Generally, cognisable offence means a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant. The police is also allowed to start an investigation with or without the permission of a court. By contrast, in the case of a non-cognisable offence, a police officer does not have the authority to make an arrest without a warrant and an investigation cannot be initiated without a court order. The police can file a First Information Report (FIR) only in cases of cognisable offences. Normally, serious offences are defined as cognisable; these usually carry a sentence of 3 years or more.
In India, crimes like rape, murder, theft etc. are considered cognisable, and crimes like public nuisance, simple hurt, mischief etc. are considered non-cognisable. On 12 November 2013, the Supreme Court of India said it was mandatory for the police to register a First Information Report for all complaints in which cognisable offence has been discovered.
The Section 154 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 of India states that:
- Every information relating to the commission of a cognisable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.
- A copy of the information as recorded under sub-section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.
- Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in sub-section (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognisable 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, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.
- James Vadackumchery (1 January 1997). Indian Police and Miscarriage of Justice. APH Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 978-81-7024-792-0. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- Sayeed Raas Maswod. Intellectual Property Law of Bangladesh in a Nutshell. Lulu.com. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-557-64210-6. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- Ibpus.com; International Business Publications, USA (3 March 2008). Pakistan Company Laws and Regulations Handbook. Int'l Business Publications. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-4330-7045-7. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- "What is an FIR?" (PDF). Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Sunil Goel (2005). Courts, Police Authorities & Common Man. Sunil Goel. p. 117. ISBN 978-81-907218-0-6. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- Doel Mukerjee; Maja Daruwala. "First Information Report (F.I.R)" (PDF). Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- "Police can’t dodge FIR if cognisable offence is disclosed". The Hindu. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Abhinav Prakash; American Law Institute (2007). Code of Criminal Procedure. Universal Law Publishing. pp. 88–89. GGKEY:YAA8ZAH3645. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
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