“A criminal proceeding is not a proceeding for the vindication of a private grievance but it is a proceeding initiated for the purpose of punishment to the offender in the interest of the society.”
The object sought to be achieved by registering the earliest information as FIR is inter alia twofold:
- One, the criminal process is set in motion and is documented from the very beginning
- Second, the earliest information received in relation to the commission of the offense is recorded in order to avoid any discrepancies or embellishments, etc, later on.
WHAT IS FIR?
The term FIR has not been expressly laid in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 but it is provided under Sections 154 IPC (information in cognizable cases) and section 155 IPC (information as to non-cognizable offenses). It is the information related to a cognizable offense, which can be provided to the police by the victim/aggrieved, or the witness of the offense who was present at the time of the crime, or who first noticed the crime. Such information can be given orally or in written form to the police.
While lodging an FIR it is to be kept in mind that the information must not be a baseless allegation, rumor, imagination, or apprehension.
The information must include the following details:
- Identity of the informant i.e. whether he is victim, witness, or hearsay evidence;
- Nature of cognizable offense;
- Place where the offense is committed;
- Date &Time when the offense was committed;
- How the offense was committed;
- Details of the accused i.e. of his appearance and relation if any;
- Name & identity of the victim;
- The motive for committing the crime;
- Traces of the accused left on the crime scene
A copy of the FIR as recorded shall be provided to the informant, free of cost.
WHO CAN LODGE AN FIR?
Locus standi of the complainant is a concept foreign to criminal jurisprudence. Any citizen can lodge a first information report to set the machinery of criminal law in motion.
FIR can be filed in any of the following ways:
- By the victim or on his/her behalf;
- By someone who is a witness to the commission of an offense;
- By the order of the magistrate under section 156(3), the investigation into cognizable offenses can be initiated;
- By intimation of the on-duty Doctor about the information of the injured patient to the officer-in-charge of the police station which is recorded in the daily diary of the police officer, after which the police shall visit the hospital and record the statement of the patient which becomes the basis of the FIR;
- By person based on hearsay information but to confirm the authenticity, the information provided must be signed by the informant. Necessary details of the information must be provided including the source of the information, so that the information is not baseless, rumor, or vague.
WHAT IF THE POLICE REFUSE TO REGISTER AN FIR?
This is the most common hurdle faced by common citizens, who are not having any influential links to make police perform their duties well. Many times an offense is committed by an influential person, who misuses his power and authority to compel the on-duty police officer to not register the FIR. In such a situation the aggrieved party has other doors open as a remedy to make their FIR registered.
- The aggrieved party may move to the office of the Superintendent of police, as provided under section 154(3) of CrPC, and provide the information regarding the commission of the offense in writing and give it to the Superintendent of police personally or send it by way of post, who after being satisfied by the information provided of the alleged Cognizable offense, shall initiate the investigation or direct an investigation to be made by an officer subordinate to him.
- However, if unfortunately the FIR is still not registered, then the section 156(3) of CrPC, empowers the aggrieved party to make a direct complaint to the concerned District Magistrate, who after being satisfied by the information provided about the commission of the offense, shall pass an order directing the officer in charge of the police station to initiate the investigation.
LEGAL ACTION FOR NON-REGISTRATION OF FIR
The informant or the aggrieved are often helpless when the police officer does not perform his/her duty and due to the negligence or vested interests does not register the FIR in the cognizable offenses. In such an event legal action can be taken against the police officer who refuses to perform their duty. Such a legal remedy is provided under Section 166A, which reads as under:-
That when a Public Servant:-
- Does not abide or knowingly disobey any direction of the law which prohibits him from requiring the attendance at any place of any person for the purpose of investigation into an offense or any other matter, or
- knowingly disobeys, to the disadvantage of any person or any other direction given under the law for regulating the manner in which the police officer/investigating officer shall conduct such investigation, or
- if the police officer fails to record any information given to him by the informant or the aggrieved party under sub-section (1) of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to a cognizable offense punishable under Section 326A, Section 326B, Section 354, Section 354B, Section 370, Section 370A, Section 376, Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C, Section 376D, Section 376E, Section 509 then that police officer for his/her act of failure to record such information, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.
WHERE TO LODGE AN FIR?
FIR can be filed in any police station which is closest to the crime scene. Normally an FIR is lodged in the police station under whose jurisdiction the alleged offense has been committed. For filing an FIR time is an important factor, which must not be wasted in looking out for the police station having the necessary jurisdiction, as some offenses involve a threat to the life of the informant also Ex. Murder etc. Therefore, keeping in mind the security of the informant and to save the informant from unnecessary harassment and delay in filing the FIR, a mechanism has been devised known as ‘ZERO FIR’.
WHAT IS ZERO FIR?
For the purpose of better policing and to keep a record of crime, a mechanism has been devised by which a person can inform about the alleged offense that has been committed in the jurisdiction of the other police station. On the basis of such information FIR is recorded after which it is transferred to the concerned police station, where the investigation regarding the offense is initiated. This is for the convenience of the aggrieved person that the FIR can be recorded anywhere and no police officer can deny recording the information of the alleged crime by giving the excuse of the jurisdiction.
FIR IN COGNIZABLE OFFENCES
Section 154 IPC (information in cognizable cases) reads that every information relating to offenses of cognizable nature if given orally to an officer-in-charge of the police station, shall reduce it in writing by him or under his direction, which shall be read over to the informant and every such information shall be signed by the informant, and details of which shall be entered in the daily diary by the police officer in the prescribed form. However if the police officer refuses to record the FIR, then the informant may send the details of the complaint in writing or may post the same to the Superintendent of the police. Once the superintendent of police is satisfied that a cognizable offense has been committed, he shall investigate the case himself or direct an officer subordinate to him.
In a landmark judgment, the Five Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case titled “Lalita Kumari v. Govt. Of U.P.” (2014) 2 SCC 1, held that the provision to register FIR under section 154(1), is a mandatory provision and the police officer concerned is duty-bound to register the case on the basis of the information provided by the informant disclosing commission of Cognizable Offence. The Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down the following illustrative guidelines for the registration of FIR:
- Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code if the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense and there is no need for a preliminary inquiry in such a situation.
- If from the information, as received by the police officer it is not clear that there is a cognizable offense then a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offense is disclosed or not.
- If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offense, the FIR must be registered. In cases where after conducting the preliminary inquiry wants to close the complaint, then a copy of the entry of such closure must be given/supplied to the first informant within one week of filing the closure report. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.
FIR IN NON-COGNIZABLE CASES
Section 155 IPC (information as to non-cognizable offenses): Such information shall be recorded in written form by the officer-in-charge of the police station in the daily diary maintained by the police officer in a prescribed form as directed by the state government, and in such cases involving offenses of non-cognizable nature, the informant shall be referred to the magistrate having jurisdiction over the matter. After getting the order from the magistrate, the police officer can begin the investigation of the matter involving the stated offense. It is to be noted that in non-cognizable cases, during the course of the investigation, the police cannot arrest the accused without obtaining a warrant.
Cases in which preliminary inquiry may be required are as under:
- Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
- Commercial offenses
- Medical negligence cases
- Corruption cases
- Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.
The obligation to register FIR has inherent advantages:
- It is the first step to access to justice for a victim
- It upholds the rule of law inasmuch as the ordinary person brings forth the commission of a cognizable crime in the knowledge of the state
- It also facilitates swift investigation and sometimes even prevention of the crime. In both cases, it effectuates the regime of law.
- It leads to less manipulation in criminal cases and lesser incidents of “antedated’ FIR or deliberately delayed FIR.
FIR though not a substantive piece of evidence but can be used for corroborating the evidence or contradicting the witness, under sections 157 and 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively.
Principles of democracy and liberty demand a regular check on police powers. One way of keeping a check on the authorities is by documenting every action of theirs. Thus, what is necessary is only that the information given to the police must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence. The underpinnings of compulsory registration of FIR are not only to ensure transparency in the criminal justice-delivery system but also to ensure judicial oversight.
Author: Shiv Partap, Intern, The Law Codes.