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When a crime is committed, it leaves a shock and a fear in people's minds. They have a massive impact on society. A crime is an act that is both forbidden by law and revolts against the moral sentiments of society. There arises a need to create and enforce criminal laws as it is necessary to prove the offender's guilt.

There is a need to understand the classification of offences for today’s society. In India, the rise in crimes such as rape, murder, and theft cannot be addressed by simple imprisonment or levying a small fine.They are grave and serious offences, which should be provided with high punishments. Hence, there was a need to classify such offences so as to provide an adequate amount of punishment. The cognizance of an offence depends upon its seriousness. The seriousness of an offence is decided by looking into the punishment of that offence.


The Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter, CrPC) is a procedural law that provides detailed machinery for enforcing various criminal laws in courts and lays down procedures for the trial of offenders. It can be said that the CrPC controls the machinery of investigation and trial.

There are various important terms used in this code, which are clearly defined in Section 2 of the Code. This section is the key to the interpretation of the whole code. The first important definition under this section is that of "offence". Section 2(n) defines an offence as "any act or omission made punishable by any law being in force and includes any act in respect of which a complaint may be made under Section 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871". It is an act that violates either civil or criminal law.In this context, we should understand that when there is an offence, there will be a violation that can cause harm to society and that the culprit will be held liable and will be given punishment.

An offence is classified into three types based on the nature and gravity of that particular act:

  1. Bailable and non-bailable offences

  2. Cognizable and non-cognizable offences

Compoundable and non-compoundable offences


This committee was named after its chairperson, a former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts. It began its work in the year 2000. The Malimath Committee report focused on matters involving the criminal justice system. The main objectives of this committee were to review the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, the Evidence Act 1872, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 and to examine fundamental principles of criminal law. The committee submitted its report with 158 recommendations to the then Deputy Prime Minister. Through one of its recommendations, the committee emphasised the need for such a classification of offences and also that they should be further classified as social welfare code, correctional code, and other offences code.


A cognizable offence is defined in Section 2(c) as "an offence for which" and "cognizable case" means a case in which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without a warrant." In simple words, when a person has committed a cognizable offence, a police officer can arrest that person without a warrant and start an investigation without the order of a magistrate. The offences here are of a grave nature, like rape, murder, dower death, kidnapping, etc. If such offences are committed, the accused will face severe consequences (punishments).

It is important to note that cognizable offences are non-bailable offences. When we go through Schedule 1 of CrPC, it will be noticed that there are offences mentioned which are offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and whether such an offence is cognizable or non-cognizable, bailable or non-bailable is also provided.

In this case, if the police can arrest immediately after the offence has been committed, According to the 177th Law Commission Report, they are offences that require immediate arrest. As these offences are serious, the victim can make the police take action by filing an FIR or by complaining to the Magistrate.

Important provisions

Section 154 CrPC:

This section deals with information regarding cognizable offences.

If a police officer gets information regarding the commission of a cognizable offence, he shall record the information and register the case to begin the process of investigation. The person who gives such information need not be the victim or the witness; any person can provide it. If it is necessary, he can also conduct a preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR. In this regard, it is also important to understand what will happen if there is a refusal on the part of a police officer to lodge a FIR. If the refusal is on the ground of jurisdiction, the police officer should record the information and forward it to the police station having proper jurisdiction. If this is not done, then it would be misconduct on the part of police officials. The third clause makes it clear that if a refusal happens, the informant can approach the Superintendent of Police. If he is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, then he may investigate himself or direct any officer subordinate to start the investigation.

According to this section, if a person has given oral information to a police officer, he shall reduce that oral statement to writing and read it over to the informant. The informant can also write down the information. The person who made the oral statement must then sign the document, which is then entered into a book kept by that officer.The copy should be handed over to the informant as per clause 2.

It is the duty of the police officer to register the case on receiving the information. In this regard, we have to understand Section 166A IPC, which makes failure to record information in certain cases punishable. Failure to record any information under subsection (1) of Section 154 CrPC in relation to a cognizable offence punishable under Section 326A is defined in clause (c).

Section 156 CrPC:

This section deals with the power of police officers to investigate a cognizable offence.

The police officer can start an investigation into these types of offences without an order from the magistrate. It is the duty of the investigating officer to bring out the real truth before the court. In this regard, we also have to touch upon subsection (3) of Section 156. a judicial magistrate with the authority to take cognizance of a cognizable offenceAccording to Section 190 CrPC, a Magistrate can order a police officer in charge of a police station to investigate any cognizable offence. When a police officer does not perform his duty, which is to register the FIR (Section 154) or conduct a proper investigation, then the Magistrate can order the police officer to investigate. It is also important to note that power under this subsection can be taken by the Magistrate even before he takes cognizance. In such a case, the complainant should disclose the commission of a cognizable offence.

Section 151 CrPC:

Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences

Arrest is made under this section if the person is suspected of intending to commit the cognizable offence.The main purpose of this section is to take preventive measures to avoid the commission of such grave offences. The police authorities have the power to act as per their duties and prevent such offences. If the police office gets information or becomes aware that a design is being made, then arrest can be made without a warrant.

The second clause makes sure that the police are not exceeding their authority. The arrested persons’ rights should be protected. According to this clause, the person arrested cannot be detained in custody for more than 24 hours.


Now that we have understood what a cognizable offence is and its examples in detail, it's time to move on to the next type, which is a non-cognizable offence. It is defined in Section 2(l) of the CrPC as "a non-cognizable offence means an offence for which a non-cognizable case means a case in which a police officer has no arrest without arrest." The police officer can not arrest without a warrant and can start an investigation with an order from the magistrate. These offences are generally known as bailable offences as they are not as serious as cognizable offences. Cheating, assault, and defamation are all examples of non-cognizable offences.

Important provisions

Section 155 CrPC:

Information as to non-cognizable cases and investigation of such cases.

According to this section, a police officer must first get an order from a magistrate to start an investigation. The first clause states that once the police receive information regarding the commission of a non-cognizable offence within the limits of that station, the police officer must write it (record it in writing) in a book which is to be kept by said officer. The book should be maintained as per the format prescribed by the State Government. Then he/she should refer the informant to the magistrate. After receiving an order from the magistrate, he will begin the investigation.After the investigation, the police officer then files a charge sheet with the court. Then, after the trial, a warrant is issued for the arrest.

The last clause of this section is a form of general clause and it just states that if there is a case which relates to two or more offences, of which at least one is cognizable, the case as a whole shall be considered as cognizable, notwithstanding that other offences are non-cognizable. This is done as cognizable one is given more weightage as it relates to serious offences.

The main exception to this general rule is Section 42(1). If a person who has committed a non-cognizable offence is demanded by a police officer to give their name and address, and if he refuses or the officer believes he has provided false information, then he may be arrested without a warrant. However, he should not be detained for more than 24 hours and should be sent before the magistrate.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that a cognizable offence after investigation turns out to be a non-cognizable one, then explanation to 2(d) should be taken into consideration. This section defines "complaint." As per the explanation provided, a report made by a police officer which discloses, after investigation, the commission of a non-cognizable offence will be deemed to be a complaint.


Since we have read through these two types of offences, it is now important to differentiate between them to understand the concepts clearly.


Since we have read through these two types of offences, it is now important to differentiate between the same to understand the concepts clearly




Provisions in CrPC

Section 2(c)

Section 2(l)

Nature of offence

Serious and non-bailable

Less serious and bailable

General Punishment

More than 3 years

Less than 3 years


Police can arrest without warrant

Police cannot arrest without warrant


Police can start the investigation without getting the permission of the court.

Police cannot take any step without permission of the Magistrate


FIR is registered as per Section 154 CrPC

Information is recorded under Section 155 CrPC

Aggrieved party

The victim or aggrieved party can file a FIR or make a complaint to the magistrate

The victim or aggrieved party can only make complaint to Magistrate


Murder, Rape are examples

Cheating, defamation are examples

*This criterion differs in certain cases (exceptions)-

In the case of Section 498A and other matrimonial offences which are non-cognizable, the sentence of imprisonment is more than 3 years.


Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. & Ors.

The three judge bench of the Supreme Court decided this case. In this case, Bhola Kamat filed a missing report for his minor daughter, Lalita Kumari, at the station. It was noted that even after the registration of the FIR, the police did not take any action to trace her. The police asked for money for an investigation and to arrest Later, the petitioner filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. In his petition, he alleged that even though he had submitted a written report to the police, no action was taken.

The Supreme Court noted the disparity in the registration of FIR. The main issue that came up was whether the police were bound to register a FIR when informed of a cognizable offence under Section 154 CrPC.

When making the judgment, the court laid down a few guidelines to be followed by the police. The Supreme Court then ruled that registration is required if the information pertains to a cognizable offense.preliminary inquiry is allowed. Then the court also stated that if the police officer does not register, then strict action will be taken against them.

Vadlamudi Kutumba Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh

This was the case in which the investigation of elements that had both cognizable and non-cognizable offences was discussed. The petitioner in this case was the president of a marketing society. He was charged by the Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies for criminal breach of trust, which was seen in Article 409 of the IPC. Charges were filed under sections 120B, 409, and 468 IPC.

In this case, the court held that in order to be a cognizable case under Section 2(c) CrPC, it is not necessary that all be cognizable. One or more cognizable offences would be enough to make it all cognizable.


If the police officer receives any information regarding the commission of a cognizable offence, he should immediately file a FIR without any delay as these are grave offences. The police officer should ensure that peace and order are maintained in society. In reality, this sometimes happens.

India must adopt a system where judicial bodies supervise the investigation, just like in Germany and France. In my opinion, there should be a separate wing for Law and Order which focuses mainly on investigations.

This article is written by Samyukta P Menon of National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NLU Kochi Kerala)

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