Understanding the Evolution of FIR through Relevant Case Laws

Introduction

The term FIR is not clearly defined in any section of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 (CrPC) but section 154 of the code specifies how information on the commission of a cognizable offence is to be recorded. This recorded information relating to a cognizable offence specified by section 154 is usually referred to as a First Information Report (FIR). An FIR is an initial step toward a victim’s “access to justice.” The object of FIR is to obtain a nearly true version of the events connected with the crime. FIR also provides a check on the undesirable tendency on the part of the prosecution to fill the gaps on their own. It must be recorded prior to the start of the investigation. Recording of the FIR immediately after its communication to the police officer serves as the basic foundation upon which the entire investigation and prosecution will be undertaken.

FIR and Complaint

FIR is not specifically defined in any section of the CrPC, although u/s 2(d) Complaint has been described. Following are some more points that distinguish between FIR and complaint:

1. A complaint is filed with a Magistrate, but the FIR must be filed with the officer-in-charge of a police station.

2. A complaint may be related to a cognizable or non-cognizable offence, but an FIR is primarily related to a cognizable offence.

3. A complaint does not include a police officer’s report. An offence can be reported by anyone, including a police officer.

4. A magistrate can take cognizance of a complaint made to him, but not in an FIR.

Essentials of FIR

Any person can give information to the police relating to the commission of a cognizable offence. According to Section 154(1) of CrPC, the information must be given to an official in charge of a police station with jurisdiction over the case. Also, if the information is given orally to such an official, it must be reduced to writing and signed by the informant. The statement will then be read out to the informant. The informant then shall be given a copy of the information as recorded.

In-State of Haryana Vs. ChBhajanLal it was held that when any information disclosing a cognizable offence is laid before the officer-in-charge of a police station, he has no option but to register the case on that basis.

Information related to sexual offences shall be recorded by women officers only and information regarding offences committed against mentally/physically disabled persons shall be recorded at the residence of such person or at the place of that person’s choice in presence of an interpreter.

Registration of FIR

In a landmark judgment in the case of Lalita Kumar vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh, it was declared that provisions of Section 154 of CrPC are mandatory in nature, and the officer on duty is required to register F.I.R for cognizable offences. However, if no cognizable case is made out in the information provided, the FIR does not need to be recorded immediately, and police can conduct preliminary verification to determine whether or not a cognizable offence has been committed.

The foundations of mandatory registration are to provide not only transparency in the criminal justice delivery system but also judicial oversight. In fact, it has been recognized that even an anonymous letter stating a cognizable offence may be handled as an FIR.

The police must register the information under Section 154CrPC, and it must be specific enough to allow the police to begin an inquiry. In circumstances where an anonymous telephone message did not reveal the identity of the accused or the act of a cognizable offence, such a telephonic message could not be considered an FIR. However, when telephone information was written in the daily diary that did not specify names but revealed a cognizable offence, it must be treated as an FIR because police arrived on the scene and began an inquiry on that basis.

Section 155(4)CrPC, specifies that if there are two or more charges and one of them is a cognizable offence, the entire case, including the non-cognizable charge, is treated as the cognizable case.

In Pravin Chandra Mody V. State of A.P., it was held that while investigating a cognizable offence and presenting a charge sheet for it, the police are not debarred from investigating any non-cognizable offence arising out of the same facts and including them in the charge sheet.

Supreme Court Guidelines on Registration of FIR ( Lalitakumari V. Govt. of U.P)

  1. Registration of FIR is mandatory under Sec 154 of the code. If the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.
  2. The police officer can’t avoid his duty of registering an offence if a cognizable offence is disclosed.
  3. The scope of preliminary inquiry isn’t to verify the veracity of the information. Also, preliminary inquiry can only be made in such cases
  4. Matrimonial offence
  5. Commercial offence
  6. Medical Negligence offence
  7. Corruption case
  8. While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time-bound and in case it shouldn’t exceed 15 days generally or 6 weeks in exceptional cases.

Delay in filing FIR

Except in rape cases, the delay in filing an FIR must first be convincingly explained. When the FIR was found to have been written after the inquest report, it was deemed to have lost its credibility. When the delay in filing an FIR is due to it being lodged at the wrong police station, it is considered reasonable.

In Harbans Kaur Vs. State of Haryana (2005), it was held that even a long delay in lodging an FIR in murder can be condoned if witnesses have no motive for implicating the accused and have given a reasonable cause for delay.

The Evidentiary Value of FIR

FIR is not substantive evidence which means it is not evidence of the facts that it mentions. However, its significance in communicating the early information about the occurrence cannot be understated. FIR can be used only for certain purposes. Some such purposes may be as follows:  

  1.  Ordinarily, FIR is proved by the prosecution for the purpose of corroborating the statement of the maker under Section 157, Indian Evidence Act. It may also be used by the defence under Section 145, Indian Evidence Act.
  2. The FIR made soon after the alleged incident can be looked into to remove doubt as to the name of an eyewitness given in the list of witnesses filed by a prosecution, which was mentioned in the FIR by the informant.
  3. The omission of important facts, affecting the probabilities of the case is relevant under section 11 of the Evidence Act in judging the veracity of the prosecution case.
  4. FIR can be used to show that the implication of the accused in the case was not an afterthought.
  5. Where FIR can be tendered in evidence as a part of the conduct of the informant under section 8, Evidence Act, it can be used as substantive evidence.
  6. If the informant dies and FIR contains a statement as to the cause of his death or the circumstances relating to his death, it may be used as substantive evidence as to the cause of his death under section 32(1), The Evidence Act.

Remedies in case FIR is not filed

According to Clause (3) of Section 154 of the CrPC., if an officer-in-charge of a police station refuses to register a person’s report, that person has the option of sending the content of the information of crime in written form to the concerned Superintendent of Police via post so that the information can be recorded and investigated.

If the remedy provided under Section 154(3) CrPC fails to be effective, the informant is urged to make a private complaint with the concerned Judicial Magistrate under Section 156(3) r/w Section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). On receipt of such a complaint, the said Magistrate is empowered to take cognizance of the case and direct the police to investigate it.

After reviewing the substance of the complaint, if the Magistrate believes that the facts mentioned in the complaint constitute a cognizable offence, he will direct the concerned police station to register an FIR, conduct an investigation, and submit a report as required by Section 173 of the CrPC.

However, if the Magistrate concludes after reviewing the complaint that the circumstances presented do not support the filing of an FIR, the Magistrate may take cognizance of the offence and examine the complainant under Section 200 of the CrPC.

Consequences of filing a false FIR 

Where a false FIR is lodged against a person by someone to falsely implicate him in a false case, then in such a case:

  • Anticipatory Bail:  Section 438, CrPC gives direction for granting bail to a person apprehending arrest. It states when a person has reason to believe that he may be arrested on accusation of having committed a non-bailable offence, he may apply for bail in advance. The purpose of Section 438 is to ensure that no one is harassed or humiliated in order to fulfil the complainant’s grievance or personal vengeance.
  • Writ Jurisdiction under Article 226 of the constitution of India: When a police officer or government employee deliberately files a false FIR and a lower court issues an order against the accused based on an error of facts, he has the right to appeal to the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.
  • Application filed u/s 482 of CrPC : Under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure vested the inherent power 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. A person may apply to the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC to have the frivolous FIR lodged against him dismissed.

In the case of AbasahebHomme vs. the State of Maharashtra, it was held that the power of the court to quash the FIR should be exercised sparingly and subject to the satisfaction of the condition precedents to exercise such power.

E-FIR

Any citizen of India can use the E-FIR system to file an E-FIR. This means that every citizen has the fundamental right to seek justice for any criminal violation committed against him or her. This saves time, and money, and, most importantly, is free of harassment.

An e-FIR can be submitted online by going to the official website of the relevant police department and submitting the required information. A few police agencies have also released an official smartphone app that can be used to file an e-FIR.

Some advantages of E FIR are:

  • This saves a lot of time and energy for both police officers and complainants.
  • It eliminates the need for superfluous documentation and allows for the quick registration of complaints.
  • The complaint can maintain track of the complaint’s status.
  • Allows for speedier follow-up and response to complaints.

Zero FIR

A zero FIR can be filed at any Police Station, regardless of where the incident occurred. The goal of Zero FIR is to offer victims prompt redress so that action can be immediately after the FIR is filed. After registering Zero FIR, the police station transfers it to the jurisdictional police station where the offence happened.

Zero FIR does not have a serial number rather it is assigned the number “0”. Once the Zero FIR is received by the competent police station, it is turned into a regular FIR by assigning it a serial number. A Zero FIR has the same validity as a regular FIR. After filing a Zero FIR, the informant can check to see if it has been forwarded to the jurisdictional police station and request an inquiry without further delay.

In 2020, the apex court in  Union of India vs. Ashok Kumar Sharma and Others observed that “there is the practice of registering an FIR as a Zero FIR, when the Police Station at which FIR is registered, does not have territorial jurisdiction it is made over to the Police Station which has jurisdiction in the matter. Therefore, when information is given to a Police Officer, within the meaning of Section 154 of the CrPC, concerning the commission of a cognizable offence, the Police Officer must register an FIR and then make it over to the Inspector.”

FIR as Dying Declaration

When an injured individual file an FIR and then dies, the FIR is deemed significant as a dying declaration under section 32 of The Indian Evidence Act. In Munnu Raja and others v. the State of M.P., it was held that the dying declaration should not detail the entire occurrence or recount the case history. Corroboration is not required in this case; a dying declaration can serve as the sole basis for guilt.

1st FIR In India

As a fun fact – Under the Police Act, the first FIR was registered on 18th October,1861. FIR was written in Urdu and it was about the theft of hookah, a cooking vessel, and a kulfi At that time, the total value of all these materials was around Rs. 2.81.

Conclusion

FIR thus can be said to be the 1st step of any criminal investigation. Filing FIR sets the criminal law in motion. It delivers the first impression of the prosecution case and, if spontaneous and straightforward, can help carry conviction.

Cases Referred:

State of Haryana Vs. Ch Bhajan Lal

Lalita Kumar vs. Government of Uttar Pradesh,

Pravin Chandra Mody V. State of A.P.,

Harbans Kaur Vs. State of Haryana (2005),

Abasaheb Homme vs. the State of Maharashtra,

Union of India vs. Ashok Kumar Sharma and Others

Munnu Raja and others v. the State of M.P.

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