A byproduct of the Lalita Kumari vs Government of UP & Others, 2013 case, the Supreme Court established the Lalita Kumari guidelines which are a mandatory set of directions to be followed by the police when someone seeks to register a complaint. The guidelines lay down that the registration of an FIR (First Information Report) is binding under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the complaint discloses commission of a cognisable offence, with no requirement for a preliminary investigation.
A cognisable offence is one where the police are authorised to start an investigation or make an arrest without court authorisation. Inflammatory speech – covered by Section 153 and Section 505 (2) – is a cognisable offence.
Even if the police felt that complaints against Mishra and other BJP leaders did not reveal a cognisable offence, the guidelines oblige them to conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the offence is cognisable or not. The scope of such an inquiry is not to authenticate the facts of the complaint, but only to confirm whether the offence alleged is cognisable. The preliminary inquiry has to be concluded within a week.
If the inquiry reveals the commission of a cognisable offence, the police must register an FIR. Strict action must be implemented against officers who do not register the FIR, the guidelines say. However, in cases where the preliminary inquiry results in closing the complaint, the complainant must be informed in writing about the reasons for this within a week.
As Justice Muralidhar pointed out, the Delhi police has failed to follow these guidelines in the case. Now that he has been removed from the Delhi high court and transferred to the Punjab and Haryana high court, the bench hearing the case too appears to be less bothered about the guidelines. On Thursday, the Delhi high court appeared to take at face value the police’s claim that FIRs would be registered at an “appropriate time”. The case has been adjourned till April 23.