175B083 Mahesh P S 20 February 2021
In view of the absence of an effective framework for accountability against police misconduct, the Supreme Court in 2006, in the case of Prakash Singh v Union of India, directed states to establish Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels. The recommendations of these authorities for departmental or criminal action against a delinquent police officer would be binding, as per the court. An independent appointment mechanism for the members deciding complaints was also provided.
The court noted that the National Police Commission had, in its first report in February 1979, dealt with the modalities for inquiries into complaints of police misconduct to be conducted in a manner that was credible, fair and impartial. Yet, these and various other recommendations made across eight reports of the National Police Commission were not implemented, forcing the Supreme Court’s hand to issue binding directions till appropriate legislations were passed by states.
Section 154 (3) Cr.P.C explicates that a complaint shall be given in writing or by post to the Superintendent of Police if any person is aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection.
The Superintendent of Police, upon receipt of such complaint if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code.
Section 156 (3). Judicial magistrate’s power to investigate cognizable case
Section 156(3) entails that any Magistrate empowered under Section 190 may order an investigation by a police officer performing its duties under Chapter XII of Cr.P.C
The above-mentioned sections highlight the chronology/series of remedies available to a person. Firstly, filing a complaint before the police official and secondly, in the event of failure of the registration of the complaint by the official, one shall approach the SSP/SP for the said purpose. However, if the complaint is not registered even after that, then the next remedy is to seek help from the Judicial Magistrate.
Hon’ble Apex Court citing various judgments has clarified the right approach for registration of FIR.
Hon’ble Apex court has observed that if any application under Section 156(3) is filed before the Magistrate, the Magistrate can direct the FIR to be registered and an appropriate investigation to be taken place, in the event where, according to the aggrieved person, no proper investigation was done. Under the same provision, the Magistrate may monitor the investigation to ensure a proper investigation.
Supporting Case Laws
The honb’le Court clarified that even if an FIR has been registered and the police have made the investigation, or is making the investigation, which the aggrieved person feels is not satisfactory, such a person can approach the Magistrate under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C, and if the Magistrate is satisfied he can order a proper investigation and may take other appropriate actions.
Thus, in cases where the Magistrate finds that the police has not done its job or is not satisfied with the investigation of the case, he can direct the police to supervise the investigation and monitor it.
Thus, Section 156(3) Cr.P.C although briefly worded, is very extensive and includes all such incidental powers as are necessary to ensure a proper investigation.
High Court’s Power – (Why not move the High Court by filing a writ petition or Under Section 482 Cr.P.C)
Hon’ble Apex Court relying on its judgment passed in Case 1 observed that- we have found in this country that the High Courts are flooded with writ petitions praying for registration of the first information report or praying for a proper investigation.
The High Court should not encourage this practice and should generally refuse to intervene in such matters and relegate the petitioner to his alternating remedy under Section 154(3) and Section 36 Cr.P.C. If despite approaching the Superintendent of Police or the officer referred to in Section 36, his grievance still persists, then he can approach a Magistrate under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. instead of rushing to the High Court by way of a writ petition or a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
The High Court should discourage the practice of filing a writ petition or petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. simply because a person’s FIR has not been registered by the police, or after being registered, a proper investigation has not been done by the police. For this grievance, the remedy lies under Sections 36 and 154(3) before the concerned police officers, and if that is of no avail, under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. before the Magistrate or by filing a criminal complaint under Section 200 Cr.P.C.
It is true that alternative remedies are not the absolute bar to a writ petition, but it is equally settled that the High Court should not intervene if there is an alternative remedy.