This article touches upon the different interpretations and jurisprudence in various cases by the Gujarat High Court on the Lalita Kumari judgment regarding the discretion of the police to conduct preliminary inquiry before registering FIR.

Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1

The Supreme Court of India rendered a significant ruling in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P., which addresses the matter of police negligence in handling crimes that are punishable by law.

A 13-year-old girl named Lalita Kumari was allegedly abducted on 11.11.2008. Her father filed a complaint at the local police station, however, the police failed to take immediate action. Discontented with the police inaction, a Writ Petition was filed before the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. This case brought to light the question of whether it is mandatory for the police to register a First Information Report (FIR) upon receiving information about a cognizable offence.

The main issue that arose for consideration before the Constitution Bench was regarding the interpretation of Section 154 of CrPC which is associated with the registration of FIRs. Whether on receiving information relating to commission of a cognizable offence under the said section, the police has the power to conduct a ‘preliminary inquiry’ so as to test the veracity of such information before registering the same. The provision (Section 154, CrPC) uses the word ‘shall’, which the court clarified that it imposes an obligation on the police to take immediate cognizance and register FIR if the facts disclose a cognizable offence. 

The court also clarified that in cases where the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not. The Court also provided guidelines to the police for conducting preliminary inquiry in certain category of cases.

The following are the guidelines laid down in Lalita Kumari by verbatim –

“As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.  The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:

(a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes

(b) Commercial offences

(c) Medical negligence cases

(d) Corruption cases

(e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay. The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.

(vii) While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case it should not exceed 7 days.  The fact of such delay and the causes of it must be reflected in the General Diary entry.

(viii) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, we direct that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry, must be mandatorily and meticulously reflected in the said Diary and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected, as mentioned above.”

Decoding Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure-

Section 154 of the CrPC talks about the recording and reporting of information pertaining to the commission of crimes that are punishable in India. Any information of this kind, whether provided verbally or in writing, must be recorded by the officer in charge of the police station or working under their supervision. The recorded information should be read to the informant and signed by them. The information’s content needs to be recorded in a book that the officer is required to keep.

In cases involving offences against women, special rules apply, requiring that any woman officer, like a police officer, report the information. Additionally, with the required support and video recording, the material can be captured in the alleged victim’s home or another location of their choosing if they are physically or mentally impaired.

An additional copy of the information that was recorded must also be given to the informant. If the offended party is not satisfied with the officer in-charge, they may submit a written report of the incident to the Superintendent of Police, who will either start or oversee an investigation. Regarding that offence, the investigating officer will have all the authority of the station chief. This process makes ensuring that reported offences are properly documented and investigated, taking into account the victims’ vulnerabilities and sensitivities.

  1. Viral Arasibhai Jotva v. State of Gujarat

    The High Court in the present case ruled that once registration of an FIR has been requested, and if the information discloses an offence of a cognizable nature, then it is an obligation on the police to register an FIR. Furthermore, the court relied on the directions issued by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, (2014) 2 SCC 1, and the Police  Authority is bound to follow the directions.

    But in circumstances where the Police Inspector determines that there isn’t enough evidence to file a formal complaint, he must notify the petitioner in writing of this decision and provide a brief explanation, ideally within four weeks. The same has been ruled in the case of  ‘Jatinbhai Jagdipbhai Bhayani v. A.J. Vasava, 2018 SCC OnLine Guj 2169’ and ‘Udaji Atmaram Baraiya v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 2452’

    2. Chhaganlal Dolatam Mevada v. Satish Sharma, Commissioner of Police

    The case herein is a civil petition in a criminal application, filed because of the non-compliance of the court orders by the respondent parties (the police). The application was filed under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 praying for compliance of the order passed by this Court in a Special Criminal Application. The relevant part of the order is as below:

    4. The Police Commissioner, Surat City shall look into the application dated 22.06.2018 submitted by the petitioner and take a decision whether the same discloses commission of any cognizable offence or not. Police authority shall follow the directions issued by Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh reported in (2014) 2 SCC 1 as well as in the case of State of Telangana v. Habib Abdullah Jeelani reported in (2017) 2 SCC 779.

     Having heard the petitioners, this Hon’ble Court directed the respondents to comply with the directions given in the Special Criminal Application mentioned above, ie. to look into the application and decide whether it discloses a cognizable offence or not, and further proceed with the appropriate procedure given in the CrPC.

    3. Shambhudayal Ramnarayan Oza v. State of Gujarat

    Police are instructed to review the written complaint submitted by the petitioner and determine if it contains information that could lead to the commission of a crime that is punishable by law. The police would adhere to the directives given in Lalita Kumari’s case. Following review of the complaint, if the Police Inspector determines that it reveals the commission of a crime that is punishable by law, relevant instructions will be given for filing a formal complaint. However, if the Police determine after reviewing the materials that there is not enough evidence to file a formal complaint, they must notify the petitioner in writing of their decision and provide a concise justification, ideally within four weeks.

    Balancing Rights and Responsibilities

    The Gujarat High Court’s decisions reflect a careful balancing act between protecting the rights of the complainant and the accused, and ensuring that the police perform their duties diligently. The court has consistently underscored the necessity for police accountability and transparency in handling complaints of cognizable offences.

    The Lalita Kumari guidelines have been pivotal in shaping this judicial approach, mandating that preliminary inquiries be limited to specific categories of cases and be completed within a prescribed timeframe. The High Court’s insistence on strict adherence to these guidelines serves as a deterrent against police inaction and ensures that justice is neither delayed nor denied.


    The jurisprudence emerging from the Gujarat High Court on the Lalita Kumari judgment underscores the critical importance of judicial oversight in the functioning of the police. By mandating transparency, accountability, and adherence to procedural guidelines, the court has reinforced the foundational principles of justice. As this body of case law continues to evolve, it provides valuable insights into the practical application of the Lalita Kumari guidelines, ensuring that the discretion to conduct preliminary inquiries is exercised in a manner that upholds the rule of law and protects the rights of all parties involved.

    Future research and legal scholarship should focus on the long-term impact of these judicial interpretations on police practices and the broader implications for the criminal justice system in India. Analyzing a wider range of cases across different jurisdictions can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how the Lalita Kumari guidelines are shaping the landscape of criminal jurisprudence in India.

    Contributed by Aditya Gupta (Intern)

    Student at OP Jindal Global University

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