A cognizable offence in the criminal justice system of India is one in which the police is empowered to register a FIR, investigate and arrest an accused involved in cognizable crime without a court warrant. As defined in Cr.PC, a non-cognizable offence is one in which police can neither register a First Information Report (FIR) nor can investigate or effect arrest without the express permission or directions from the court.
A cognizable offence is a case where the Police can arrest without a warrant. All cognizable cases involve criminal offences. Murder, Robbery, Theft, Rioting, Counterfeiting etc. are some examples of cognizable offences.
Non-cognizable offences are those criminal infractions, which are relatively less serious. Examples of non-cognizable offences include Public Nuisance, Causing Simple Hurt, Assault, Mischief etc.
The Police cannot register criminal cases or cause arrests with regard to non-cognizable offences. In all such cases, the Police have to take permission from a magistrate for registration of a criminal case.