S 156(3) CrPC – Ordering Further Investigation At Post Cognizance Stage

A three judges bench of the Supreme Court in Devarapalli Lakshminarayana Reddy vs V. Narayana Reddy [ (1976) 3 SCC 252 ] , held thus : “The power under Section 156(3) can be invoked by the Magistrate before he takes cognizance of the offence under Section 190(1)(a). But if he once takes such cognizance and embarks upon the procedure embodied in Chapter XV, he is not competent to switch back to the pre-cognizance stage and avail of Section 156(3)”.

About forty years later, another three judges bench in Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya vs State Of Gujarat [ (2019) 17 SCC 1 ] disagreed with this view and held that this power of ordering further investigation is available even at post-cognizance stage. The bench gave the following reasons:

  1. Section 2(h) of the 1973 Criminal Procedure Code defines “investigation” in the same terms as the earlier definition contained in Section 2(l) of the 1898 Criminal Procedure Code with this difference – that “investigation” after the 1973 Code has come into force will now include all the proceedings under the CrPC for collection of evidence conducted by a police officer. “All” would clearly include proceedings under Section 173(8) as well. Thus, when Section 156(3) states that a Magistrate empowered under Section 190 may order “such an investigation”, such Magistrate may also order further investigation under Section 173(8), regard being had to the definition of “investigation” contained in Section 2(h).
  2. Section 2(h) is not noticed by the aforesaid judgment (Devarapalli) at all, resulting in the erroneous finding in law that the power under Section 156(3) can only be exercised at the pre-cognizance stage. The “investigation” spoken of in Section 156(3) would embrace the entire process, which begins with the collection of evidence and continues until charges are framed by the Court, at which stage the trial can be said to have begun.
  3. There is no good reason given by the Court in these decisions as to why a Magistrate’s powers to order further investigation would suddenly cease upon process being issued, and an accused appearing before the Magistrate, while concomitantly, the power of the police to further investigate the offence continues right till the stage the trial commences.
  4. To say that a fair and just investigation would lead to the conclusion that the police retain the power, subject, of course, to the Magistrate’s nod under Section 173(8) to further investigate an offence till charges are framed, but that the supervisory jurisdiction of the Magistrate suddenly ceases midway through the pre-trial proceedings, would amount to a travesty of justice, as certain cases may cry out for further investigation so that an innocent person is not wrongly arraigned as an accused or that a prima facie guilty person is not so left 59 out. There is no warrant for such a narrow and restrictive view of the powers of the Magistrate, particularly when such powers are traceable to Section 156(3) read with Section 156(1), Section 2(h), and Section 173(8) of the CrPC, as has been noticed hereinabove, and would be available at all stages of the progress of a criminal case before the trial actually commences.
  5. It would also be in the interest of justice that this power be exercised suo motu by the Magistrate himself, depending on the facts of each case. Whether further investigation should or should not be ordered is within the discretion of the learned Magistrate who will exercise such discretion on the facts of each case and in accordance with law. If, for example, fresh facts come to light which would lead to inculpating or exculpating certain persons, arriving at the truth and doing substantial justice in a criminal case are more important than avoiding further delay being caused in concluding the criminal proceeding.

Therefore, as of now, it can be said that a Magistrate can order further investigation even at post cognizance stage.

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  1. Pingback: S 156(3) – Can Magistrate Order Investigation U/S 156(3) CrPC After Taking Cognizance Of Complaint – CiteCase

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