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source: https://www.siasat.com/

Introduction:

The Criminal Justice System is a vital part of the democratic setup. Likewise, Police personnel being part and parcel of the society can’t be immune from the pulls and pressures of the society. But not everyone goes to the police station. This is because they are unaware of the legal system or find it reluctant to enter the police station. There is a common feeling among the masses that whenever a crime is committed, the big guns in the society will directly or indirectly involved. Even if they witness a crime, they will be hesitant to indulge in such an unwanted matter. These people have failed to consider how such information would change the fate of the person. I would like to say that silence is the enemy of justice. One must register an FIR to set the criminal law in motion.

What is an F.I.R?

F.I.R means First Information Report. It is the information given to the police officer in the form of complaint about the commission of or suspected commission of a cognizable offense. It is the very first document that initiates the steps towards justice.

The word First Information Report has nowhere been defined in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 but the term has been used in section 207 which requires the Magistrate to hand over to the accused a copy of the First Information Report recorded under section 154 (1) of the Code.

In Gorle S. Naidu vs. State of A.P. and Ors[1], The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “Though the FIR is not supposed to an encyclopedia of the factors concerning the crime, yet there must be some definite information vis-`- vis the crime”

For what kind of Crimes?

The police can register FIRs only for cognizable offenses in which the police officials have the power to arrest without warrant. Examples of cognizable offenses comprise rape, murder, theft, attack, etc. For non-cognizable offenses such as public nuisance, cheating, forgery, defamation, the police have no right to arrest a person without a warrant and thus cannot register an FIR.

Why F.I.R?

The question often arises in one’s mind is to why an F.I.R should be filed. It is the obligation on the part of the informant to initiate criminal proceedings by the police, one must file an F.I.R. It is the first step in Criminal Procedure that leads to the trial and punishment of a criminal.

History of F.I.R:

The first F.I.R was filed by Maeeuddin at the Subzi Mandi Police Station in North Delhi on 18.10.1861 (159 years ago) for the theft of utensils and a Hukka worth about Rs.2.61 then. The first FIR was written in Urdu, as it was the official language of the area in the 19th century[2].

The object of an F.I.R:

  • From the point of view of an informant- Registration of an FIR triggers the Criminal Justice Machinery of the State into motion. It is a peremptory gesture to start an investigation.
  • From the point of view of police officials- to obtain early information about alleged criminal activity while the incident is still fresh in mind. Thus, they can take appropriate steps to trace and bring guilt before the judiciary.

Who can file an F.I.R?

An F.I.R can be filed by the person:

  1. Against whom the offense has been committed;
  2. Who knows an offense has been committed;
  3. The one who has seen the offense is being committed;
  4. Anyone who has any information about the commission of an offense.

When to file an F.I.R?

No time limit has been fixed for filing an F.I.R, but the golden rule of law mandates that it must be filed timely so that the evidence would not be tampered by any externalities.

In Harbans Kaur v. State of Harayana[3], the court held that even a long delay in lodging FIR can be condoned if witnesses have no motive of implicating accused and have given a plausible reason for delay.

There are three categories of delay in FIR-

Delay in lodging FIR by the Informant:

In Thulia Kali vs State of Tamil Nadu[4], the court held that the delay in lodging the first information report quite often results in embellishment which is a creature of an afterthought. On account of the delay, the report not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity but also danger creeps in the introduction of colored version, exaggerated account, or concocted story as a result of deliberation and consultation.

Delay in lodging FIR in case of Rape:

In Harpal Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh[5], the Supreme Court held that the delay can be condoned if such delay was caused due to fear of damage to the honor of the family.

Delay in recording FIR by the police officer:

In the landmark judgment of Lalitha Kumari vs State of Uttar Pradesh[6], the court held that it is the obligation upon the police officer to register an FIR without any preliminary inquiry when the person reports about the commission of a cognizable offense. If any such delay by the police officer would amount to dereliction of duty.

Delay in dispatching the FIR to the Magistrate:

Delay in forwarding the FIR to the Magistrate in cases of cognizable offense, the trial, and the process may be delayed. Thus, it will lead to flee the accused from the clutches of law. Such a police officer must be punished for the dereliction of duty. Unless they satisfy the court for such an inordinate delay.

Where do you file an FIR?

A person can file an FIR in the concerned police station within whose local limits a crime has taken place. An exception to this is a Zero FIR[7], in which the person can file an FIR in any police station regardless of the place of the incident or jurisdiction. The same will be numbered as “0”. And, will be transferred to the concerned police station after investigation and filing with the magistrate. E-filing of the FIR is also possible.

What is the procedure of filing an F.I.R?

  1. Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives a choice to the informant to furnish the information orally or in writing. If the informant discloses orally, the information must be reduced in a written form by the concerned police officials or under his direction and read over to the informant. Every report whether reduced in writing or submitted in a written form has to be duly signed by the complainant.
  2. If the informant is temporarily or permanently disabled, it is the duty of the police officer to record the F.I.R at his/her residence.
  3. If the informant is a woman and the FIR pertains to the grave and sensitive offense such as rape, sexual harassment, outrage her modesty, etc. Then such information has to be recorded by the woman police officer only.
  4. Under section 154 of Cr.pc also vests right upon the informant to claim the copy of an FIR free of cost.

Whether telephonic message comes within the umbrella of section 154 of Cr.pc?

Yes, a telephonic message can be considered as an F.I.R. However, the concerned police officer has to reduce such a message in a written form. Therefore, this comes under the ambit of Section 154 of Cr.pc. A Phone call made by the informant just to make the police officer arrive at the crime scene cannot be considered as an F.I.R. A telephonic message which is cryptic and unambiguous cannot be considered as an F.I.R.

In Surajit Sarkar vs State of West Bengal[8], the court held that the cryptic message given on telephone cannot be treated as an FIR merely because that information was first to point in time and had been recorded in a daily diary of the police station.

Can the police officer refuse to register an F.I.R?

It is the duty of the police officer to register an F.I.R without delays or excuses. Non-registration of an FIR is an offense and punishable under Section 166A of the Indian Penal Code. The punishment which may extend to one year or fine or both.

Statutory Remedies available to the informant:

Under Section 154(3) of Cr.pc, the Informant can approach the Superintendent of Police (SP) or Commissioner of Police (CP) with the written Complaint within the territorial jurisdiction of the concerned police station. Moreover, if the SP or the CP is satisfied that it discloses the cognizable offenses, he may investigate the case himself or direct his subordinate to register an FIR and initiate an investigation into the case.

Under Section 156 (3) read with Section 190 of Cr.pc, if the informant is not satisfied with the above remedy, he can file a complaint to the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate thereby praying to register the FIR and investigate into the matter.

Judicial Remedy available to the informant:

A writ of mandamus can be filed under Article 226 or 32 of the Constitution of India. It directs the concerned police officer to perform a duty and register an FIR.

Can I pursue Judicial Remedy prior to the statutory remedy?

It is nowhere expressly mentioned that the writ petition cannot be filed if there exists an alternative remedy. However, the court always suggests exhausting the statutory remedy before choosing a judicial remedy[9].

Evidentiary Value of an FIR

The First Information Report does not serve as substantial evidence. But its importance cannot be underestimated as it is the first version on which the entire investigation proceeds.

In Ram Chander vs. State of Haryana[10], “The contents of the FIR can only be used for contradiction under Section 145 of Cr.pc and for corroboration of the maker under Section 157 of Cr.pc at the stage of Cross-examination.

It can be treated as a substantive piece of evidence when the informant dies. And, the statement becomes relevant under Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act under the following conditions:-

  1. On the death of the informant, it relates the cause of informant’s death
  2. Circumstances of the transaction relating to the informant’s death.

Inherent powers of the Court

It is well settled that under Section 482 of the Cr.pc, the High Court has the power to quash the FIR or investigation or Criminal Proceedings before the High Court or any other Subordinate Court. It can be exercised only when there is no other remedy available to the litigant. In case, if the person aggrieved by the false complaint lodged by the informant, then he can invoke under Section 482 of the Cr.pc to quash the FIR or investigation. He has also the freedom to apply for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of Cr.pc.

In the State of Bihar &Ors vs. K.D.J.Singh[11], the court held that “The inherent power under Section 482 has to be exercised for the ends of the justice and should not be arbitrarily exercised to cut short the normal process of a criminal trial.”

Conclusion

As we know, the FIR is the bedrock of the criminal trial. Though it is not substantial evidence, its importance cannot be under-estimated in the legal system. The slightest error in recording facts may land the entire investigation process in trouble. And, it provides an opportunity to the Defense Counsel to reap upon the loopholes. It was rightly observed by the Court that FIR is the Bible of the case initiated on the police report[12]. But, many people, including police officials have a lack of knowledge about Zero FIR even after 7 years of Amendment. Efficient steps should be taken to make aware of their right to Zero FIR among the citizens.


Author:

lavanya M. Lavanya | School of Excellence in Law, Chennai


References

[1] Appeal (crl.)  232-234 of 1997

[2] Accessed at https:/thebetterindia.com/113200/delhi-police-first-fir-tweet/ on 10 August 2020

[3] 2005 Cr.LJ 2199(SC)

[4] (AIR) 1973 SC 50

[5] 1981 CR.LJ SC

[6]  (2014) 2 SCC 1

[7]  Introduced by the Justice Verma Committee and the same was incorporated by the Criminal Law (Amendment Act), 2013

[8] (2013) 2 Supreme Court Cases 146

[9] Mamta Prajapati v. State of Madhya Pradesh

[10] (1981) 3 SCC 191

[11] 1993 (41) BLJR 1401

[12] Mohan Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh

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