A division bench of Apex Court as follows, wrt a Magistrate directing Police to register a FIR u/s 156(3) CrPC.
From Paras 12 and 13,
12. By the above order, the JMFC came to the conclusion that, prima facie, “occurrence of the offence by the accused persons” was “shown”. Nonetheless, the JMFC held that the case could be decided without collecting evidence from the police and it did not appear just and proper to act on the case filed on behalf of the appellant under Section 156(3) CrPC. The JMFC proceeded to treat the complaint as a complaint case by granting liberty to the appellant to be present for the recording of her statements under Sections 200 and 202 CrPC.
13. The order of the JMFC was questioned by the appellant under Section 482 CrPC. By an order dated 6 January 2022, a Single Judge of the High Court dismissed the application. The High Court held that the JMFC was not under an obligation to direct the police to register the FIR and the use of the expression “may” in Section 156(3) CrPC indicated that the JMFC had the discretion to direct the complainant to examine witnesses under Sections 200 and 202 CrPC, instead of directing an investigation under Section 156(3). The High Court also held that if the JMFC decided to proceed by examining witnesses under Sections 200 and 202 of CrPC, she would still have the option of seeking an investigation by the police, at that stage, by directing an inquiry under Section 202.
From Para 16,
16. We cannot help but note that the police’s inaction in this case is most unfortunate. It is every police officer’s bounden duty to carry out his or her functions in a public-spirited manner. The police must be cognizant of the fact that they are usually the first point of contact for a victim of a crime or a complainant. They must abide by the law and enable the smooth registration of an FIR. Needless to say, they must treat all members of the public in a fair and impartial manner. This is all the more essential in cases of sexual harassment or violence, where victims (who are usually women) face great societal stigma when they attempt to file a complaint. It is no secret that women’s families often do not approve of initiating criminal proceedings in cases of sexual harassment. Various quarters of society attempt to persuade the survivor not to register a complaint or initiate other formal proceedings, and they often succeed. Finally, visiting the police station and interacting with police officers can be an intimidating experience for many. This discomfort is often compounded if the reason for visiting the police station is to complain of a sexual offence.
From Para 18,
18. Whether or not the offence complained of is made out is to be determined at the stage of investigation and / or trial. If, after conducting the investigation, the police find that no offence is made out, they may file a B Report under Section 173 CrPC. However, it is not open to them to decline to register an FIR. The law in this regard is clear – police officers cannot exercise any discretion when they receive a complaint which discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.
From Para 21 (bare reading of complaint)
21. It is clear from the above extract that the Magistrate has wide powers under Section 156(3) which ought to be exercised towards meeting the ends of justice. A two-judge Bench of this Court in Srinivas Gundluri v. SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corpn.,7 further clarified the powers of a Magistrate and held that whenever a cognizable offence is made out on the bare reading of complaint, the Magistrate may direct police to investigate.
From Paras 23 and 24,
XYZ Vs State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors on 05 Aug 2022
23. It is true that the use of the word “may” implies that the Magistrate has discretion in directing the police to investigate or proceeding with the case as a complaint case. But this discretion cannot be exercised arbitrarily and must be guided by judicial reasoning. An important fact to take note of, which ought to have been, but has not been considered by either the Trial Court or the High Court, is that the appellant had sought the production of DVRs containing the audio-video recording of the CCTV footage of the then Vice-Chancellor’s (i.e., the second respondent) chamber. As a matter of fact, the Institute itself had addressed communications to the second respondent directing the production of the recordings, noting that these recordings had been handed over on his oral direction by the then Registrar of the Institute as he was the Vice-Chancellor. Due to the lack of response despite multiple attempts, the Institute had even filed a complaint with PS Gole Ka Mandir on 29 October 2021 for registering an FIR against the second respondent for theft of the DVRs.
24. Therefore, in such cases, where not only does the Magistrate find the commission of a cognizable offence alleged on a prima facie reading of the complaint but also such facts are brought to the Magistrate’s notice which clearly indicate the need for police investigation, the discretion granted in Section 156(3) can only be read as it being the Magistrate’s duty to order the police to investigate. In cases such as the present, wherein, there is alleged to be documentary or other evidence in the physical possession of the accused or other individuals which the police would be best placed to investigate and retrieve using its powers under the CrPC, the matter ought to be sent to the police for investigation.