A first information report (FIR) is not an "Encyclopedia" which must disclose all the facts and details relating to the offence reported and courts should not go into the merits of the allegations when investigation by the police is in progress, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
While observing that police must be permitted to complete the probe, the court said that high courts must appreciate that speedy investigation is the requirement in the criminal administration of justice and they should be slow in interfering with the criminal proceedings at the initial stage.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud noted that it has come across several orders passed by high courts directing not to arrest the accused during the investigation or till the charge sheet is filed.
"The first information report is not an Encyclopedia which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported. Therefore, when the investigation by the police is in progress, the court should not go into the merits of the allegations in the FIR. Police must be permitted to complete the investigation," said the bench, also comprising Justices M R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna.
"It would be premature to pronounce the conclusion based on hazy facts that the complaint/FIR does not deserve to be investigated or that it amounts to abuse of process of law," the bench said in its 64-page verdict.
The top court delivered the judgement by which it quashed the September last year interim order of the Bombay High Court which had directed that "no coercive measures shall be adopted" against the accused in respect of an FIR lodged in 2019 on allegations of cheating, forgery and others.
The bench noted that in a given case, there may be allegations of abuse of process of law by converting a civil dispute into a criminal dispute, only with a view to pressurise the accused.
It said similarly, in a given case the complaint itself on the face of it can be said to be barred by law.
"The allegations in the FIR/complaint may not at all disclose the commission of a cognizable offence," it said, adding, "In such cases and in exceptional cases with circumspection, the high court may stay the further investigation."
It said at the same time, there may be genuine complaints or FIRs and the police or the investigating agency has a statutory obligation and duty to inquire into the cognizable offences.
"Therefore, a balance has to be struck between the rights of the genuine complainants and the FIRs disclosing commission of a cognizable offence and the statutory obligation/duty of the investigating agency to investigate into the cognizable offences on the one hand and those innocent persons against whom the criminal proceedings are initiated which may be in a given case abuse of process of law and the process," it said.