May 30, 2024


The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) is the official criminal code of India. It covers all the substantive aspects of criminal law. All the acts that amount to crime are defined in it. Based on the nature and gravity of offences, they can be classified into 3 types. These are bailable and non-bailable offences,cognizable and non-cognizable offences, and compoundable and non-compoundable offences. In this article, we shall look into the differences between cognizable and non-cognizable offences.

What are cognizable offences ?

The punishment for each offence depends on the seriousness of the crime. Offences that are punishable with not less than 3 years of imprisonment are serious offences and are considered cognizable. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973(CrPC) under Section 2(c) states that an offence that is punishable with death,imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for more than 3 years shall be cognizable. Cognizable offences are those in which the police can arrest the accused without a warrant. The police can also begin an investigation without the permission of the court. The accused is arrested and produced before the court at the stipulated time. According to Section 154 of the Cr PC, a police officer is required to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. Murder,rape, theft, kidnapping, dowry death, etc. are some of the examples of cognizable offences. These offences are both bailable, and non- bailable.


What are non-cognizable offences ?

An offence that is less serious in nature is considered non-cognizable. Section 2(l) of the CrPC defines non-cognizable offences as those in which the police have no authority to arrest without a warrant. These are mentioned in the first schedule of the Indian Penal Code and are bailable. In these offences, the police cannot arrest the accused without an arrest warrant and cannot start an investigation without the permission of the court. Non-serious crimes such as assault, cheating, forgery, defamation, public nuisance, etc. are non-cognizable offences. As per Section 155 of the CrPC, if a police officer receives information about a non-cognizable crime, he is supposed to enter the case in the station diary and refer the informant to the magistrate. Only after receiving permission from the magistrate, the police can start investigating the matter. After concluding its investigation, a charge sheet is filed with the court, which is then followed by a trial. If a case has been made out, the court then issues a final order of arrest.

Powers of the police in cognizable offences:

Section 156 of the CrPC confers power upon the police to deal with cognizable offences.When an FIR is filed at the police station and the offence is a cognizable one,the police can initiate arrest without waiting for an arrest warrant from the court. Investigation can be started as soon as the arrest is made and the investigation is limited to the local jurisdiction of that police station. The police are bound to register an FIR if the information discloses a cognizable offence. If the place of crime is outside the jurisdiction of the police station, the police officer cannot refuse to register the report and should forward it to the police station that has jurisdiction.

In non-cognizable offence Section 155 of the CrPC provides the procedure that the police have to follow while dealing with non-cognizable offences. In these cases, the police cannot arrest.