Can a Criminal Investigation be closed? An Analysis of Closure Reports in Criminal Law

Any investigation of a crime is an extensive process involving various steps. The primary step being the filing of a First Information Report that initiates the investigation and it is well known that the final step is filing of Chargesheet. But what if a situation arises wherein the allegations that are present in the FIR do not make out an offence can the police close the investigation in such cases? The answer is in the affirmative and hence there exist special types of reports popularly called as Closure Reports or Summary Reports. These reports can be filed before courts indicating that the investigation did not yield any evidence relating to the commission of an offence. This article seeks to examine the legal basis for such reports its adjudication and what the various courts have held relating to these reports.

Statutory Position of Closure Reports
Etymologically speaking a report means giving an account of any incident or inform someone about something in a written or oral manner.

While dealing with the same in the legal arena Section 2 (r) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 defines it as -

“police report" means a report forwarded by a police officer to Magistrate under sub- section (2) of section 173”.

It is a well-established principle that the powers laid down under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 relate to the filing of a Chargesheet and is pertaining to cases when the offences alleged are made out after investigation but in case an offence is not made out the Code also has a provision embodied in it that is Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 that allows the police to release any person after the completion of investigation in case there is no evidence against him. Thus, it can be said that an investigation against a person can be closed in case there is no evidence found against them.

Similar provisions can also be found in State Wise Police Manuals wherein there are rules pertaining to filing of these reports. In case of Maharashtra the Bombay Police Manual, 1959 is where we can find the mention of such reports. Rule 219 of the Bombay Police Manual,19591 is the provision that specifically relates to Closure Reports.

Types of Closure Reports
Rule 219 of the Police Manual classifies these reports in the following manner-

“A Summary”-It is categorized as True, Undetected by the rule which means that the case registered is true but the accused person is undetected or the accused is found but the evidence connecting the accused to the crime remains undetected. Thus, in such instances the police can file this type of report before the Magistrate informing them of the closure of the investigation.

“B Summary”- These reports are generally filed by the police when the FIR is registered due to enmity or as a means to seek revenge from the alleged accused. It means that the contents of these FIR’s are not true and the case filed is false in nature. These reports help save the accused persons from being falsely framed in cases and being maliciously prosecuted. In many cases Cross-FIR’s are filed in successive intervals and some as a retaliation to previous FIR’s these reports can come in handy for such situations.

“C Summary”- These reports relate to cases that may have been filed be due to a mistake of fact or when the dispute is of civil nature but is being given a criminal colour. Thus, petty cases of misunderstandings or neighbourly disputes for which criminal cases are filed may be covered within the ambit of such reports. Hence a case filed under misbelief or for some civil consequence is filed and police find no relevant evidence regarding the allegations a Closure Report of this nature can be filed and the investigation can be closed.

Adjudication of Closure Reports
Section 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the procedure of a Magistrate taking cognizance of any case brought before him by way of a police report or otherwise. The procedure to adjudicate a Closure Report also falls under the ambit of this provision. The Magistrate in the situation of a Closure Report being filed has the following options available before him (a) to accept the Closure Report (b) in the event the protest petition is filed, to treat the same as complaint petition and if prima facie case is made out, to issue process (c) to take cognizance of the offence against the person, although Closure Report has been filed by the police in the event he is of the opinion that sufficient material exists in the case diary itself thereof and (d) to direct re-investigation into the matter2.

The discretion of the Magistrate plays a pivotal role in these cases as if the evidence in the report is enough according to the Magistrate he can proceed with the case. The Magistrate can also accept the Closure Report and adjudicate the case finally at the preliminary stage by allowing the release of the accused due to lack of evidence and thus concluding the matter. Both the powers of the Magistrate exist to adjudicate the preliminary stages of the cases and finally decide whether the case can proceed to the stage of framing of charges. In case the Magistrate decides to accept the Closure Report a notice must be sent to the complainant and they must be heard before the acceptance of such reports3.

Concept of Protest Petitions
These petitions are used as a tool by the First Informant / Victim or Complainant of a criminal case in situations wherein they feel dissatisfied with the manner in which the investigation of their case has concluded. These petitions though not expressly mentioned under the Code but are filed as Private Complaints under the Section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. These petitions as the name suggests are filed to register dissatisfaction against the investigation which gave a clean chit given to the accused. These Protest Petitions act as a remedy against filing of Closure Reports.

These petitions are a result of the judicial craftsmanship by judges and lawyers and have given the victim a role in the criminal justice system. It was the case of “Sunil Majhi vs State4in which the Calcutta High Court first dealt with the nature of these petitions and their legal existence under the old Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 and the same was subsequently interpreted under the new Code of Criminal Procedure as well. The court crafted a new nomenclature for these petitions and called them “Narazi” petitions which roughly translates in English to either dissatisfaction or petition of non-acceptance. The concept relating to Protest Petitions was further developed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of “Bhagwat Singh vs Commissioner 5” in which the court accepted the proposition that there exists no specific procedure in law to challenge these reports. The court thus held that non- availability of a specific procedure cannot be a ground to do away with the principles of natural justice and therefore stated that the Magistrate while considering Closure Reports have to give notice to the First Informant / Complainant or Victim to oppose the filing of such Closure Reports and make submissions in that regard.

Indian Judiciary on Closure Reports-
a) Shahnaj Hashmi And Anr. vs The Senior Inspector of Police and Anr6

The police after investigation in this case had filed a summary Closure Report against the petitioner namely Shahnaj thereby not naming him in the charge-sheet or even arresting him. The accused had approached the High Court to quash the FIR against him on the basis of the Closure Report filed before the Magistrate. The court while dealing the issue of importance and sanctity of Closure Reports stated that-

“Filing of the final report is not an empty formality. Such report should contain all the details for not sending the accused for trial, as to enable the Magistrate to decide what course to adopt i.e., whether to accept the report and discharge the bonds or order further investigation or to take cognisance of the offence.”

Hence from the above dictum laid down by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court it can be said that Closure Reports are of utmost importance and guide the Magistrates in arriving at the correct conclusion.

b) Amar Nath Choubey vs Union of India 7
The case related to the Petitioner challenging the lackadaisical manner in which the police had conducted an investigation into the death of the Petitioner’s father and the filing of a Closure Report. The Closure reports were accepted by lower courts and hence the Petitioner was dissatisfied with the same. The court while dealing with the case delved into the discussion on the role of courts in case of Closure Reports and stated that-

To say that further investigation was not possible as the informant had not supplied adequate materials to investigate, to our mind, is a preposterous statement, coming from the police. The police have a statutory duty to investigate into any crime in accordance with law as provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Investigation is the exclusive privilege and prerogative of the police which cannot be interfered with. But if the police do not perform its statutory duty in accordance with law or is remiss in the performance of its duty, the court cannot abdicate its duties on the precocious plea that investigation is the exclusive prerogative of the police. Once the conscience of the court is satisfied, from the materials on record, that the police has not investigated properly or apparently is remiss in the investigation, the court has a bounden constitutional obligation to ensure that the investigation is conducted in accordance with law. If the court gives any directions for that purpose within the contours of the law, it cannot amount to interference with investigation. A fair investigation is, but a necessary concomitant of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and this Court has the bounden obligation to ensure adherence by the police.”

Thus, the Supreme Court clearly laid down that the inability of the police to gather evidence cannot tantamount result in filing of a Closure Report. The Magistrate as the judicial officer must make sincere and fair efforts to see if the case has been properly investigated or not and not mechanically accept or reject the Closure Report.

Thus, to conclude it can be said that an Investigation in a criminal case can be close even without filing of a Chargesheet. These Closure Reports are the recourse available with the investigation agencies in case the allegations are not substantiated by necessary evidences. The reports also act as tool to reduce pendency in courts of law and ensure that the accused persons are not made to go through the whole trial process. These Reports also help in ensuring that a free and fair investigation can be conducted in a criminal case. These can act as a preliminary step to weed out false and malicious criminal cases and balance the rights of both the accused as well as the victims.

By - Aadit Ved

  1. Bombay Police Manual, 1959
  2. Arun Chavan vs State of Maharashtra (Criminal Application No. 6965 OF 2015); Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench)
  3. Jakia Nasim Ahesan & Anr. vs State of Gujarat & Ors. [2011 (12) SCC 302]
  4. AIR 1968 Cal. 238
  5. AIR 1985 SC 1285
  6. MANU/MH/0874/2017
  7. MANU/SC/0938/2020