Section 177 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!

According to the second para, if such information which he is legally bound to give is with respect to the commission of an offence, or is required to prevent the commission of an offence, or to apprehend an offender, he shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment extending up to two years, or with both.

The first illustration attached to the section relates to the first part while the second one illustrates the second part of the section quite well. An explanation has been provided under the section which applies to sections 176 and 177 both, and which widens the meaning of the words ‘offence’ and ‘offender’ used in these two sections.

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It has been explained that the word ‘offence’ includes acts committed outside India which would be punishable under certain sections of the Code mentioned therein, if committed in India. The explanation also states that the word ‘offender’ includes any person who is alleged to have been guilty of any such act.

For a conviction under this section the accused must be legally bound to furnish information. Section 43 of the Code gives the meaning of the expression ‘legally bound to’. He cannot be held guilty under this section till the prosecution establishes that either he had knowledge that the information he was furnishing was false or he had reason to believe the same to be false. If furnishing the false information is with respect to commission of an offence or is required for preventing commission of an offence, the penalty is enhanced as provided under the latter part of the section.

In Lakpa Sherpa v. State of Sikkim, no complaint was filed by the District Collector concerned in the Court alleging that the offence was committed by the petitioner under section 177, Indian Penal Code. The Sikkim High Court held that the provision of section 195 (1), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is mandatory and therefore, in the absence of a complaint by the District Collector concerned, the learned magistrate could not have taken cognizance of the offence. His order taking cognizance, therefore, is without jurisdiction. It is also not curable by section 465, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as it goes to the root of the matter. Consequently, the trial is void ab inilio and conviction of petitioner under section 177 is not sustainable in law.

The offence under this section is non-cognizable, bailable, and non-compoundable and is triable by any magistrate.