In the Indian legal system, criminal offences are broadly classified into two categories: cognizable and non-cognizable offences. The primary difference between cognizable and non-cognizable offences is the level of seriousness of the offence.
Cognizable offences are usually more severe and pose a greater threat to public safety, which is why the police have the power to take immediate action in such cases. On the other hand, non-cognizable offences are usually of a milder nature, and the police require a court order to investigate them such as misbehaviour, public annoyance etc.
Another key difference between the two categories of offences is the legal process involved in dealing with them. In cognizable offences, the police file an FIR (First Information Report) and proceed with the investigation, followed by a trial in a court of law. In contrast, in non-cognizable offences, the police cannot file an FIR without a court order, and the case usually goes through a process of complaint and summons.
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Now let’s understand Cognizable and Non-cognizable Offences in detail.
Cognizable offences are those criminal offences in which a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant and start investigating the case without the need for a court order. These offences are generally listed under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and carry a punishment of three years or more in prison. In these cases, the police have the power to take immediate action and apprehend the accused. Some examples of cognizable offences include murder, rape, theft, and kidnapping among others.
When a cognizable offence is committed, the police have the power to register a First Information Report (FIR) without any prior permission from the court. The police can also conduct investigations without any prior permission and arrest the accused. The accused must be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.
Non-cognizable offences are relatively less serious crimes compared to cognizable offences. These offences are those criminal offences where a police officer cannot make an arrest without a warrant, and they cannot start an investigation without the express permission of a magistrate or a court. In such cases, the police officer has to first obtain a court order to start the investigation. Examples of non-cognizable offences include simple assault, criminal defamation, and cheating. The punishment for these offences is less severe and generally carries a punishment of less than three years in prison.
When a non-cognizable offence is committed, the police cannot register an FIR without the permission of a magistrate. The victim of the crime must file a complaint with the magistrate who will then decide whether or not to register an FIR. The police cannot conduct investigations without prior permission from the magistrate. The accused cannot be arrested without a warrant, and the police can only issue a summons to the accused to appear before the court.
Therefore, the classification of criminal offences as cognizable or non-cognizable is an essential aspect of the Indian legal system. It helps to streamline the investigation and trial process, ensuring that justice is served in an efficient and timely manner. Understanding the difference between the two categories can help individuals navigate the legal system and protect their rights in the event of a criminal offence.