommended adding the idea of zero FIR. It is then moved to the relevant police station.

Hope now you know about Cognizable Offences under the Code of Criminal Procedure, if you think this article was helpful then feel free to share it with people in your circle. Also you might be interested to have a look at the top 10 criminal lawyers in bangalore

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