Delay In the filing of First Information Report

Reading time : 6 minutes 

3 policemen were suspended over delay in filing the First Information Report (hereinafter referred to as FIR) in the Hyderabad rape, murder case.[1] The victim’s mother said that a lot of time was wasted by police officials on deciding the jurisdiction and also, the police officers alleged that their daughter must have eloped with someone and the case is not a rape case and because of this there was a delay in filing of the FIR. If the police officers would have had registered the FIR on time, there were chances of saving the woman.

First of all, let’s understand what is an FIR. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as CrPC) deals with FIR. First Information Report (FIR) is the very first information provided to the police about a cognizable offense. The principal objective of FIR from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law into motion and from point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the cognizable offense.[2]  After registration of the FIR only, the police officers start the investigation process.

There are a lot of times that the FIR is not registered by the police officers, due to various reasons like the offense committed is not a cognizable offense, due to political pressure, corruption, even on the grounds of credibility, and reliability, etc.

Under Section 154 of CrPC the word used is ‘information, which means that mere information of a cognizable offense is sufficient enough for registration of an FIR, in other words, the credibility or reasonableness of the information is not a ground for non-registration of an FIR. In Lalita Kumari v. Government of UP, it was observed that if the information given by the informant reveals that a cognizable offense has been committed then, the police officer is duty-bound to register the FIR.[3] In any circumstance, the police officers cannot refuse to file an FIR under any circumstances under Section 154 of CrPC.

FIR should be lodged at the police station at the earliest because in cases of cognizable offenses it is very important to get the information at the earliest. If by any chance the information is not communicated to the police officers at the first instance then this can result in the embellishment of the pieces of evidence, people can make a concorded story and can give rise to suspicion on the worthiness of FIR.

In Dharma Rama Bhagare v. the State of Maharashtra, the honorable Supreme court held that FIR is the starting point of any proceedings but it can never be treated as a substantive piece of evidence. [4]

Wrong use of power:

In the State of Maharashtra vs. Sarangdharsingh[5], an order was given by the Collector in the District of Buldhana, that no one shall register any crime against Mr. Gokulchand Sananda, without taking permission from the required authorities. After checking the records, it was found that out of 74 cases, only in seven cases charge sheets were filed alleging illegal moneylending. Due to which many poor farmers were deprived of their rights, and because of powerlessness they were not able to do anything for themselves. Under Section 154 of CrPC it is clearly stated that no one should be deprived of their right, if a cognizable offense has been committed then an FIR must be registered, but this was not the case in the above scenario.[6]

If the FIR is not registered on the grounds of creditableness and reasonableness then the rights of the victim will be infringed and if the FIR is registered then the rights of the accused will be infringed, this is a double-edged sword. We will go through both the points of how the rights of both the person can be saved and justice can be reached.

Evidentiary value of the FIR:

Once the information is received by the police officers of a cognizable offense, the officers have to register an FIR without checking its credibility or reasonableness. FIR is not substantive evidence of the facts that are mentioned under it but yes, it is a very important step from the viewpoint of conveying the offense. After an FIR is filled then the genuineness, reasonableness, or credibility of the information is investigated by the police officer under Section 156 of CrPC. After investigating if it is found that the cognizable offense has been committed then a report has to be sent to the Magistrate who will be empowered to take cognizance of the case. Not only this, a magistrate empowered under Section 190 of CrPC has full power to order an investigation under any such circumstances to an authorized officer. Section 154 of CrPC is a mandatory practice that has to be performed by police officers. The police officer is duty-bound to register the case on the basis that the offense committed is cognizable. After registration of the FIR, only the police officer is entitled to investigate the credibility of the information. [7]

Non-registration of FIR’s is a serious complaint.

Many a time, Non-registration of FIR’s is faced by poor people who cannot stand for themselves, who cannot stand for the wrong which is happening with them, or even who are unaware of their rights. In a study by the Bureau of Police Research & Development, it was found that around 24.3% of the complainants were tried to be dissuaded, around 4.1% of the complainants were tried to be treated and around 63.5% of complainants did not receive a copy of the FIR. [8]

In Mohindro v. the State of Punjab 2001[9], the victim reached the police station for filing an FIR but the police did not file the FIR on the first go. The victim reached the high court for the same that the FIR has not been registered by the authorized officers. In return, they said that the inquiry is going on. The supreme court questioned the authorized officers on how can enquiry be carried forward if the case is not only registered. First Information Report has to be registered for a case to start the further proceedings, without registering it nobody can do anything.

A recent case of delay in filing of FIR took place in Hathras, where a Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The probe agency said that there was negligence from the side of the police, the police did not comply with the procedure of Section 154 of CrPC, which clearly stated that the victim’s statement has to be registered in cases relating to cognizable offenses. At this place, the victim went to the station all injured, tried to give her a statement but still, the police officers refused to record it, even after seeing her condition they neither recorded her statement nor did they send her for further medical examination.[10]

This is a clear breach of Section 154 of CrPC. According to the procedure laid down, the police officers should have registered the FIR and then they would have investigated further upon the matter. But over here they did not even register her case which was an infringement of her rights. There’s a taboo that if a poor woman goes to the police station for filing a rape complaint, then she must be doing this for money.

Recently in Lucknow, a Dalit woman after being raped by her brother-in-law went for registering an FIR, but in return, she was told by the police officers that “you are doing it for money, that’s why you want to register a false case”. You are coming here with a fake case; women make up such cases”. The police took 117 days to register an FIR.[11] There are many such instances where people are not aware of the laws and thus are not able to revert upon such instances. In one case a 19-year-old girl was raped by her neighbor and the SHO told her, ‘This is a matter of the community, you get both of them married. Registering a case at the police station is of no use.’[12]

In 2019, two organizations of Lucknow, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI) released a report titled Barriers in Accessing Justice. They wrote the experience of 11 rape cases and 3 gang-rape cases which took place between 2017 and 2020 and one among them took place in 2016. It was told in the report that in none of the cases the FIR was registered at the first instance, the victim had to visit the police station several times (between 2 days to even 228 days) for registering their FIR. Not only this among 5 cases the FIR was registered after the court gave an order to the police officials. There was gender discrimination faced by the victims and even they were sexually assaulted. [13]

Rights that are given to victims whose FIRs are not filled:

If an FIR is not filed by the police officer, the informant (or victim) can go to the superintendent of the Police or any higher-ranking officer under Section 154(3) of CrPC. The informant may send such substance of the information to inform of writing and even by post to the Superintendent of police and if he/she is satisfied by such information then they can direct an investigation upon the case either by themselves or can ask any authorized officer to investigate upon the case.

Another method can be under Section 156(3) read with Section 190 of CrPC, that the informant is legally entitled to go to the judicial magistrate for filing the FIR, and if satisfied the Judicial Magistrate can order an investigation. Under this case, whenever a complaint is filed before the magistrate of a cognizable offense whose FIR has not been filled then the magistrate can simply order an investigation by the police under Section 156(3) and should not take cognizance of the offense. Whenever a cognizable offense takes place investigation is a very important part of the process, therefore, the magistrate instead of taking the cognizance should ask the police officers to investigate the matter deeply.[14]

Not only in CrPC but also under the Indian Penal Code, it is said That all the sexual offenses are considered cognizable offenses and it is a mandatory provision for the police officers to file the FIRs immediately as they get the knowledge of it.

Also, Section 166A(c) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 says that if by any chance any public servant fails to abide by the procedure given under law and fails to register FIR which is about a cognizable offense then he/she will be punished.[15]

Now let’s look at this from the perspective of the accused. With an increasing number of crimes rates many people try to file false complaints, they try to make up false stories that are unfair, illegal, and result in grave prejudices to the right of the accused to a fair investigation.[17] Like it happened in Preeti Gupta, where a large number of false reports were lodged under Section 498-A, Indian Penal Code. [18]

In this regard, the High Court has rights under Section 482(1) of CrPC, that it can quash the FIR if it thinks that the FIR registered has been registered out of false implications and with malicious intentions, there is no truthfulness behind the FIR.[19]

Filing of FIR is a mandatory step but arresting the accused as soon as the FIR is not at all mandatory. Registration of FIR and arrest of a person are two different points.

Remedies available to the accused against a false FIR or allegation are:

  • An accused has a right to apply for ‘anticipatory Bail’ under S.438. The object of Sec. 438 is that a person should not be harassed or humiliated to satisfy the grudge or personal vendetta of the complainant [20]
  • Even a preliminary inquiry can be made which should not exceed 7 days if the information does not disclose a cognizable offense.[21]
  • Also, the high court has inherent power under Section 428 of CrPC. The high court has the power to give justice to both the parties to suit so if the high court thinks that there is no prima facie ground against the accused then it can under Section 428 of CrPC have a right to reject or quash the FIR filed against the accused in any matters of both civil or criminal and the case stops at that point itself.
  • Also, the accused can approach the high court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution to file a writ petition. After the high court is satisfied that all the proceedings that are going against the accused are of mala-fide nature and there is grave injustice going against them. The High court can pass two kinds of the writ, can either be the Writ of Prohibition or Mandamus.

Writ of Prohibition: In this, the High court will pass an order to the Subordinate Court under whom the case is going on to the vexatious proceedings immediately because it is against the rule of law.

Writ of Mandamus: In this, the High Court can pass an order asking the concerned police station or the police officer to work according to the law and there should not be any mala-fide intention behind the proceedings.

Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code says that if by any chance a person gives false information to the office knowing that the information that he/she is giving is of a false nature will be creating problems to any person, will be punished with imprisonment up to Six Months, or Fine up to One thousand rupees or both. Sections like Section 211, 167, 499 read with 500 of the Indian Penal Code also deal with provisions of false FIR’s and how to deal with such problems.

Thus, I want to conclude by saying that awareness should be spread among the people about their basic legal rights. Many people are unaware of the laws of our country not only in this area but in a lot of areas too. Law students, lawyers, judges, etc. should try spreading awareness about the laws that are prevalent in India, if not the deep laws but at least basic laws like how to file an FIR or what are the remedies available to both sides, etc. The problem is not with the law but the way it is getting executed and interested. The ones in power misuse them towards the one who is unaware of the law. We need to take steps in both directions and work in the way that best suits the citizens of the country.


[1] Correspondent, H., 2021. 3 policemen suspended over delay in filing FIR in Hyderabad rape, murder case. [online] Hindustan Times. Available at: <https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/3-policemen-suspended-over-delay-in-filing-fir-in-hyderabad-rape-murder-case/story-uBLKaHJR3on8y2DBR86dUI.html&gt; [Accessed 1 June 2021].

[4] (1973) 1 SCC 537

[5] (2011) 1 SCC 577

[9] Law Suit (SC) 19

[12] 16.      Manoj Singh, In UP, Rape Survivors Struggle to Get Police to Register FIRs, Let Alone Investigate Them, October 4th, 2020, https://thewire.in/women/uttar-pradesh-police-rape-fir-discrimination

[13] Manoj Singh, In UP, Rape Survivors Struggle to Get Police to Register FIRs, Let Alone Investigate Them, October 4th, 2020, https://thewire.in/women/uttar-pradesh-police-rape-fir-discrimination

[16] State of Andhra Pradesh vs. Punati Ramulu And Others, AIR 1993 SC 2644

[17] In Lalita Kumari v. Government of UP (2008) 7 SCC 164

[18] Preeti Gupta vs. State of Jharkhand (2010) 7 SCC 667

[20] HDFC Bank Ltd. v J.J. Mannan alias J.M. John Paul A IR 2010 SC 618

[22] MANU/SC/0115/1992: 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335]

Author: Kavya Shukla, OP Jindal Global University

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

Quashing of FIR: Legal angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Introduction

A First Information Report (hereinafter referred to as ‘FIR’) was registered against a Haryana Congress leader, Pankaj Punia, for allegedly ‘hurting religious sentiments’ through a Social Media Post on Twitter. The FIR was registered at Madhuban Police Station in Karnal, Haryana, and several similar complaints were also filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The complaint was filed u/s 153, 295-A, 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as ‘IPC’) along with section 67 of the IT, for Puniya’s tweet on May 19, 2020. The post targeted the UP’s Aditya Yoginath government and also referred to the Sangh parivaar. The writ petition of the congress leader to get the FIR quashed was dismissed by the Supreme Court by a three-judge bench. The Hon’ble court observed that Punia’s plea for quashing of the FIR against him cannot be entertained under Art. 32 of the Constitution of India. However, the petitioner was granted liberty to approach the appropriate forum or the High Court.

Legal provisions regarding FIR

Although the term ‘FIR’ is not explicitly used in the Criminal Procedure Code (hereinafter referred to as ‘CrPc’), however, any information provided u/s 154(1) is commonly known as FIR. Basically, it is the earliest information of a cognizable offence recorded by an officer-in-charge of a police station. The underlying vision for this provision of documentation of this information is to set the criminal law in motion. The information must be bona fide.

The following are eligible to file an FIR:

  1. An aggrieved person or someone on his/her behalf.
  2. Any person aware of an offence through an eye-witness or hearsay.
  3. The accused himself/herself
  4. An SHO on knowledge or information through detailed statement from an aggrieved or injured person.

An FIR should be filed in the police station in the jurisdiction where the offence took place. Witnesses if any could also be informed about.

When can a FIR be quashed?

In simple terms, the quashing of an FIR means ceasing or abating the criminal proceedings which have been set in motion. Usually, it is possible to quash an FIR before the charge-sheet is filed, after that this practice generally discouraged by the Courts. But as per the wide scope provided in Sec. 482 of CrPc, a FIR can be quashed at any stage of the criminal proceedings.

Legal provisions regarding it

Section 482 of CrPC, which talks about the power of courts to quash criminal proceedings, reads as follows:

 “Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice”.

This section empowers the High Court with vide discretionary powers and its use has been debated since long. It should be made sure that these wide powers are exercised with great care and caution. This power is generally used in cases such as dowry etc. but as this tool can also be used to pressurize or extort someone, due care should be exercised in these matters. The purpose of this section is to prevent injustices and secure the ends of justice. The court can use this power to quash the FIR at any stage.  

Landmark judgements

In the case of Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of Uttar Pradesh [(2004) 2 SCC 1], it was laid down that FIR is an important and irreplaceable document to set the criminal law in motion with an aim to book the guilty and get justice, from the view point of an informant, this cannot be denied to the informant and the police officer is bound to register an FIR when approached. If the police officer denies, a complaint can be made to a superior officer and even the court and an action will lie against him/her.

As regards to the use of Section 482, the High Court has a wide ambit which should be exercised only for meeting the ends of justice and for preventing an abuse of power by any court. This was laid down in the case of Prashant Bharti v. State of NCT of Delhi [(2013) 9 SCC 293].

Furthermore, in 2017, the Hon’be Apex Court elucidated some important points to be considered while exercising the power u/s 482 for quashing a FIR. This was done in the landmark judgment in Parbatbhai Aahir & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 1723 of 2017). A full bench of the Apex Court laid down certain principles regarding this, in an appeal against a decision of the Gujarat High Court. Firstly, it was observed that section 482 does not confer new powers, it only recognizes the powers already inherent. An important observation which was made was that an FIR can be quashed even in the case of a non-compoundable offence. It was laid down that while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must give due regard to the gravity of the offence and degree of harm caused.

Moreover, it has been observed that heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed.  

Conclusion

It is very true that there are instances where the power of filing the FIR is misused by the informants and can create trouble for innocent people. Which is why, the right of getting an FIR quashed is necessary and comes under the scope of the wide discretionary powers which are inherent in High Courts. However, to make sure that these wide powers are applied aptly, certain precedents and laid down principles as discussed above must be followed and applied with great care and caution. However, not allowing the power to quash the FIR in cases such as murder and rape is also necessary as these offences have a considerable and serious effect upon the society at large and due investigation becomes necessary.

Author: Aakash Batra from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

Explained: Zero FIR

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Recently, the death of an Odia migrant worker made it to the news as a zero FIR was filed at Bhanjanagar police station in Odisha. Satyaban Swain died due to an alleged assault at the hands of Amroli police personnel in Surat, Gujarat. It was Santosh Swain, the brother of the deceased who had lodged this FIR. According to Santosh’s account, his brother was lathi-charged along with two others when they went to collect their train tickets. Satyaban was later beaten up by a police team who had reached his room. Thus beating sent him to the hospital where he was declared dead. Now, this FIR would be sent to Amroli police station under whose jurisdiction the offense took place.

What is Zero FIR?

Any person who has information as regards the commission of an offense may give such a piece of information to the police. This information being communicated is the First Information Report or FIR. The person communicating such information is the informant. The term “FIR” has not been defined anywhere in the statutes. But, sections 154 and 155 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 bear the ethos of the concept of FIR for both cognizable and non-cognizable offenses respectively. An FIR kickstarts the criminal justice system. It sets the proceedings into motion. FIR holds a far greater evidentiary value as compared to any other statement. And yet, it is not treated as a substantive piece of evidence. It can only be used for corroboration.

The concept of zero FIR is fairly new. It refers to such an FIR that is registered irrespective of the area where the offense has been committed. The police can no longer claim that they have no jurisdiction. With the introduction of the concept of zero FIR, they would have no other choice but to lodge that FIR. Such an FIR is then later transferred to the police station that has the actual jurisdiction so that the investigation can begin.

Why was it introduced?

The notion of Zero FIR has led to the establishment of a jurisdiction free FIR. It was on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee of 2013 that such a concept was brought forth. It was in the aftermath of the brutal Delhi gang rape case of December 2012. The brutality of this offense shook the nation to its core. The nationwide protests forced legislators to rethink the situation of the then-existing criminal justice system. It was the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations that led to the criminal Amendment Act, 2013. This amendment brought several noteworthy changes in the system. One such concept was that of zero FIR.

The police can no longer claim ‘lack of jurisdiction’ when approached by an informant. The Supreme Court’s mandate in Lalita Kumari v Government of Uttar Pradesh [2008 (11) SCALE 154] clarified that the registration of FIR is mandatory. This position was further strengthened with the introduction of zero FIR.

The concept of zero FIR was introduced to ensure that the evidence in certain cases such as those that involve sexual offenses or road accidents is collected without losing precious time. It is extremely important to maintain the sanctity of the evidence collected. It has to be protected against manipulation and corruption. Zero FIR becomes beneficial in cases where immediate action is necessary. It allows the police to begin a timely investigation.

In the case of Kirti Vashisht v State & Others (2019), the Delhi High Court made the following observation:

“As per section 154 CrPC, if any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense is received by any police station, the said police station is duty-bound to register the FIR. However, if the crime has not occurred in the jurisdiction of the said police station, then after registering the zero FIR, the same has to be transferred to the concerned police station for investigation, where the offense has been committed […] A zero FIR can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or the place of occurrence of crime.”

Therefore, now no police officer can refuse to register an FIR even if the commission of the offense was outside that police station’s jurisdiction. The officer-in-charge of that police station is bound to register that FIR.

In the general scheme of things, FIR is registered alongside a serial number. But a zero FIR does not bear a serial number. Instead, it assigned the numeral “0”. This is how this FIR received its name.

Salient features

  • A zero FIR can be filed at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction.
  • Filing of such FIR is mandatory and no one can deny its registration.
  • It is lodged under the serial number “0” and hence, its name.
  • Such an FIR is later transferred to the police station that has the actual jurisdiction.
  • If the officer-in-charge of the police station refuses to record the information, then that person can take his case to the Superintendent of Police (SP). He can either direct the lodging of the FIR or register it himself and initiate the investigations.
  • The jurisdiction is not disturbed. The police station within whose borders the offense was committed will have sole jurisdiction. The police station where zero FIR is filed is responsible only for its filing and its transfer.
  • It must not be confused with the multiple jurisdictions. In such a case, parts of crime are committed in different areas and all the police stations involved have jurisdiction. They can file the FIR anywhere amongst themselves without worrying about its transfer.
  • It was introduced to protect the informant and the victim against technicalities. Zero FIR takes away the concept of jurisdiction to allow for smooth initiation of proceedings.
  • It ensures that justice is neither delayed nor denied.

Legal provisions regarding it

FIR has not been expressly dealt with in CrPC. However, section 154 directly deals with it. It lays down provisions regarding information in cognizable cases. In other words, it deals with the registration of FIR in cognizable cases. Similarly, section 155 deals with the registration of FIR in non-cognizable cases.

There is no direct or indirect provision in the CrPC regarding zero FIR. However, its legal basis can be found in section 460 and section 190.

Section 460 of the Code talks about irregularities which do not vitiate proceedings. Clause (e) of this section states that if any Magistrate who is not empowered by law to take cognizance of an offense under clause (a) or clause (b) of subsection (1) of section 190 but takes cognizance erroneously and in good faith, such proceedings shall not be set aside merely because he lacked such power.

Section 190 talks of cognizance of offenses by Magistrate. Apart from these sections, sub-section (c) of section 166A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 lays down punishment for a public servant who refuses to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of CrPC.

Critical analysis

Zero FIR becomes particularly important in sensitive cases where the reporting of the crime must be done as soon as possible. This ensures a timely action and a swift delivery of justice. For instance, in cases of rape and sexual assault, the collection of evidence through physical examination is a top priority. Such a collection can be only done after the filing of FIR. This is because these pieces of evidence are crucial in these types of cases and it becomes necessary to protect them from corruption or deterioration. Further, in homicide cases, especially the heinous ones, the perpetrator must be caught quickly to prevent him from absconding. Again, to catch him and to initiate proceedings into the matter, an FIR has to be lodged first.

Investigation and evidence collection can only happen once the FIR is duly registered. Zero FIR prevents the waste of time of the informant by providing a short cut. The informant no longer needs to worry about the jurisdiction of the police station. No one can send him away for a lack of jurisdiction. Zero FIR makes it possible for any police station across India to register an FIR irrespective of the place of commission of the offense.

It also becomes an important tool when an offense committed during traveling. The victim, in such a situation, can reach out to the nearest police station on route their journey and lodge a Zero FIR. It would become the responsibility of that police station to send the zero FIR in question to the appropriate police station.

As good as the reform sounds on paper, its execution in the field remains dicey. Firstly, the police itself is not aware of the reforms despite the amendments in the CrPC and the issuance of multiple guidelines. There have been countless instances where the police officers out of ignorance have turned the victim away, citing lack of territorial jurisdiction. The most recent example of police officers refusing to file an FIR is that of the Hyderabad rape case. The victim’s parents were turned away from their nearest police station when they went to file an F.I.R against the perpetrators citing lack of territorial jurisdiction as the reason.

Secondly, the citizens themselves are not aware of their legal rights. They are not aware that now they can lodge a zero FIR across any police station in India. Even six years after the 2013 Amendment that made lodging of a zero FIR to be a statutory duty, the police across the county, both the police and the police officials and the citizens are struggling to get a grasp of this concept. Not only this, despite several strict guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs, mandating the concerned departments to compulsorily register zero FIRs, but ignorance also prevails at large especially at the grassroots levels.

Conclusion

The legal right of lodging a Zero F.I.R is a very noble one. It inspires confidence in the minds of the general public that upon any wrongdoing, their voices will be heard and not muffled by procedural technicalities of law. However, due to certain maladies like the ignorance of the law as well as intentional abuse, the confidence and trust in the legal system are at stake. For law and order to exist, the maintenance of public confidence and trust in the country’s justice system is a must. Where landmark judgments, amendment acts, and even the strict guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs have remained inefficient, steps should be taken by the government to compulsorily ensure that the citizens, as well as the functionaries of the justice system, are aware of the concept of zero FIR.

Though there have been cases of abuse of the reform, it cannot be used as an excuse to dissolve it. Instead, the need of the hour is to fix responsibility right from the lower rungs of the criminal justice administration. The criminal justice system remains riddled with many problems. As appreciable as these reforms are, without proper implementation measures in place, they remain of no use to the victim or the perpetrator.

Author: Viola Rodrigues  from School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru.

Editor: Shalu Bhati  from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

FIR law in India

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

The Information related to an offence registered with the police for apposite police action is called The First Information Report (FIR). The information can either be in writing or oral, generally reported by the victims or someone on their behalf and is registered by the police officer on duty in an official public record.

FIRs in India can be registered only for cognizable offences. These are the offences for which the police can arrest without an arrest warrant, distinct from a non-cognizable offence where the police cannot arrest without an arrest warrant. The latter are registered in a community service register (CSR).

This registration of FIR is the commencement of the investigation by the police and probably one of the first steps in the justice delivery system of the country.

Consequently, it becomes pertinent for every citizen of the country to have some basic idea regarding the background of FIRs, their evolution undergoing several judgements which shaped them into the modern form that we know of today, and their need in the present scenario.

Evolution of the concept of FIR and the landmark judgement’s shaping it

First Information Reports are native to the South Asian Countries of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, etc.  

The first ever FIR in India was recorded by the Delhi Police on 18.10.1861 in Urdu, reporting a theft of utensils, a bowl, a hookah etc. It is interesting to see how the nineteenth century report has undergone a series of vicissitudes to reach the present form that we know of today.

The formalities, the procedures, the need regarding the registration of First Information Reports have undergone a sea of changes in these 158 years, making FIRs a vital theme of modern Human Rights Jurisprudence. Following are the Judgements that shaped FIR:

In the case of A. Valar Mukil v. The Superintendent of Police (2016), the petitioner sought a direction to Valliyoor police in Tirunelveli district to amend the FIR, booked on the basis of his complaint so that a much serious penal provision could be invoked against the accused than those under which they had been booked. Here, Justice P.N. Prakash, dismissed the petition stating “Unlike the Code of Civil Procedure where pleadings can be amended, an FIR registered under the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be amended.”

In the case of Lallan Chaudhary and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors., AIR 2006 SC 3376, the Supreme Court held that as mandated under Section 154 of CrPC; if any information regarding a cognizable offence is laid down for the police, the police has no other option than to register a FIR.

It was also held that genuineness or credibility of the information is not to be considered as a condition precedent for registration of a FIR.

This was also discussed in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. and Ors., AIR 2014 SC 187, where registration of an FIR becomes mandatory in case a cognizable offence is reported to the police under section 154 of CrPC.

The legislative interpretation of the Section 154 of CrPC was discussed in the case of Bhajan Lal v. State of Punjab, (1971) 1 SCC 34.

In the case of Sukharam v. State of Maharashtra (1969) 3 SCC 730, it was held that a message to the police on telephone that an injured person was lying, amounts to FIR.

Laws governing FIR in India

One of the most central provisions that governs the registration of First Information Reports in India is the Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which includes the following:

Sub-Section (1) defines what constitutes a first information and states that it is the duty of the police to accurately record the information in a book which is to be maintained by the officer as prescribed by the State Government.

Sub-Section (2) states that the copy of the above recorded information is to be given free of cost to the informant.

Sub-Section (3) provides for relief to the aggrieved informant in case the police does not register the complaint stating, the information should be sent in writing to the Superintendent of the Police concerned, who if satisfied that the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence shall either investigate the case himself or direct his subordinate to investigate.

Section 218 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that a public servant framing incorrect records with an intent to protect a person from punishment or any property from forfeiture, shall be liable for three years of imprisonment or fine or both.

There are certain provisions which come to play when an accused himself comes to lodge an FIR in the police station. Section 25 of Indian Evidence act, 1872 states that a confession made by a person to the police shall not be considered as evidence against the person. This section is applicable only when it is in the form of a confession and is relevant under Section 21 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Thus, FIR is not a substantive evidence.  It can be used to verify the informant under Section 157 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 or it may be used to contradict the witness under section 145 of the same act. Also in the case of Damodar Prasad v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1972 SC 622, it was established that the FIR cannot be used to corroborate or contradict any witness other than the one who had lodged the FIR.

Along with the above mentioned laws, there are a series of intricate provisions from different parts of Indian Laws that govern various aspects of FIRs in India. These highly vary from case to case and also from one state to the other depending on the local laws of the state.

Understanding the need and purpose of FIR  

FIR plays a very significant role in the internal peace keeping structure of the country. It basically operates with two main objects:

  1. To make an official complaint to the police to set the criminal law in motion,
  2. To obtain an early information regarding an alleged criminal activity.

Keeping the above objectives in mind, it becomes easy for us to understand the need of FIRs in the country.

FIR, being the initial information regarding an offence, remains at the centre of police investigation of the crime. This being closest in the timeline of the incident becomes unlikely that the informant had opportunity for fabrications. Thus, giving police various leads in the investigation to help them find the suspects.

FIRs are also very important in the initial trial cases where both the defence and the prosecution extensively use it to cross examine the informant to check the credibility of the information and strengthen their case.

One of the unspoken but extant nature of FIR is its initial impact on the bias of the people, this being the very first data regarding the criminal offence creates some amount of subconscious or conscious bias in the minds of the authorities as well as the public. This may either lead to a positive or a negative impact on the case.

Conclusion

The First Information Reports (FIR) refers to the information recorded by the police officer on duty which is supplied either by the aggrieved person himself or any other person on his behalf, regarding a cognizable offence.

Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is the central provision defining and governing the registration of FIRs in India. It also states the provision under which an aggrieved person can seek help from the concerned superintendent of police.

The present concept of FIR has evolved through numerous changes from the supposed first ever FIR report in the nineteenth century recorded by the Delhi Police. In the contemporary scenario, it plays a significant role of curbing criminal activities in the country by officially initiating the criminal law enforcement mechanism in the country.

The citizens must remain aware about the laws related to FIRs and their working. Hence, being prompt in reporting the criminal offences happening around them rather than ignoring them because of uninformed prejudices. 

Author: Utsarga Dash from KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar.

Editor: Farsana Sadiq from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.