The arrest of popular actor Dileep has suddenly thrust the criminal investigation process into everyday conversation. We break up the complex legalese between a crime and conviction.
The first information report (FIR) is the initial step to register a case. The officer in charge of the police station records the preliminary information he receives either directly or on telephone. A case has to be registered even if the name and address of the suspects are not immediately available. An FIR can be written based on the account of an individual who does not have direct knowledge of the crime.
Offenses are categorized into cognizable and non-cognizable. The police can register a case and investigate it if the offense is cognizable. A station in-charge officer is bound to record the information he receives if the offense is cognizable. The police have to read out the FIR to the person who supplies the information and get him to sign on it, before giving him a copy free of cost.
The police have to launch an investigation as soon as the FIR is registered. They have to visit the scene of crime and follow the lead to the offenders. In case of non-cognizable offenses, however, the police have to get a magistrate’s approval in writing before registering a case.
An investigating officer has the authority to summon anyone who he thinks has anything to share about the case. He can serve a notice on anyone if he thinks the person might have knowledge relevant to the case.
An arrest does not necessarily involve a handcuff. When a police officer touches a suspect and tells him he is under arrest, it is considered a legal arrest. An accused can be handcuffed only when the police think he could run away. A court has to approve the handcuffing.
Arrest and custody
These terms are not interchangeable. A person is not under arrest simply because he has been taken into custody. The police sometimes keep a person in custody for several days for interrogation. The practice does not have the sanction of law though. The Supreme Court has laid down clear guidelines related to an arrest in the ‘D K Basu vs state of West Bengal’ case in 1997. The 11 guidelines have become an integral part of the criminal justice system.
A police officer can arrest a person suspected of a cognizable offense even without a warrant issued by a court. An officer, for instance, can arrest a person found to be in suspicious circumstances. The suspect, however, should be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.
Even a layman can arrest a suspect but he has to produce the arrested person in the nearest police station as soon as possible. The police will arrest the suspect again. The law allows use of force only in circumstances when the suspect resists an arrest.
The police have to produce a suspect before the court within 24 hours of an arrest. They have to fully comply with norms related to arrest. The court can remand the suspect in custody for 14 days if the offense is not bailable.
Offenses are categorized into bailable and non-bailable. If the offense is bailable, the police can let the arrested person go on bail. In cases related to non-bailable offenses, a magistrate can allow bail with certain conditions. Session courts and high courts can grant bail in any types of cases.
An anticipatory bail is not a guarantee against being arrested. If a court had approved a request for anticipatory bail, the police officer has to let the accused go on bail as soon as he is arrested. An anticipatory bail is not easy to get. Only session courts or high courts can grant anticipatory bails. A petition can be filed in any court, not necessarily the court trying the case. The high court can cancel an anticipatory bail but courts seldom deny bails unless they see a chance of the accused fleeing. Courts impose certain conditions on the bail. If the accused violates the conditions, the court can cancel the bail and impound the sureties partially or completely.
The police can seek the custody of a remanded accused for interrogation or retrieval of objects related to the case. The police has to submit a charge sheet against the accused within 90 days of the arrest (in cases that draws a punishment of imprisonment of at least 10 years or for life), failing which the court can release him on bail.
The charge sheet that the police submit before the court has to contain the full details of the case, including the addresses of the accused and the witnesses. Copies of the document have to be supplied to the court for the benefit of the accused.
(Information courtesy: Adv D B Binu, president of the RTI Kerala Federation)