Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences

By Bharti Harsana


Bharti Harsana


Offences are those acts or omissions which are punishable in nature by the state and against which a complaint is registered with the police or magistrate. Thus any illegal act or a crime implies an offence.In the legal system of India offences are classified into cognizable and non cognizable offences.

Section 2 (n) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 define Offence as-

"offence" means any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force and includes any act in respect of which a complaint may be made under section 20 of the Cattle- trespass Act, 1871 (1 of 1871 )

Cognizable Offences:

Cognizable Offence is one in which the police officer may arrest without warrant as given under the First Schedule of Criminal Procedural Code, 1975 or any other law for time being in force. Cognizable offences are generally serious in nature. The police take cognizance of such offences on its own and go forward with investigation. For example- Murder, Rape, Dowry Death, Kidnapping, etc.

Section 2 (c) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 define 'Cognizable Offence' as-

"cognizable offence" means an offence for which, and "cognizable case" means a case in which, a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without warrant;


According to Section 154 of CrPC under cognizable offences or cases, the Police officer has to receive the FIR and immediately start the investigation. The police officer can investigate without the Magistrate's permission in cases involving cognizable offences.

Case laws for cognizable offences

In Smt. Gurmito vs. State of Punjab And Ors (1996) the court held that the police cannot refuse to register the case on the ground that it is not reliable or credible.

In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh vs. PunatiRamulu And Others (1993) it was held thatrefusal to record FIR on the ground that the place of crime does not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of the police station, amount to dereliction of duty. Information about cognizable offence would have to be recorded and forwarded to the police station having jurisdiction.

Non-Cognizable Offences:

Non-Cognizable Offenceis one in which the police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant. These offences are not very serious in nature as compared to cognizable offences. For example - Assault, Forgery, Defamation, Cheating.

Section 2 (l) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 define 'Non-Cognizable Offence' as-

"non- cognizable offence" means an offence for which, and "non- cognizable case" means a case in which, a police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant;

According to Section 155 of CrPC, 1973 the police officer cannot record an FIR without obtaining prior permission of the Magistrate. The police officer has to obtain the Magistrate's permission in order to start investigation in non-cognizable offences.

Case Law on non-cognizable offences

It was observed in Chinnaswami v. Kuppuswami, that ensuring the freedom and safety of the subject is the object of the Code and that it gives him the right to come to court if he believes that a wrong has been done to the State or him.

Comparison Table



Police Officer is authorized to arrest without warrant.

Police Officer required warrant to arrest.

Approval from Court is not required to investigate the offence.

Prior Approval of the Magistrate is required to start investigation.

Serious Offences

Comparatively less serious offences

FIR and Complaint required

Only Complaint required.

Example- Murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, etc. Example- Forgery, cheating, assault, defamation etc.


Cognizable offences are either bailable or non-bailable in nature depending on the severity of the offence, whereas non-cognizable offences are bailable offences. Non-cognizable offences usually attract punishment of imprisonment for less than three years or sometimes fine only, whereas cognizable offences often are punished with imprisonment for three years or more.

About the Author:

Law Student

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