Bar bribery case: Case filed against K M Mani

As reported in Mathrubhumi and Malayala Manorama, the Vigilance Department on filed a case against the Kerala Finance Minister, Shri. K M Mani to conduct a probe into the allegations that, he took bribe from bar owners. Special Vigilance Cell of Poojappura named K M Mani as accused No 1 in the case and the Special Investigation Unit of the Vigilance, headed by Vigilance SP R. Sukesan, will probe the charges. The department will also inform the court after registering an FIR in the case.

KM MANIBiju Ramesh, a bar owner, had alleged that that the minister received bribes from bar owners for facilitating opening of the bars that were closed as part of the government’s liquor policy. The Vigilance had received two legal advices on the matter, one favouring filing of a case, the other against it. The advice which favoured in filing a case quoted the Supreme Court Order in Lalita Kumari case.

What is Lalita Kumari Case?

This case is based on a writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution, has been filed by one Lalita Kumari (minor) through her father, viz., Shri Bhola Kamat for the issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus or direction(s) of like nature against the respondents herein for the protection of his minor daughter who has been kidnapped. The grievance in the said writ petition is that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted by the petitioner before the officer in-charge of the police station concerned who did not take any action on the same. Thereafter, when the Superintendent of Police was moved, an FIR was registered. According to the petitioner, even thereafter, steps were not taken either for apprehending the accused or for the recovery of the minor girl child.

Important issue which arises for consideration in the referred matter is whether “a police officer is bound to register a First Information Report (FIR) upon receiving any information relating to commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the police officer has the power to conduct a “preliminary inquiry” in order to test the veracity of such information before registering the same?”

Section 154 of the Indian penal Code speaks about the information in cognizable offence and Section 157 of Indian Penal Code speaks about the Procedure for investigation. Referring to various previous decisions like, B. Premanand and Ors. vs. Mohan Koikal and OthersM/s Hiralal Rattanlal Etc. Etc. vs. State of U.P. and Anr. Etc. Etc. and Govindlal Chhaganlal Patel vs. Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Godhra and Ors., it is mandatory that, under Section 154 (1), 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 in this behalf.

The word “shall” used in Section 154 (1) is indicative of the statutory intent of the legislature and there is no discretion left to the police officer except to register an FIR. In the given Lalita Kumari case; upon hearing both the parties, Court held that;

        i.            Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.

      ii.            If 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.

    iii.            If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.

    iv.            The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.

      v.            The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.

    vi.            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:

  1. Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
  2. Commercial offences
  3. Medical negligence cases
  4. Corruption cases
  5. 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.

  1. 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.

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