Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. – Requirements for Magistrate directing police for investigation


Question: What are the requirements that are to be fulfilled for requesting Magistrate to direct police under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code to conduct investigation?

Answer: Power under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. can be exercised by Magistrate to direct police to conduct investigation, only in respect of a cognizable offence.

Usually, a complaint relating to the commission of a cognizable offence is given directly to police under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which is recorded in the form of FIR (First Information Report). It is mandatory for the police to register FIR if the complaint relates to the commission of a cognizable offence. However, many a time, police officers are reluctant to register FIR for various reasons, even if it be their duty to do. It is in such a situation that a complaint can be filed before the Magistrate having jurisdiction, who can then direct police under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. to conduct investigation.

Section 156 of Cr.P.C. is reproduced below:

156. Police officer’s power to investigate cognizable case.— (1) Any officer in charge of a police station may, without the order of a Magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a Court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have power to inquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII.

(2) No proceeding of a police officer in any such case shall at any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one which such officer was not empowered under this section to investigate.

(3) Any Magistrate empowered under Section 190 may order such an investigation as above mentioned.”

So, what is required is that the complaint given to the Magistrate under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. should relate to a cognizable offence. If so, the Magistrate gets the power to direct police to conduct investigation.

In the case of Srinivas Gundluri v. SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corpn., (2010) 8 SCC 206 : 2010 Cri LJ 4457, the Supreme Court has held that “to proceed under Section 156(3) of the Code, what is required is a bare reading of the complaint and if it discloses a cognizable offence, then the Magistrate instead of applying his mind to the complaint for deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding, may direct the police for investigation. … … As a matter of fact, even after receipt of such report, the Magistrate under Section 190(1)(b) may or may not take cognizance of offence. In other words, he is not bound to take cognizance upon submission of the police report by the investigating officer, hence, by directing the police to file charge-sheet or final report and to hold investigation with a particular result cannot be construed that the Magistrate has exceeded his power as provided in sub-section (3) of Section 156.”

In Devarapalli Lakshminarayana Reddy v. V. Narayana Reddy, (1976) 3 SCC 252, the Supreme Court held that when a Magistrate receives a complaint, he is not bound to take cognizance if the facts alleged in the complaint, disclose the commission of an offence. If on a reading of the complaint he finds that the allegations therein disclose a cognizable offence and the forwarding of the complaint to the police for investigation under Section 156(3) will be conducive to justice and save the valuable time of the Magistrate from being wasted in enquiring into a matter which was primarily the duty of the police to investigate, he will be justified in adopting that course as an alternative to taking cognizance of the offence, himself.

In the case of Tula Ram v. Kishore Singh, (1977) 4 SCC 459, the Supreme Court held that a Magistrate can order investigation under Section 156(3) only at the pre-cognizance stage, that is to say, before taking cognizance under Sections 190, 200 and 204 of the Cr.P.C.

About Dr. Ashok Dhamija

Dr. Ashok DhamijaDr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, holds Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, is author of 3 law books, and is an ex-IPS officer. He is the founder of this law portal. Read more by clicking here. List of his articles. List of his Forum Replies. List of his Quora Answers. List of his YouTube Videos.

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