The Supreme Court on Wednesday extended the time limit from a week to 15 days for police to conclude preliminary inquiries and register FIRs in criminal cases.
The court also set an outer time-limit of six weeks for extraordinary cases where police will need to specify the reasons why the inquiries could not be completed within a fortnight.
A Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam appreciated the possible difficulties of investigators in concluding the inquiries within seven days in cases relating to white-collar crimes, economic offences and matrimonial disputes.
The bench agreed with the submissions of Additional Solicitor-General Sidharth Luthra that, in a variety of cases involving massive documents and expert evidence and also especially in matrimonial cases, where the first attempt should be made for reconciliation, the time-limit of seven days may be too short to conclude preliminary probe.
Luthra, who appeared for the Delhi Police, had requested the court to extend this time limit to three months by modifying the court’s November 2013 ruling that ordered for concluding all such inquiries in a week’s time.
Even as the application for modification was moved by the Delhi Police, the court order will have implications across the country since the new time-limit will now apply to police of all the states and Union territories.
In its plea, the Delhi Police had pointed out that the time of seven days not only put severe stress on the available resources of the police department but could also lead to reaching erroneous conclusions, which might eventually result in misuse of criminal justice system.
According to police, it was not possible to conclude inquiries into five kinds of offences — white-collar crimes, matrimonial disputes, medical negligence, corruption cases and cases, where there was delay in reporting the matter.
Delhi Police, while informing the court that it could successfully resolve more than 48 percent marital disputes through conciliation in 2012, pointed out that when such cases were reported, initial attempt should be to amicably resolve the matter without invoking criminal law. Therefore, some reasonable time must be accorded to give conciliation a shot.
These statistics impressed the Bench and it acknowledged the need to give reconciliation a chance for reunion of couples.
By its November verdict, a Constitution bench had ruled that the police were obligated under the law to straightaway register FIRs when information disclosed commission of cognizable or serious offences and that it could not delay the FIR on the ground of conducting preliminary inquiry first.