Understanding Our Criminal Justice System

A crime is an offence against a public law. It is a harm to the society; a misconduct and dealt through formal sanctions. There are two types of crimes – cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence. A cognizable offence is a case in which police can arrest the offender without a warrant. Examples: Murder, robbery, theft, kidnapping, dowry death, etc. The law states that it is compulsory for an officer in charge of a police station to register an FIR whenever a person gives information about a cognizable offence. The senior most police officer available in the Police Station, (S.H.O or his subordinate above the rank of a constable) is the Officer-in-Charge or the Duty Officer. If the senior most officers are not present, a Sub-Inspector or Head Constable will be the Officer-in-Charge who will lodge FIRs.

Non-cognizable offences are crimes relatively of less serious nature. In such cases, the police officers are not authorised to make arrests without a warrant. The police cannot investigate such an offence without permission of the Court. Examples: Public nuisance, causing simple hurt, assault, mischief, etc.

An accused can get bail from the Court. The two types of bail are – ‘Cash bail’ by depositing cash in the Court; and ‘Surety bail’ when a person stands guarantee for your presence in court. Every accused is entitled to a fair trial. She/he is allowed to cross examine witnesses. She/he can also bring witnesses for defence. If the charge is not proved, the accused is acquitted. If the charge is proved, the accused can appeal in a higher court.

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