The Delhi High Court allowed a petition challenging an impugned order wherein the Magistrate had directed the police to register an FIR based on a complaint filed by respondent no. 1. The Court laid down three preconditions that must be satisfied before a Magistrate can direct the registration of an FIR under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) namely, Disclosure of cognizable offence, Application of judicial mind and Necessity to pass speaking order.

The Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma noted, “While exercising powers under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. and directing the registration of an FIR, the Magistrate needs to ensure that a cognizable offence is disclosed from the allegations mentioned in the application and the essential elements of the alleged offences thereof are prima facie satisfied…It is no more res integra that power under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. is to be exercised judiciously and direction for registration of FIR is to be given only after due application of judicial mind…Given that the exercise of power under Section 156 Cr.P.C. falls within the realm of judicial function rather than administrative, it necessitates the application of judicial mind. Consequently, it is incumbent upon the Magistrate to pass a reasoned order directing registration of an FIR”.

Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur appeared for the Petitioner, Advocate Daniyal Khan appeared for Respondent no. 1 and Additional Public Prosecutor Satish Kumar appeared for the State/Respondent no. 2.

In this case, Respondent no. 1 filed a complaint about a speech delivered by an unidentified Swami ji at a public meeting organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Delhi. The respondent alleged that the speech was provocative and could incite violence between communities.

The Court placed reliance on Supreme Court Judgement in the case of Usha Chakraborty v. State of West Bengal (2023 SCC Online SC 90) and noted that the impugned order was silent as to which offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or any other law was disclosed from the averments made in the complaint. The Court also noted that the Magistrate had directed the police to investigate and find out whether actually any offence had been committed or not. This suggested that the Magistrate was not satisfied that a cognizable offence had been committed, but nonetheless directed the police to investigate the matter.

The Court further emphasized the importance of a reasoned order, and it noted that reasoned orders are essential for ensuring that judicial decisions are made impartially and in accordance with the law. Reasoned orders also allow for effective appellate review, as they provide the appellate court with the information it needs to assess whether the lower court's decision was correct. They are also important for the public, as they provide transparency and accountability in the judicial process.

In this context, the Court held, “The reasons in an order give reassurance in an open public justice system that the discretion vested in the Court has been judiciously exercised and is supported by judicial precedents and guidelines laid down apropos the issue in question. Reasons cannot be cryptic or based on extraneous considerations or on irrelevant grounds or against the doctrine of natural justice. Neither can they be in the form of performa orders passed casually in similar kinds of cases or applications without having regard to the individualism and peculiarity of a case…In a nutshell, while Magistrates possess significant authority and jurisdiction in their respective domains, it is important to recognize that this authority is not absolute and unconstrained. The powers which the Magistrates have been entrusted with are subject to checks and balances to prevent abuse or misuse. Such powers ought to be exercised within the framework of established laws, procedures, and constitutional principles”.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition and set aside the impugned order.

Cause Title: Alok Kumar Harsh Mander & Anr (2023:DHC:5045)

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