What is Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offence in India?

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Offence can be defined as an illegal act or crime that is punishable in nature and against which a complaint can be registered with police or magistrate. An offence can be classified as a cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence. This article will help you in understanding the difference between cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence.

What is the Difference between Cognizable and Non Cognizable offences?

Cognizable offences are those offences in which the police can arrest without any warrant. These are more serious in nature. Non-cognizable offences are those for which a police officer without a warrant has no authority to arrest.

Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offences have been defined in Section 2(c) and 2(l) of Criminal Procedure Code;

Cognizable Offence

  1. Cognizable offence is defined in the Section 2(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. These are offence for 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.
  2. Cognizable offences are are serious in nature. For example- Murder, Rape, Dowry Death, Kidnapping, Theft, Criminal Breach of Trust etc.
  3. Section 154 of CrPc provides that under a Cognizable offence or case, the Police Officer has to receive the First Information Report (FIR) relating to the cognizable offence, which can be obtained without the Magistrate’s permission and enter it in the General Diary to start the investigation. Thus, the police officer is bound to register the FIR even without the permission of Magistrate. (Court’s permission is implicit)
  4. Investigation: In the case of a Cognizable offence, a Police Officer can start the investigation without the Magistrate’s permission.
  5. Mostly non-bailable offences are cognizable in nature.

Non-Cognizable Offence

  1. A non-cognizable offence has been defined in 2(l) of Criminal Procedure Code as “a case in which, a police officer has no authority to arrest without a warrant”
  2. Non-Cognizable offences are those which are less serious in nature. Example- Assault, Cheating, Forgery, Defamation, etc.
  3. In case of a non-cognizable offence, the police cannot arrest the accused without a warrant as well as cannot start an investigation without the permission of the court.
  4. Investigation: A criminal complaint is first lodged with the Metropolitan Magistrate who then orders the concerned police station to initiate an investigation. The police officer must file the charge sheet with the court which is followed by a Trial. After the trial, if the accused is found guilty, the court passes the order to issue the warrant to arrest the accused.
  5. Section 155 of CrPc provides that if a police officer receives information about the commission of a non-cognizable offence, he is supposed to enter the substance of the case in the station diary and refer the informant to approach the concerned Magistrate. Hence, under a Non-Cognizable offence, in order to start the investigation, it is important for the police officer to obtain the permission from the Magistrate.
  6. Mostly bailable offences are non-cognizable in nature.

Point to remember:

Cognizable- Serious

Non-cognizable- Non-serious or petty crimes


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