Imagine yourself walking in a street alone at midnight and suddenly you find someone has committed any offense against someone in front of you..what would you do in such a case? This is where the role of legal justice and an FIR comes into play.

Being a responsible citizen of India, everybody should know their rights and duties adequately either to help themselves or anyone in need. Provided below are the points which describe all about the FIR which obliges a police officer- in- charge of the nearest police station to start the preliminary investigation-

1.    Concept of Preliminary Investigation-

 Section 2(h) of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) refers to investigation on all proceedings under the Crpc 1973 for the collection of evidence by a police officer or any person than a magistrate authorized by the Magistrate. It includes all the proceedings for collection of evidence conducted by a police officer or any person (other than a magistrate) authorized by the Magistrate in this behalf. 

Normally speaking, it is the process of investigating or interrogating something or someone or a formal systematic examination or research to be provided for a case that is categorized as cognizable by a police officer. A typical investigation generally involves an undertaking that seeks to collect and gather pieces of evidence of an offense committed for a case or to even know that the case has been committed or not or for any other specific purpose is known to be a criminal investigation.

2.    Is A Police Officer Always Under An Obligation To Start An Investigation?

In most cases, we presume that in every criminal offense, the police officer will start the investigation immediately; however, this is not the case always. It depends upon the nature of the crime committed by the assailant. Offenses have been categorized into two types depending upon their nature and seriousness of the crime committed- 

a)    A cognizable Offence: Section 2(c) of the code of criminal procedure provides that “ where the nature of the crime is serious enough and it becomes pertinent to start the investigation immediately, the police officer is allowed to take cognizance of the case himself and no permission from superior authority is required. Thus, such cases are known as Cognizable offenses. Some of the crimes which come under this category are-

•    Murder;

•    Rape;

•    Dowry Death;

•    Theft;

•    Kidnapping;

•    Unnatural Offences;

•    Criminal Breach of Trust;

•    Theft;

•    Waging or attempting to wage a war against the state or Government of India.

Section 154 of the abovementioned act provides that if "a cognizable offense has been committed the police officer needs first to receive an FIR relating to the commission of a cognizable offense

b)    Non-cognizable offenses:  Section 2(l) of the Act defines a non- cognizable offense as the offenses in which a police officer has no authority to take cognizance of the case or arrest someone and has to take prior approval of the Magistrate of the area concerned.

Some of the common Non- cognizable offenses include:

•    Assault;

•    Forgery;

•    Cheating;

Section 155 of the above-mentioned act provides that in a non-cognizable offense or case, the police officer cannot receive or record an FIR unless he obtains prior permission from the Magistrate. 

3.    So, what does an FIR means exactly?

No specific definition of an FIR has been provided in the criminal law, however, in its normal usage, a first information report is defined as a document prepared by a police officer-in-charge of a police station where they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offense, or in when the police-in-charge receives any information about any criminal offense.  

To constitute an FIR in terms of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 two conditions are to be fulfilled:-

(a) What is communicated must be a piece of information; and

(b) Such information should be prima facie concerning the commission of a cognizable offense.

It initiates from a complaint registered with the police officer of the nearest police station where the cause of action occurred on registration by either the victim himself or someone on his behalf including any eye-witness. Each FIR is very important as it stated to” set the process of criminal justice” in motion. It is only after the registration of FIR in the police station that the police can start the investigation of most types of cases FIRs.

Therefore, whenever any aggrieved or an eye-witness in any criminal offense comes to the police station with an intention to register an FIR, it shall be the duty of the police officer- in- charge of the police station to hear such person consciously, note down the details in the record and investigate the same. 

But, if he finds after listening to the complainant that the case is related to a non-cognizable, crime, he should carry out the necessary steps in the furtherance of the case. In no situation, he is allowed to refuse to register the FIR.

The Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment in Lallan Chaudhary vs. the State of Biharcarved out the importance of an FIR in a cognizable offense as it ruled if any information related to a cognizable offense is laid before an officer in charge of a police station, the police officer shall have no other option but to register the case based on such information. Genuineness or credibility of the information is not considered to be a condition precedent for registration of a case”.

Also in Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of U.P (2013), the Supreme Court stated that the” advantage of compulsory registration of FIR is not only to ensure transparency in the criminal justice delivery system but also to ensure judicial oversight”. Thus, any information received under section 154(1) or otherwise has to be duly informed in the form of a report to the magistrate. 

4.    Who Can Register An FIR?

The criminal laws in India do not prescribe any specific list of persons who can register an FIR. It can lodge by a victim, an eye- witness, or any other person who has the knowledge of the happening either in writing or orally. In the case of Hallu vs. State of M.P, 1974 AIR 1936, it was held that “Section 154 does not require that the report must be given by a person who has personal knowledge of the incident reported.

The section speaks of information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense given to an officer in charge of a police station".For eg. Where a Z sees a wounded person A being stabbed by C in a public place, S who doesn’t know any of them personally can register an FIR to the nearest police station. 

5.    Contents Of An First Information Report(FIR)

 Under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, an FIR must contain the following -

i.    Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offense, if given orally to an officer-in-charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

ii.    A copy of the information as recorded under sub-section (1)shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

iii.   Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer-in-charge of the police station to record the information referred to in sub-section (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned, who if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer-in-charge of the police station to that offense.

iv.  The provision in section 154 regarding the reduction of oral statement to writing and obtaining the signature of the informant to it, is to discourage irresponsible statements in criminal offenses by fixing the informant with the responsibility for the statement he makes at the time of registering FIR

v.    Refusal by the informant to sign the first information is an offense punishable under section 180 of the Indian Penal Code. The absence of signatures on the first information report by the informant, however, is not necessary to the extent that it will vitiate and nullify such a report. The first information is still admissible in evidence.

vi.    The FIR shall be recorded by the police in charge of the police station concerned with the area which is under the territorial jurisdiction of the place where the crime happened.

vii.     If any information is related to the commission of a crime provided under sections 326A, 326B, 354,354A-D, 376,376A-E & 509 OF Indian Penal Code, then such information shall be recorded by a woman police officer only. 

In other words, FIR is only a complaint to set the affairs of law and order in motion and it is only at the stage of the investigation that all the important facts can be collected. In one of its landmark judgments, the Madhya Pradesh High Court observed that the report of the crime which is persuading the police machinery towards starting investigation is the FIR, as the subsequent reports are not hit by section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and cannot be treated as such.

6. Evidentiary Value of FIR

Undoubtedly, the evidentiary value of this document is more than any other document which is recorded by the police in the course of an investigation.

Its importance lies on the facts that such other additional obligations like after recording the details, the information is read out to the informant, his/her signature is obtained, providing a copy of FIR free of cost, etc. have been added to ensure that whatever has been reduced into writing is an honest version of the information being provided to the authority. Though the record of FIR is not considered to be a substantive piece of evidence, its importance is undeniable. It can be used to corroborate the evidence under section 157 or to contradict the informant under section 145 of the Act if the informant is called a witness at the time of the trial.

However, to make an FIR effective as a piece of evidence, it is necessary to register it promptly on the happening of any such event, the sole object being obtaining early information regarding the circumstances in which the crime has been committed, any delay in doing so may result in embellishment or any manipulation with the pieces of evidence or witnesses. If any such delay happens, a necessity to explain the delay also takes place.

 7.What if the information relates to the commission of a Non-Cognizable Case?

Normally, cognizable offenses are serious offenses by nature whereas non- cognizable offenses are more like private wrongs. Therefore, the role of the police authorities is involved lesser unless ordered by the Magistrate. 

Any such person aggrieved in a non-cognizable offense shall request the Magistrate, who shall on being satisfied pass necessary orders including an order to the police authorities to register the FIR or issuing an arrest warrant.

However, where an offense comprises both a cognizable as well as non- cognizable case, section 155(4) of the CrPc Act, provides that the case shall be dealt as a cognizable case and shall be proceeded with accordingly.

8.Concept of a Zero FIR-

After the famous Nirbhaya Case, 2012 it was observed that there was a lack of support from the police authorities which ultimately led to delay injustice for the victim and her family. Thus, the concept of zero-FIR came into play with an object of providing timely support and justice to the victim. Otherwise, earlier when a victim would go to the police station on happening of a certain event, they would either deny registration of FIR on the basis of lack of jurisdiction, or they would confuse the victim or manipulate the pieces of evidence unnecessarily.

Zero FIR means “whenever any victim or any informant goes to the nearby police station where the crime happened, he/she shall not be denied justice based on the lack of territorial jurisdiction, rather such police in charge shall record such FIR, putting a twelve-digit serial number starting from number "0".Later such information shall be transmitted to the concerned police station. Such kind of remedy has saved miscarriage of justice a remedy against confusion in the public interest.

It means that an FIR can be filed in any police station, irrespective of the jurisdictional limitations and location of the incident.  The respective police station takes in the FIR and marks it as a zero FIR by giving it serial number zero and immediately transfer the documents over to the concerned jurisdiction. As a result of this, many people have been benefitted from it. Two cases are worth mentioning in this behalf-

i.    Re. Kanchikacherla of Andhra Pradesh, a 'Zero FIR' was registered for a missing boy and as a result of Zero- FIR, he was found within 24 hours after the investigation was taken up.

ii.    Re. AsaramBapu Rape case in which the self-proclaimed Godman Asaram Bapu was booked under Zero FIR. The complaint about the crime committed in Jodhpur was lodged in Delhi by a minor girl who hailed from UP. On August 21, Delhi Police booked Asaram under the charges of rape and wrongful confinement. The case was later transferred to Jodhpur police, where the actual crime took place.

9. Conclusion:

 As "Time & tide wait for none" thus living in a civilized society requires helping each other and encouraging the society to become a better place for living. As a responsible citizen of India, it is necessary to take note of our rights and duties towards society because such mishappening may happen with anyone or anywhere. Thus, it can be agreed from above that the importance of an FIR is compulsory for the initiation of a criminal investigation as well as during the pendency of trial for criminal proceedings. 


eStartIndia Team

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