Complete Guide on FIR

Complete Guide on FIR

Date : 04 Jun, 2020

Post By Advocate Srikaanth S. Iyyer

FIR one of the most common terms used in law that has attained a common parlance today. At times, it is used to genuinely report commission of an offence, while at times it is used as a tool to subjugate with an ulterior motive. One of the harsh realities of an FIR is that it is a public record, and the person who is named as an accused not only loses repute but also is deemed to be an offender by the society, even though one of the canons of criminal law is “innocent until proven otherwise”.

In this write-up, apart from learning the basics of an FIR and the procedural aspects regarding lodging an FIR, in an attempt to dispel certain stigma associated with FIR the author discusses the rights of the informant during and after lodging of an FIR and the options that are available to the accused named in an FIR.

What is an FIR?

In the simplest of terms, any information provided to the police regarding an act that results in a cognizable offence at the first instance. The important parts of an FIR are that: 

(a) it should be information pertaining to a cognizable offence; 

(b) it should be reported first in time regarding cognizable offence. 

A ‘cognizable offence’, as defined in the Criminal Procedure Code, is an offence for which police can commence investigation of the crime on their own and can arrest the accused person without a warrant in accordance with law. 

The first statement of a person, who may be a victim or who has the knowledge of a cognizable offence being committed, is vital to the process of investigation and prosecution, as it is presumed to be the original chain of events that give rise to the commission of the offence. Also, since it is registered at the earliest opportunity it is presumed to be without concocting or fabricating the chain of events.

The first statement given to the police may be in writing or stated orally. In case the information is given orally, it is necessary that the statement is recorded in writing by the police and then, immediately read over to the person.

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Who can lodge an FIR?

Any person against whom a cognizable offence has been committed or a person who has the knowledge of cognizable offence being committed, may lodge an FIR at a police station nearest to the place where the offence has been committed. If a cognizable offence has been disclosed to two or more persons, then every person with the knowledge has a right to lodge an FIR. However, only the information provided by the person to report the offence first shall be recorded as FIR, while the subsequent statements shall be considered as witness statements.

However, since the Criminal Procedure Code says “every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence”, the accused named in an FIR can also lodge an FIR (generally referred to as a ‘cross-FIR’), against either the informant or any person that the accused has knowledge about being involved in commission of a cognizable offence. 

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What is the procedure for lodging an FIR?

The steps involved while lodging an FIR are crucial for the reason that every step while lodging the FIR will be scrutinised and dissected during the pre-trial and trial stage. Any step while lodging an FIR that digresses from the prescribed procedure, may result in jeopardising the prosecution of the accused. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the procedure while lodging an FIR: 

  1. The first and foremost step is that the informant should either have been a victim of a crime or should have the knowledge of an act that results in the commission of a cognizable offence.

  2. The informant should approach the nearest police station, within the jurisdictional limit where the offence has allegedly been committed.

  3. One of the crucial aspects, which is scrutinised and examined minutely, is the time taken to lodge an FIR. Although the Criminal Procedure Code does not prescribe any time within which an FIR is to be lodged, however, it is advisable to approach the nearest police station at the earliest possible instance to lodge and FIR to eliminate any possibility of fabrication of the chain of events.

  4. The information provided by the informant should be definite and coherent; it should not lead to any vague conclusion or result in the chain of events not leading to commission of cognizable offence.

  5.  The information provided can either be in written form or narrated orally to the officer in charge of the police station, which shall then be reduced in writing. The information provided has to be recorded as per the informant’s version and cannot be modified in any manner by the police officer recording the information.

  6. Once the information is recorded and reduced in writing, the informant should read the information that has been recorded to affirm that all the details in the information have been recorded. If the informant is illiterate or is unable to read the information, it is the duty of the officer recording the information to read the FIR to the informant.

  7. The informant is then required to sign the information recorded by police officer. If the informant is illiterate or is not able to sign, the informant’s thumb impression is affixed to the FIR.

  8. The last step is to provide a copy of the FIR to the informant, free of cost. Under no circumstances is the informant required to pay any amount whatsoever to the police officer for recording the FIR or for supply of the informant’s copy. 

What if the officer in charge of a police station refuses to record an FIR?

It is the duty of the officer in charge of the police station to register an FIR, however, there are times when the police officer may not record the information as an FIR. It is important to understand that an FIR can be lodged only with respect to cognizable offences. The procedure for commencing the process of investigation with respect to non-cognizable offence is different from that of cognizable offence.

The other instance where a police officer may refuse to lodge an FIR based on an information provided is when the information is subsequent to an earlier information provided regarding the same chain of events resulting in the same cognizable offence against the same accused. Any information received first in time regarding commission of a cognizable offence is considered as ‘first information’, any information subsequent to the ‘first information’ will be considered as a witness statement and not as ‘first information’, for the obvious reason that it is not the first information received.

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In case where the information pertains to cognizable offence, which is first in time, and the officer in charge refuses to record the information, the informant can:

(a)  submit the information in writing to the Superintendent of Police; or

(b) file a written complaint before the concerned Magistrate, who has jurisdiction over the police station that should have recorded the FIR. 

What happens after lodging an FIR?

Subsequent to recording an FIR pertaining to a cognizable offence, it is the duty of the police to investigate the information to ascertain whether an offence has been committed. The police officer may require the named accused to appear for questioning, and in certain cases proceed to arrest the named accused if there is credible information or a reasonable suspicion. The police officer, if satisfied, may arrest a person to prevent commission of further offence, for proper investigation of the offence, to prevent destruction of evidence and witness tampering, or if it is believed that the person may not appear before the court when summoned.

As per the Criminal Procedure Code, the police may not investigate a upon an information even if an FIR has been lodged, if:

(i) the case is not serious in nature;

(ii) the police, in their opinion, conclude that there is not enough ground exists to investigate.

However, in each of the above cases, the police is required to record the reasons for not conducting an investigation.

What are the rights of an informant?

Apart from the right to receive a copy of the FIR for free of cost, an informant may be afforded the following right:

  1. If the information is provided by a woman against whom an offence of acid attack, sexual harassment, outraging modesty or rape is alleged to have been committed or attempted, then such information shall be recorded by a female police officer.

  2. The victim of a sexual offence has the right of privacy and the FIR pertaining to such an offence cannot be made public.

  3.  If the victim of acid attack, sexual harassment, outraging modesty or rape is temporarily or permanently, mentally or physically, disabled, then the information can be recorded by a police officer at the residence of the victim or any place convenient in the presence of a person who may be an interpreter or a special educator, and such information is required to be videographed. 

What are the options available to the accused named in an FIR?

An FIR being registered against a person does not in any manner indicate any guilt or doubt towards the person’s involvement in the act. FIR is merely information regarding a cognizable offence which is given first in time and enables the police to commence investigation. The outcome of the investigation may either culminate in filing of chargesheet by the police against the person accused or a closure report wherein there is no evidence that suggests that the person named as an accused has committed the offence. In either of these cases, the person named as an accused has the right to file for an appropriate bail application before the appropriate court. In case of an FIR registered for a non-bailable offence, the accused can file an application for anticipatory bail before the Sessions Court. The accused may also approach the High Court to either grant protection from any coercive action being taken by the police against the accused or to quash the FIR and any criminal proceedings pending with regard to the FIR.

What is the importance and value of an FIR?

Although an FIR is a crucial document to commence the investigation by the police, in terms of evidentiary value, it cannot be considered as a substantial piece of evidence. It may be used only to corroborate or contradict the statements made during the trial. An FIR serves as the first point of information, and at times the information provided may not consist of the entire chain of events. It is only during the investigation that the entire chain of events come to light, which then becomes the basis for police to file a chargesheet before the Magistrate. 

Having said that, the importance of an FIR cannot be lost merely because it serves as a statement. It is based on this statement that the police starts investigating the crime, and it is based on this information the courts may determine whether there is any offence committed in the first place for the police to investigate the matter. 

What are the modern ways of lodging an FIR? 

Today with the advent of technology in every sphere, even the criminal justice system is developing in areas that were never propounded when the statutes were drafted. Whether it is electronic evidence being a part of the trial or crimes being committed in the virtual world but having an effect in the real world, law is trying to keep up with the development. 

E-FIR, or electronic FIR is one such example. Many of the States in India have implemented E-FIR in order to enable quick registering of information and eliminating the hassle of visiting the police station to record the information in certain cases. The moment an E-FIR is registered, the informant is provided with an electronic copy of the FIR and the police initiate contact with the informant at the earliest. 

The other method of lodging an FIR is “Zero FIR”, which means when a person visits a police station to lodge an FIR, however, the concerned police station does not have the authority to investigate matter for the reason that the offence has allegedly been committed outside the bounds of their territorial jurisdiction, but since it is crucial that the information be recorded, the police officer may record the information and transfer the FIR to the concerned police station. Since the officer in charge of the police station does not have the power to investigate the crime, a Zero FIR is registered in certain cases, which is then transferred to the police station within whose bound the offence has allegedly been committed. 

The author would like to clarify that the views and opinion in the above article are personal and does not amount to legal advice. In case you need to lodge an FIR or in case there is an FIR against you that names you as an accused, it is advisable to contact an attorney.

*The author of this blog is Adv. Srikaanth S. Iyyer practicing before the Supreme Court of India and specialises in white-collar crimes.

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