Section 2(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 defines cognizable offence. It is such offence where the police officer may arrest an accused without warrant as per the First Schedule of the Act or under any other law for the time being in force. 2(l) of the Act defines non-cognizable offence. In this case the police officer cannot arrest without warrant.
Arrest is a tool in the hands of a police officer to prevent the accused from escaping the clutches of law. It helps the police officer to prevent further commission of offence as a precautionary method. A warrant is a written order issued by a Magistrate to a police officer commanding him to arrest a person. In most serious crimes there may not be sufficient time to obtain a warrant from the Magistrate. By the time police officer obtains warrant the accused may escape. So the necessity to obtain warrant is not required in serious crimes. Thus it can be concluded that cognizable offences are serious crimes and non-cognizable are less serious crimes.
Cognizable offences are serious and Non-cognizable offences are less serious.
- In Cognizable offences, the person can be arrested without warrant while it is not possible in non-cognizable offences.
- In cognizable, the police officer can begin investigation without an order from a Magistrate. But in non-cognizable it is not generally possible.
- Complaint is not necessary in cognizable where it is generally necessary in non-cognizable offence.