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Charge Sheet in the Criminal Justice System

Context:

Rajasthan DGP recently ordered the preparation of a charge sheet against the accused in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions  of the Article:

  1. Charge Sheet in the Criminal Justice System
  2. What is an FIR?
  3. What are cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence?

Charge Sheet in the Criminal Justice System

Definition and Origin:
  • Under CrPC Section 173: A charge sheet, originating from Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), stands as a formal report produced by police officers post an investigative process.
Comprehensive Documentation:
  • Recording Investigative Journey: This document encapsulates the entirety of the investigation journey, beginning from the initiation with the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR).
  • Culmination of Investigation: The charge sheet records the meticulous procedure undertaken until the finalization of the investigation, culminating in the preparation of the conclusive report.
Key Information Included:
  • Pertinent Details: Within the charge sheet, one can find essential particulars such as the identities of individuals taken into custody.
  • Charges and Accuser Identification: It outlines the specific charges under which the individuals are detained and the identities of those pressing the charges.
Precursor to Prosecution:
  • Legal Proceedings Activation: Following the submission of the charge sheet to a court of law, this act initiates the commencement of prosecution procedures against the accused parties.
Time Constraint for Submission:
  • Prescribed Time Frames: In cases falling under the jurisdiction of lower courts, the charge sheet must be filed within 60 days from the accused’s arrest. For matters under the purview of the Court of Sessions, the timeline extends to 90 days.
  • Safeguarding Accused Rights: Should the charge sheet not be filed within the stipulated time, the accused is granted the right to default bail as a safeguard.
Distinct from FIR:
  • Clear Differentiation: While both the First Information Report (FIR) and the charge sheet play roles in the realm of criminal cases, they bear distinctive purposes and content.
  • FIR: Serves as the initial complaint or report that sets off the investigative process.
  • Charge Sheet: Functions as an exhaustive police-generated report post the conclusion of the investigation.

What is an FIR?

  • An FIR is the document that has been prepared by the police after verifying the facts of the complaint.
  • The FIR may contain details of the crime and the alleged criminal.
  • The term first information report (FIR) is not defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC)Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, or in any other law, but in police regulations or rules, information recorded under Section 154 of CrPC is known as First Information Report (FIR).
    • Section 154 (“Information in cognizable cases”) says that “every information relating to the commission of a cognizable 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”.
    • Also, “a copy of the information as recorded…shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant”.
Three important elements of an FIR:
  • The information must relate to the commission of a cognizable offence,
  • It should be given in writing or orally to the head of the police station
  • It must be written down and signed by the informant, and its key points should be recorded in a daily diary.
What happens after an FIR is filed?
  • The police will investigate the case and will collect evidence in the form of statements of witnesses or other scientific materials. They can arrest the alleged persons as per law.
  • If there is sufficient evidence to corroborate the allegations of the complainant, then a chargesheet will be filed. Or else, a Final Report mentioning that no evidence was found will be filed in court.
  • If it is found that no offence has been committed, a cancellation report will be filed. If no trace of the accused persons is found, an ‘untraced’ report will be filed.

What are cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence?

  • cognizable offence/case is one in which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule of the CrPC, or under any other law for the time being in force, make an arrest without a warrant.
  • In the First Schedule, “the word ‘cognizable’ stands for ‘a police officer may arrest without warrant’; and the word ‘non-cognizable’ stands for ‘a police officer shall not arrest without warrant’.”

What is the difference between a complaint and an FIR?

  • The CrPC defines a “complaint” as “any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this Code, that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but does not include a police report.”
  • However, an FIR is the document that has been prepared by the police after verifying the facts of the complaint. The FIR may contain details of the crime and the alleged criminal.
  • If, on the basis of a complaint, it appears that a cognizable offence has been committed, then an FIR under Section 154 CrPC will be registered, and police will open an investigation. If no offence is found, the police will close the inquiry.
  • Section 155 (“Information as to non-cognizable cases and investigation of such cases”) says: “When information is given to an officer in charge of a police station of the commission within the limits of such station of a non-cognizable offence, he shall enter or cause to be entered the substance of the information in a book…and refer the informant to the Magistrate. No police officer shall investigate a non-cognizable case without the order of a Magistrate having power to try such case or commit the case for trial.”

-Source: Indian Express


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