Closure report
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This article is written by Kushagra Varma pursuing a Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy from LawSikho.com.

Introduction

The job of investigating any criminal case or matter rests upon the police in India. The police authority is responsible for conducting investigations and finding out evidence regarding a case against an accused person. It is important that this investigation carried out by the police must be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives its citizens the fundamental rights which incorporate the “Right to Life and Personal Liberty.” This fundamental right includes several other rights such as “Right to Food”, “Right to Shelter”, etc., among which “Right to Fair Trial and Investigation” holds quite a crucial position as well. The 41st report of the Indian Law Commission recommended that an accused person must get a fair trial in accordance with the principles of natural justice, efforts must be made to avoid delay in investigation and trial and the procedures should aim at ensuring fair deal to the poorer sections of the society. A closure report, therefore, is an important aspect of a fair investigation. In this article, the author aims to find out what a closure report is, the importance of the fair investigation, its objectives, procedure after the filing of closure report, and also throw light upon certain important case laws.

What is a closure report?

A closure report is given under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. From a bare perusal of this section, it can be said that a closure report under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is a report which is submitted by the police or the investigating agencies to the Learned Magistrate or the concerned court stating that after the due investigation against the accused, no evidence or reasonable grounds for suspicion are found to connect him to the alleged crime. And if the accused is in custody, he shall be released on certain conditions like executing a bond, providing a surety, appearing before the magistrate if called, etc after filing of the report.

The investigating authorities have been empowered to submit a report to the Magistrate that there is no evidence or reasonable grounds for suspicion to justify the forwarding of the accused to the Magistrate and to release the accused from the custody on him executing a bond with or without surety, as the police officer direct, to appear, if and when so required before a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report and to try the accused or commit for trial.

The report under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is referred to as a ‘closure report’. The Magistrate, however, can direct the police to make further investigation. The scope of the power to direct further investigation when the police report states that there is no evidence to proceed further, and really there is no evidence in the case at all, whether it would be an order which can be justified or held valid needs examination.

Discussing the essentiality of a fair investigation

Preservation of the rights to a fair investigation and fair trial are essential fundamental rights of an accused under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. A fair investigation requires the police to thoroughly examine all the evidence and find out whether a prima-facie case is made out against the accused. If a case is made out then they shall carry on with its investigation and assist the court in a trial. However, if a prima-facie case is not made out from the preliminary investigation conducted, then there shall be a closure report made under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. A closure report under Section 169 will be regarded as a report under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 talks of the report of a police officer on completion of the investigation, also known as a charge sheet. The difference between a report under Section 169 and Section 173 has been explained in the succeeding paragraphs. It is also the duty of the Learned Magistrate or the concerned court to find out whether there is any material on record to proceed against the accused. If no such material is found against the accused, then there is no point in taking cognizance of an offence and proceeding further as the prosecution becomes futile. The accused shall be allowed to walk free. Therefore, fair investigation and trial are crucial to the accused person to protect him from unwanted and vexatious prosecution against him.

The objective of a closure report

The main objective of a closure report is that if an investigation has been conducted against the accused and nothing incriminating or any material which could connect the accused to the alleged crime has been found, then there is no point to unnecessarily prosecute him. This provision prevents an accused against whom no evidence has been found from unfair and unwanted prosecution.

A closure report is different from a final report. A closure report is filed under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 whereas a final report is one under Section 173 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. A closure report is made merely concluding the investigation, no evidence is found against the accused then no case is made out. Whereas, a final report mentions the whole investigation in detail including all the evidence found, various statements and lays down the charges of the crime. Report under Section 173 is also known as a charge-sheet and it is very different from a closure report

Procedure after the filing of a closure report

  • There are few things that a Magistrate can do after the filing of the closure report:
  1. Accept the report and close the case.
  2. Direct the investigation agency to further investigate the matter, if they have left any lacunae in the investigation.
  3. Issue notice to the First Informant as he is the only person who can challenge the closure report, or.
  4. In some cases, the Magistrate may directly reject the closure report and take cognizance of the case under Section 190 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and issue a summons or warrant under Section 204 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to the accused and direct his appearance before the magistrate.
  • Section 190 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 gives the Magistrate the power to take cognizance of an offence upon receiving a complaint of facts or any information related to an offence. As per Section 204 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 if sufficient grounds for a proceeding are found out, a Magistrate can issue summons in a summons-case or warrant in warrant-case to the accused of his appearance before the court.
  • Once the closure report is submitted before the Learned Magistrate, the Magistrate then goes through the report. After the Magistrate examines the closure report submitted by the investigating authorities, it is up to his discretion whether there are sufficient grounds to precede the matter further or not. The Magistrate has the power to decide whether an actual case is made out against the accused or not. If the Magistrate finds the report to be below par, he can order the authorities to file a new report.
  • After examining the report if the Magistrate thinks that no case is made out against the accused, he can release him. However, if the Magistrate feels that there is sufficient material to prosecute the accused, he can issue a process of proceedings under Section 204 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • Even if the closure report filed by the police states that no evidence is found against the accused, the Magistrate can reject the report if he is not satisfied. The Magistrate also has the right to take cognizance of the matter and call for further investigation in the matter under Section 173(8) of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • Another point is that before concluding the matter, the Magistrate can issue a notice to the first informant of the case as he is the only one who can challenge the report and raise concerns against it. After giving him a reasonable opportunity to make his point, the Magistrate can take his arguments into account while deciding the matter.
  • Filing a closure report does not mean that no proceeding can take place against the accused in the future. It protects the accused of the time being since no evidence has been found against him.
  • However, if new discoveries are made and certain materials are found against the accused which connects him to the alleged crime, the police can file it as a report under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and can arrest the accused. A report under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. is also known as a supplementary charge sheet and it is used to file new and additional findings of an investigation. 

Important case laws

Manohari & Ors. Vs. District Superintendent of Police & Anr., 2018, Madras High Court

In Manohari & Ors. Vs. District Superintendent of Police & Anr., 2018, the Madras High Court, the Madras High Court had laid down a number of guidelines while filing a closure report where the death was unnatural or under suspicious circumstances. It said that in these circumstances, the police need to register an FIR under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and prepare an inquest report for the same. Such a report is then to be forwarded to the Magistrate. 

The court also laid down that before the police file a closure report, the victim (if alive) or his relatives are entitled to a charge sheet which shall enable them to file a protest petition before the judge and oppose the closure report.

N.K. Rai Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, 2018, Delhi High Court

Hon’ble Justice Rekha Palli while deciding this case held that a closure report is not binding on trial courts and the trial courts are expected to apply their independent mind to the material on record. The trial courts have to consider the facts of each case separately and then decide whether to admit or reject the closure reports. The esteemed High Court also held that cognizance of a case should not be taken after filing the closure report without directing the investigating agencies for further investigation. If a court wants to take cognizance of a case after filing the closure report then it must direct the investigating authorities for further investigation in the matter.

Amar Nath Chaubey Vs. Union of India, 2020, Supreme Court

The apex court recently decided in a remarkable case that a closure report cannot be filed just because the investigation could not take place as the informant of the case had not supplied sufficient material to the authorities to investigate. 

The triple bench headed by Justice RF Nariman held that a fair investigation is essential and compliance with Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution needs to be done while carrying out an investigation. Filing a closure report only because the informant was unable to supply information related to the crime will be against the principles of a fair investigation. 

The court laid down that the police cannot escape liability merely on the ground that the informant of the case was not able to supply them with adequate material to carry out an investigation. This cannot be taken as an excuse and a closure report on this ground cannot be filed. The police must make efforts to carry out its own investigation and should not solely place reliance on the informant. It was established by this judgment that the police need to follow the above-mentioned points so that the guilty are not spared and the innocent are not harassed.

Conclusion

Closure report under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is a provision that saves an accused against whom no evidence has been found from unnecessary trouble. It allows the police or the investigating agencies to carry out an investigation and if no material against an accused person is found, to release him.

This provision shall however not be misused by the police to escape liability. As discussed earlier, the Hon’ble Courts have held in a number of cases that closure reports must be filed while giving adherence to the principles of fair investigation as given in the Indian Constitution. As it is said that every side has two coins, the same applies to a closure report. While one aspect of a closure report is to save an innocent from unfair prosecution, another is to ensure that careless reports by the police do not result in a possible guilty person being freed. The judiciary has sufficient discretion while examining a closure report. It should apply its own mind while reading a report as the facts and circumstances of every case are quite different. After a thorough examination of the report, the judge should only allow the accused to be released if no case is made out against him. 

The police should also conduct an impartial and fair investigation. The investigating agency should not unnecessarily prolong the custody of an accused. If no material against the accused is found, he shall be released by the police. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is a well-established statute and its compliance is a sine qua non for fair hearings. A closure report must be used cautiously and fairly.

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