Cognizable Offence and Non-Cognizable Offence

Cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence are classifications of crime used in the legal system of India. Non-cognizable offences includes misbehavior, public annoyance etc. All cognizable offences are non-bailable due to their serious and heinous nature. Section 2(1) of Criminal Procedure Code defines Noncognizable Offence. It refers to it as an offence for which a police officer has no authority to arrest without a warrant.

Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offence

What is cognizable offence?

Meaning of Cognizable Offence: – Cognizable offence means an offence in which a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant and to start an investigation with or without the permission of a court. Section 2 (c) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 defines cognizable offences.

Cognizable offence means an offence in which a police officer can arrest without warrant under the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 or any other law for the time being in force. Cognizable offences are usually offences that are serious in nature and non-bailable. For example: –

  • Waging war or attempting to wage war against the Indian government,
  • Murder,
  • Rape,
  • Dowry death,
  • Kidnap,
  • Theft,
  • Criminal breach of trust,
  • Unnatural crime.
Cognizable Offences

Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 states that under cognizable offence, a police officer has to receive a First Information Report (FIR) related to a cognizable offence.

Power of Police officer to Investigate in Cognizable Offences

Any officer of a police station, without the order of the magistrate, shall investigate any cognizable matter in which the court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station shall have the power to inquire or trial under the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.


  • The police officer can investigate without the order of magistrate.
  • He can investigate without the order of magistrate only if that area of magistrate has jurisdiction to try the case as per chapter XIII.
  • There are some provisions of in chapter XIII which are suggesting that even if that offence is not committed in that jurisdiction but if that offence is providing some links then the police officer can investigate.
  • If there is, an irregularity in the investigation i.e., the police officer has investigated a cognizable case without being empowered to investigate that case then such an irregularity will be said to be per se a cured irregularity and it will not affect the proceedings of the case.
  • Any magistrate empowered to take cognizance under section 190 of the code, and then the magistrate may order investigation.
  • If police officer refuses to register an FIR, then the person can file an application before the magistrate and will be treated as an application under section 156(3) or he can file a protest petition
  • The order of section 156(3) is always a pre-cognizance order but after 2019 the Supreme Court held that an order of Section 156(3) can be passed even at the post cognizance stage.
  • If police officer is not investigating even after order has passed, then the magistrate can pass another order to investigate.

What is non-cognizable offence?

Meaning of Non-Cognizable offence: – Non-Cognizable offence means a case in which, a police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant. Non-cognizable offences are not so much serious as cognizable offences. In case of a Non-cognizable offence, a police officer does not have the authority to arrest any person without a warrant and investigation cannot start without an order of court or magistrate. For Example: –

  • Attack,
  • cheat,
  • Forgery,
Non-Cognizable Offences

The crimes of forgery, cheating, defamation, public nuisance, etc., fall in the category of noncognizable offence. In this type of crimes, a criminal complaint is lodged with the metropolitan magistrate who is supposed to order the concerned police station to initiate an investigation.

The category of offences as per Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in which Police can neither register the FIR nor can investigate or effect arrest without the express permission or directions from the court are known as Noncognizable offences.

Section 155 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, states that in a non-cognizable offence, the police officer cannot record an FIR unless he has obtained prior permission from the magistrate. In the case of a non-cognizable offence, the police officer needs to obtain permission from the magistrate to initiate an investigation.

Following steps should be taken in such crimes for arrest: –

  • Complaint Filing / FIR
  • Investigation
  • Charge sheet,
  • Charge sheet should be filed in court
  • Trial
  • The Final order of arrest if the case is done.

Usually, a private citizen willing to initiate criminal proceedings in case of crime has two courses for that. If the offence is cognizable, he can file an FIR before the police; or he can file a complaint before a competent judicial magistrate.


  • It says for the recording of report it is essential that it should be committed within the limits of that police station.
  • The recording of non-cognizable offence recorded in the NON-COGNIZABLE REPORT (NCR DIARY).
  • After this police officer, refer the informant to the magistrate.
  • The police officer has to seek permission from the magistrate (who has power to try the case) to investigate the matter.
  • If the magistrate who does not have power to try the case and he still orders investigation then it is a curable irregularity provided that the magistrate is acting in a good faith.
  • If the police officer without the permission of the magistrate conducted the investigation, then that investigation will be termed as illegal and void.
  • It clearly declares that whenever a police officer ordered to investigate a non-cognizable case, he shall have the same power of investigation as a police officer in a cognizable case have. Police officer in a cognizable case drives its power of investigation under section 156(1) of the code but the process of initiation of investigation in a cognizable case provided under section 157 of the code. Since police officer as per section 156(3) of the code have the same power of investigation as a police officer in a cognizable case has so for the purpose of the process of investigation in a non-cognizable case section 155(3) has to be read with section 157 of the code. Therefore, for a non-cognizable case also the police officer will have the same power and the process as he has in cognizable case excepting the power to arrest the power without warrant.
  • In a case if there are, several offences are involved and it is found that one of the offences is cognizable offence then the entire case will become cognizable and the police officer can arrest the accused without warrant.

Difference between Cognizable offence and Non-cognizable Offence

S.No.Cognizable OffencesNon-Cognizable Offences
 1.In cognizable offences, the police officer can arrest without warrant.In Non-Cognizable offences police officer cannot arrest without warrant.
 2.In this, the police can start an investigation without court permission or FIR.In this, the police cannot start investigation without the permission of the court.
 3.These are heinous crimes like murder, rape, dowry death, etc.These are not serious crimes like forgery, cheating, defamation, etc.
 4.The victims can file an FIR or make a complaint to the magistrate.The victim can make a complaint to the magistrate.
 5.Can be both bailable and non-bailable offence.It is Bailable offence.

Case laws under cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence

  1. Supreme Court of India, in Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of UP

In this case, the court held that if the complaint reveals a cognizable offence, the police must compulsorily file an FIR on filing the complaint, and in such a situation no preliminary inquiry is acceptable.

  1. Mohd. Yoysuf vs. Afaq Jahan, (2006), SCC 627

In this case, the court held that the officer-in-charge of the police station has to register an FIR before investigation under Section 156(3) of the CrPC, even if the Magistrate does not explicitly say so.

  1. Kunhumuhammed vs. State of Kerala

The court stated that section Contrary to 155 (2)[3] a police officer’s report can be treated as a complaint under section 2(d) and section 190 (1)(a). It is necessary that at the commencement of the investigation, police officers assume that the commission of a cognizable offence is involved or suspected in the matter and that the inquiry only establishes a commission of the non-cognizable offence.

  1. Chinnaswami vs. Kuppuswami

It is observed that the purpose of the Code is to ensure the independence and security of the subject, that it confers on him the right to come to court, provided that he considers that a wrong  has been done to the Republic or him and the police check for irregularities.

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