Author: Neitseizonou Solo
An FIR has not been given a legal definition in the Code of Criminal Procedure but it is an essential step in a criminal case. An FIR is a report given to the police after a cognizable crime has been allegedly committed. Once an offence occurs, the aggrieved person or anyone else can approach the police to take action against the accused and an FIR is the first step towards prosecuting the accused. Section 154 of CrPC is the section that deals with FIRs.
Procedure for filing an FIR
Who can file an FIR?
An FIR can be filed by the victim of the offence, a witness or anyone who is connected to the crime. In the case of Hallu v. State of M.P, 1974 AIR 1936, the court held that section 154 does not require that the person giving the information to have “personal knowledge” of the criminal offense being reported.
Section 154 of CrPC
This section has provided for the various aspects of filing an FIR and its particulars are given below:
Oral or in Writing
The information related to the commission of an offence may be in given to the police either in writing or in oral form and in case it is given by oral means then the police officer must convey that in a written form ad it must also be signed by the person filing the FIR, it is the duty of the officer to do so when an FIR is made orally.
The substance of FIRs must also be recorded by entering it into a register that is to be maintained and used according to state-prescribed laws.
If the person giving the information refuses to sign the report then under section 180 of the IPC, the informant can be punished with simple imprisonment that may extend up to 3 months or a fine up to 500 rupees or with both imprisonment or a fine.
Copy of the FIR
According to section 207 of CrPC, a copy of the FIR must be provided to the accused as soon as possible without delay and free of cost after the investigation has taken place and the charge sheet has been filed. It is also provided in section 173 that a copy is to be provided after a charge sheet has been filed.
Further, it is provided in section 76 of the Indian Evidence Act that any “public document” may be provided to the accused if he requests it and makes a payment to obtain such a report. An FIR has been ruled to be a “public document” as given in section 74 of the same act in the cases of Chnnappa Andanappa Siddareddy v. State 1980 Crl. L.J. 1022
Certain FIRs to be made to a female officer
Section 154 was amended in 2013 which now provides that when the informant is a woman and the offence is in regards to acid attacks, acts that insult modesty etc. (section 326A, section 326B, section 354, section 354A, section 354B, section 354C, section 354D, section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C, 376D, section 376E or section 509) the such FIRs must be recorded a women officer.
Whether the registration of FIR is necessary
In the recent case of Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P [W.P.(Crl) No; 68/2008 a question arose before the court on whether an FIR should be registered after an offence has occurred or a preliminary instigation could be done before the FIR is registered. The court conclusively held that registration of an FIR is necessary
Delay in FIR proceedings
An FIR must be lodged promptly after the offence has occurred and delays should be minimized. The more it is delayed, the fewer credibility it has and it may be fatal to a case but in the case of Bathula Nagamalleswara Rao & Ors. v. State Rep. By Public Prosecutor 2008(2) CRIMES 188 (SC) the court held that if a delay was justifiable then it would not kill the case but delays should be avoided as far as possible. Further in the case of Tara Singh and others v. The State of Punjab AIR. 1991 SC 63 the court held that “The delay in giving the FIR by itself cannot be a ground to doubt the prosecution case”
Guidelines regarding FIRs
The Supreme Court has recently issued the following guidelines in the case of Youth Bar Association of India v. Union of India and Other W.P. (CRL) No.68/2016:
- Accused is entitled to get a copy of the FIR at an earlier stage in the legal proceedings that as prescribed in the statutes. This means that the accused can get the FIR before filing of the charge sheet.
- An accused can give an application through a representative for obtaining a certified copy of the FIR on payment of a fee. After such payment is made the report must be provided within 24 hours.
- If the FIR has been forwarded to concerned Magistrate or Special judge and an application is submitted by the accused to obtain a certified copy then such application must be given to the concerned court within 2 days.
- The copies of FIRs must be uploaded to the police website or if there is no such website, on the state website within 24 hours of the FIR being registered. FIRs which pertain to sensitive cases need not be uploaded.
- The decision not to upload the FIR cannot be made by any person below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or any person holding equivalent post. When the District Magistrate plays a role then he can also make the decision. Such a decision must be communicated to the relevant Magistrate.
- What is considered “sensitive” may be determined by the competent authority
- When the FIR is not uploaded that does not provide grounds for section 438 per se.
- When a copy of the FIR on grounds that it is of sensitive nature, the accused may make a representation to the Superintendent of Police or Commissioner and he shall constitute a committee of three officers to address the issue. The grievance must be dealt with within 3 days of receipt of the representation.
- When the decision is made that copies will not be given the aggrieved can submit an application to the relevant court for obtaining a certified copy and it shall be provided within 3 days.
When a police officer refuses to record information
Clause 3 of section 154 has provided that in case the police officer refuses to report the information given by any person due to a criminal offence, the information may be given to the Superintendent in charge who shall either investigate or order an investigation to be made if he is satisfied that such information pertains to the commission of an offence.
Further, it has been provided in section 166 A of CrPC that if a police officer who refuses to record information under section 154 about crimes like acid attacks, acts that insult modesty, etc. he may be punished with imprisonment of more than 6 months but not more than 2 years along with a fine.
Second FIR for the same case
The court has been very clear on this issue and has held multiple times that a second FIR in order to open up a fresh investigation is not allowed. In the case of Golla Jalla Reddy v. State of A.P. (1996) 8 SCC 565 the court held that in case an FIR of the same case is reported, the police officer concerned should be recorded under section 161 instead of section 154.
A false FIR is when the information provided is false and punishment has been provided for the same. Under section 182 of IPC, any person who gives false information to a public servant with the intent to cause injury to another person may be imprisoned for a period that may extend up to 6 months or with a fine of up to 1000 rupees or both. Section 203 of IPC gives a harsher punishment of imprisonment up to 2 years or with a fine r with both to any person who knows or has reason to believe that an offence has occurred and provides false information regarding the offence.
Further section 211 provides that any person who institutes criminal proceedings with intent to cause injury against a person or falsely charges a person even after knowing that there is no grounds for such action shall be imprisoned for a period of up to 2 years or with a fine or with both. Or if the proceedings or false charge is one of life imprisonment, death or imprisonment of seven years and above shall be punished by imprisonment for up to 7 years or with a fine or with both.
On the flipside, section 177 provides for when a police officer provides false information which he knows to be false. Such an act will be punished with imprisonment for up to 6 months or with a fine of 1000 rupees of both.
Difference between an FIR and a Complaint
The definition of a complaint has been given in section 2(d) of CrPC as “…means any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate.” An FIR is a type of complaint but the law has set out a few differences between the two, the differences are given below;
- An FIR deals only with cognizable offence while a complaint can be made for either a cognizable or a non-cognizable offence.
- An FIR is lodged in a police station and information is given to a police officer but in a complaint, the allegations are made to the Magistrate.
- There is no prescribed format for a complaint but for an FIR, the procedure has been provided for in section 154 of CrPC.
- Any person can make a complaint unless it is a marriage or defamation case but in case of an FIR anybody who is a victim, a witness or has knowledge of the crime can file one.
- In case of an FIR, since it only deals with cognizable offences the police officer can start an investigation even before taking permission from the Magistrate but in the case of a complaint, the Magistrate orders the investigation to start and may also order the police to file an FIR of the same case.
Difference between an FIR and a Charge Sheet
A charge sheet and an FIR are distinct in legal terms. The differences between the two are given below;
- An FIR is filed at the very beginning and is a precursor to a charge sheet. An FIR is lodged right after an offence has been committed. A charge is made only after the investigation has already occurred.
- An FIR can be filed by the victim, witness or person who has knowledge of the offence to a police officer but a charge sheet is made by police officer and is called a final report. Such a report is sent to the court and section 173 provides for such a report. The case starts in the court after the charge sheet is submitted to the court.
- The charge sheet includes names the person against whom the charges are being made and lists out the charges while an FIR holds the information given about the commission of an offence that starts the investigative process.
Quashing of an FIR
An FIR can be quashed by the courts under section 482 of CrPC and the court may quash an FIR on many grounds some of which are; when charge sheet is not produced for a long time after registration of an FIR or if there is clear proof that the FIR was lodged as a counter to another FIR etc. The Supreme Court has provided the following guidelines in relation to quashing an FIR in the case Parbatbhai Aahir @ Parbatbhai Bhimshinhbhai Karmur and Ors. v. State of Gujarat and Anr. Criminal Appeal no. 1723 2017:
- Section 282 does not confer new powers to the High Courts but instead preserves the inherent powers of the court.
- The power to quash is available even if the case is compoundable.
- When judging whether the FIR should be quashed or not the court must keep in mind whether the exercise of inherent power is justified in seeking justice.
- Whether or not an FIR is to be quashed on the basis of it being compoundable depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.
- When exercising the power under section 482 and plea is made that the dispute has already been settled, it must be kept in mind the seriousness of the crime.
- Cases which have a predominant element of civil dispute are different from other cases when it comes to quashing.
- Cases which arise from commercial, financial or other transaction of similar nature which are largely civil may be quashed under section 482. But how much an act of economic fraud or misdemeanour effects the economy must also be kept in mind and the courts have the right to not quash a report on such grounds.
About the Author: Neitseizonou is a third-year law student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, Chattisgarh.