Whenever any crime happens in society, the first step for the investigation of the crime begins with the filing of the FIR. In India, the crimes are investigated by the procedure provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 2(h) of this Code defines the term “investigation” as all the proceedings conducted by the police officer to collect the evidence associated with the crime. At the beginning of any investigation, the crimes are identified as cognizable and non-cognizable offenses, and then, according to the nature of the crime, the investigation proceeds. Sections 156-173 cover all the stages and the methods as to how the investigation should take place. The authority of the police to investigate a crime is mentioned in section 156 of CrPC. Generally, the investigation mainly consists of the following steps:
- Filing of an FIR.
- Investigating the location of the crime.
- Collecting evidence and interrogating the relevant persons.
- Finding the suspect.
- Filing of chargesheet.
- If found innocent, then acquitted.
- If found guilty, then punishment is given.
This is the basic procedure of an investigation as provided under the CrPC. Apart from that, if the crime committed is a non-cognizable offence then the investigation process comprises certain different stages. For a better understanding of the investigation process, we need to initially understand the different types of offences, after which we will do an in-depth study of the above-mentioned stages of investigation.
Cognizable and Non-cognizable Offences
The offences in India are mainly categorized into two parts- cognizable and non-cognizable offences. This distinction is made based on the severity of the crime. Cognizable offences are the offences in which the police can arrest a suspect even without an arrest warrant. These are the serious kind of offences in which the punishment is more than 3 years with or without fine. Crimes like dowry, murder, rape, etc. fall under this category. It is defined under section 2(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code. These are the wrongs done against society i.e., against the public at large. Whereas, Non-cognizable offences are less serious in nature for which the punishment is less than 3 years with or without the fine. In these kinds of crimes, an arrest warrant is required to make the arrest. Crimes like defamation, battery, and assault come in this category. It is defined in section 2(i) of the Criminal Procedure Code. If any case involves both cognizable and non-cognizable offences, then the case would be treated as one involving a cognizable offense.
Authority to Investigate
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 156 confers upon the police officer the power to investigate a cognizable offence. This section empowers the police officer to begin the investigation of the case with or without the orders of the magistrate. They are enabled to investigate such cases which come under the jurisdiction of their police station. In the cases of cognizable offences, the officer in charge of the police station has to file the FIR in written form and get the same signed by the petitioner, only then the investigation can start. A magistrate can also order the investigation of cognizable offences under the power given to him by section 190 of CrPC.
Information of the Crime
This is the first and the most important step of the investigation. After any crime happens, it’s the responsibility of the victim to inform the nearest police station about the same, whether in written or oral form. If the information is given orally by the victim, then the police need to reduce it to writing and get it signed by the victim. After this, the police will file the First Information Report (FIR) as per the information provided by the victim. Also, a copy of the FIR will be given to the victim free of cost.
Step-by-step Procedure of the Investigation
Section 157 of the CrPC provides us with the preliminary inquiry method. According to this, after receiving the information about the crime, the officer in charge of the police station is empowered to investigate the case and to send the report of the same to the Magistrate, who would then take cognizance of the case. The Police need to go to the crime scene to collect evidence and arrest the suspect if needed. They can also deny investigating on the ground that the case involves some non-cognizable offences, which cannot be investigated without the order of the Magistrate. If the investigating officer does not find any reasonable grounds to investigate, then he is not bound to investigate, and he can inform the reasons for the same to the magistrate.
1. Sending the reports to the magistrate
Various reports are sent to the magistrate throughout the investigation process. The purpose of this is to make him aware of the status of the investigation. Under Section 157 of CrPC, it is mentioned that a “police report” needs to be sent to the magistrate to inform him of the reasons on whose basis the suspicion, of a crime having been committed, is founded. Thus, it informs the Magistrate that the particular case is being investigated by the police. The Magistrate cannot stop the investigation process once it has been started, hence this sending of the police report is merely a formality. Apart from this report, a ‘final report’ is also sent to him at the end of the investigation under section 173.
2. The order to investigate by the magistrate
Section 159 of the CrPC empowers the Magistrate to direct investigation or to hold a preliminary inquiry, into a case upon receiving the report sent in accordance with Section 157. He has the authority to order the police to start the investigation.
3. Identification & Attendance of the Witnesses
After investigating the crime and finding all the necessary pieces of evidence, suspects, and witnesses, the police officer has the authority to call any person who appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case, to be present for interrogation. Any person having first-hand knowledge of the crime can be a witness and they are obliged to state correct and true facts relating to the matter because their statements matter a lot in the case. The power to identify and address the witnesses is enshrined under section 160 of CrPC.
4. Examination of Witnesses by Police
Section 161 of the CrPC empowers the police to interrogate the witnesses. The witnesses play a crucial role in the investigation process. They are required to answer each and every question asked by the police during the interrogation. However, they are not bound to answer such questions the answers to which have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge, or to a penalty, or forfeiture. In such cases, the person may refuse to answer the question. Ethically, the person should state the real and the correct facts pertaining to the case. The statements made during the examination may be reduced to writing by the police officer, however, it is not a compulsory provision, and thus it’s upon the investing officer to decide.
5. Recording of Statements or Confession by Magistrate
Section 164 empowers the Magistrate to record the statements or the confessions made by any person during the whole investigating process, or before the commencement of the inquiry or trial. For the purpose of this section, it is immaterial whether such a Magistrate has jurisdiction in the case or not. The Magistrate is required to inform the person that he is not bound to make the confession, and the same can be used against him in court. If someone is not wanting to make the confession then the magistrate cannot force him to do so. The confession needs to be purely voluntary.
6. Acceptability of Evidence
The confession recorded under Section 164 can be used as evidence against the person who has made the confession. It is upon the court to measure all the factors pertaining to the evidence and then consider it. The confession should be presented before the court in its entirety to decide whether it is useful or not.
7. Probing of Property or any Place important in Investigation
The power to search any place or property is given to the police under Section 165 of CrPC. A police officer conducting the investigation or a subordinate officer under his order can search any place or property, which holds any interest in the case. For searching a place, the police are required to have a search warrant issued by the Magistrate. If the place or the property to be searched is located outside the territory of India, then the Magistrate can write a letter asking for permission to search that place from the authority of that area.
The police officers are required to give a proper reason, in writing, for the search along with the materials that they are searching for. After the completion of the search, they are supposed to send the report of the same to the Magistrate, so that he can inform the same to the owner of the property.
8. Cases in which Investigation cannot be Completed within 24 Hours
When an investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours, Section 167 provides the Magistrate with certain powers in relation to the procedure. The goal of this provision is to protect the accused from police brutality and to empower the Magistrate to make decisions regarding continuance of custody, assistance in the investigation, and ensure that there is no imprisonment without trial. It has been established that the accused or arrested individual cannot be held in custody for more than 24 hours without being presented before the Magistrate. If the following situations, Section 167 is invoked:
- When a suspect is arrested without a warrant and taken into custody by a police officer.
- The investigation takes more than 24 hours.
- The accused is brought before the Magistrate by the official in charge of a police station or an investigative officer not below the level of sub-inspector.
The judicial Magistrate to whom the accused is transferred may order that he can be held in custody for a period of not more than 15 days. If the Magistrate does not have jurisdiction to try the matter and believes that continued detention is unjustified, the accused will be forwarded to the Magistrate who does have jurisdiction.
If the Magistrate has reason and grounds to believe that detention of the accused is necessary, he may do so. However, in any case, the Magistrate cannot order detention for more than:
- For serious offences with a punishment of imprisonment for more than 10 years, or life imprisonment or death penalty, in such cases, a person can be kept in custody for 90 days.
- For less serious offences with a punishment of less than 10 years of imprisonment, custody should not exceed 60 days.
After the person has spent the required time in custody, he can be out on bail if his bail is furnished.
These all are the steps from the beginning to the ending of the investigation, but there are some more last stages of the investigation which are performed at the end of the investigation.
- If no sufficient evidence is found against the arrested person, then the police can discharge him upon him furnishing security, on the condition that he needs to be present before the Magistrate if required.
- Passing on the case to the magistrate after gathering all the needy facts and evidence in relation to the case.
- By the end of the investigation, the police are required to present a “challan” or “charge sheet” to the court which contains all the necessary information regarding the investigation. After this, the suspected persons are charged with the crime, and then the trial begins. This provision is mentioned under Section 173 of CrPC which mandates the police officers to produce a charge sheet having all this essential material of the investigation, before the court.
It can be concluded that investigation is a long and lengthy process, however, this is to make sure that the investigation is done properly, keeping all the important facts and circumstances in mind. To sum up the whole process we can say that the investigation begins with the FIR < Investigating the place of crime < Identifying the witnesses and suspect < Arrest of the suspect if needed < Attendance of witnesses < Recording statements and confessions < Searching any property or place < Maintaining the case diary < Presenting the chargesheet before the Court. Subsequent to all this, the trial takes place. The police are required to maintain a case diary throughout the investigation process so that the Magistrate can have a look at the time and place associated with each stage of the investigation.
Categories: Criminal Law