Analysis on First Information Report (FIR)

Introduction

The First Information Statement (FIS) or First Information Report (FIR) has not been defined in the Criminal Procedural Code, 1973 (CrPC). It is commonly understood as the information received by the police about the commission of a crime and recorded under section 154(1) of the CrPC. In fact, it is the information of a crime reported to the police, first in point of time.  

Whether any information received before the police officer is one coming under the section 154(1) is a question of fact. It has to be decided on the merit of its ingredients rather than the discretion of the police officer.

Investigation starts with first information

The registration of a crime in a police station starts with receipt of First Information Statement and its recording in the appropriate register eventually leading to registration of First Information Report. Both terms are interchangeably used in some police manuals and many of the judgments.

First Information Statement means

The FIS precisely means the information, by whomsoever given, to the officer in charge of a police station in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence that reached the police officer first in point of time and on the strength of which the investigation into that offence is commenced.

A cognizable offence means a serious crime in which police can investigate and arrest the accused without any permission from the court. A non-cognizable offence, on the other hand, is the one of less serious nature in which the police have no power to investigate or arrest the accused, without a warrant from the Magistrate.

Who all can file the information?

FIS can be filed before the police, having jurisdiction to investigate the case, by:

  • a victim against whom the offence has been committed,
  • any person who has seen commission of any cognizable offence,
  • anyone who knows about commission of a cognizable offence,
  • any police officer who comes to know about commission of such an offence.

A person who is not even an eye witness to the crime or having no firsthand knowledge of its facts can file an FIS. The information can even be a hearsay statement.

The information thus received has to be entered by the police officer first in a register called General Dairy (GD) or Station Diary. The police should convert the information, if it is oral, into written form, read it over to the informant, and get his signature. This is called First Information Statement (FIS). 

The GD is the record of all types of pertinent information chronologically entered in a station. It is the section 44 of the Police Act of 1861 or the corresponding section in the state’s police act, which introduced the practice of keeping such a general diary.

In Kerala, the police use Kerala Police Form (KPF) No 57 for the purpose, brought into force by section 12 of the Kerala Police Act 2011. The section states, “Every police station shall keep a General Diary in such form as may be fixed by the Government from time to time and record therein the substance of all complaints made, First Information Reports, charges, the names and details of complainants, opposite parties and all arrested persons, the details in respect of the offences charged against them and the properties including weapons that may have been seized from their possession or otherwise.”

Therefore, information on cognizable crimes resulting in FIR/inquiry must meticulously be entered in the GD without any lapse. Delay in registering FIS is fatal. The police cannot at its discretion refuse to register the information relating to commission of a crime.  

The GD is however quite different from the Diary of Proceedings in Investigation (commonly called Case Diary or CD ) to be kept by the investigation officer under section 172(1) of the CrPC.

First Information Report (FIR)

A FIS on a crime reaching the police officer will eventually lead to registration of an FIR. The substance of the FIS will be entered in the FIR book, which is being maintained in the police station in the prescribed format, with crime number and the penal provisions of law. This will turn into First Information Report (FIR). 

It is obligatory for the police to register FIR on receipt of first information disclosing commission of any criminal offence. The First Information Report (FIR), registered on the basis of First Information Statement (FIS) received in the station, is the initial event in the sequence of ensuing actions in the hectic investigation in a criminal case.

The FIR will include the FIR number, date of the crime, time & number of the GD entry etc.  The FIS is the information received in the police station and recorded in the GD register whereas FIR is the report that the police officer records in the FIR book on the basis of FIS itself and sends to the Magistrate.  Therefore, the FIR includes the substance of FIS as an entry of it.

The register commonly called GD is different from FIR book, but its difference with the FIR book is not widely understood. The informant has to sign in the FIR.

A vague first information is not FIR

Any vague and indefinite information given to a police officer cannot be considered as an FIR. The purpose of giving such telephonic message is not to lodge the FIR but to make the police officer reach the place of occurrence of the crime. In such a situation the police officer is required to collect more information before starting investigation. Then the further information given to him would be treated as FIS/FIR.

For example, if a police officer receives information from a person that there was a firing incident in a place, it is not FIR. The police officer should then enter that report in the General Diary and go to the house/location of the informed incident to record a statement. If that statement discloses a cognizable offence, that will become an FIS/FIR.

No piece of information which is vague, indefinite and unauthorized can be recorded as FIS/FIR, merely because it was received first in point of time. The information must relate to the commission of a cognizable offence so as to be considered so.

The Supreme Court says mere information received on phone by police officer without any details regarding identity of accused or nature of injuries caused by victims as well as name of culprits may not be treated as FIR [ please see AIR 2009 SC 1262].

Information an FIR includes

  • The name and address of the accused
  • The facts of the case
  • The date and time of the crime
  • The location where it occurred
  • The name of the person who committed it and his details
  • The items stolen/inquest report /actions so far taken, etc
  • Signature of the informant,etc

Objects of registering FIR

The prime objective of registering FIR at the earliest is to set the criminal process in motion.

The other purposes are to ensure transparency, prevent its well calculated embellishment later, and bring in judicial oversight onto police investigation. It is in fact the first step in making criminal system accessible to a victim so as to forestall any manipulation in its proceedings. 

Providing false information

Lodging false information or causing registration of fake FIR is an offence punishable under section 182 (providing false information to a public servant to cause injury to anybody) and 211 (instituting a false criminal proceedings on another) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

FIR not substantive evidence

FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence. But it can be effectively used to corroborate the informant under section 157 or to contradict the informant under section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act. FIR can be used to corroborate or contradict the informant alone, but not the witness.

In case, the first information is given by the accused himself he cannot be put to corroboration or contradiction. The accused cannot be a prosecution witness by law. He would rarely offer to be a defence witness under section 315 of the CrPC too.

If FIR is of a confessional nature it will be hit by section 25 of the evidence act. No confession made to the police officer by an accused shall be proved against an accused. If the FIR is non confessional in nature it may be admissible in evidence as an admission under section 21 of the evidence act.

FIR can be used under section 32(1) or section 8 of the evidence act as to the cause of the informant’s death or the informant’s conduct in regard to the crime, respectively.

Remedies when FIR not registered

Compliant to Superintendent of Police

If an informant is aggrieved by a refusal to record the first information in the GD register leading to registration of FIR, he may send the substance of such information, in writing, by post to the Superintendent of Police, under section 154 (3) of CrPC.

If the Superintendent is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence he shall investigate the case himself or direct any subordinate to conduct investigation into it, duly after registering an FIR. Such officer will have all the powers of an investigation officer in charge of the police station in regard to that offence.

Superior officer can direct registration

Similarly the police officers superior in rank to the officer in charge of a police station has the authority to exercise the same powers throughout the area to which they are appointed, under section 36 of the CrPC.

Such an officer has the authority to exercise all the powers a Station House Officer (SHO) usually exercises within his station area.

File a complaint to Magistrate

Filing a criminal complaint to Magistrate, under section 200 of the CrPC, is another remedy available to a person.

A magistrate can take cognizance on a complaint on examining the complainant and the witnesses upon oath. The substance of such examination should be reduced to writing and should be signed by the complainant, witnesses and the Magistrate.

If the complaint is in writing, the magistrate need not examine the complaint and the witnesses. Similarly if the complaint is made by a public servant or a court or is transferred from another court, the magistrate need not examine them.

The magistrate on receipt of a complaint may postpone the issue of process and may either inquire into the case, or direct an investigation by a police officer or any other person, so as to decide whether to proceed or not in the case. If it appears to the magistrate that there is no sufficient ground to proceed, he can dismiss the complaint.

FIR need not end up in arrest

The registration of FIR under section 154 fo the CrPC and the arrest of an accused under section 41 of the CrPC are entirely different things. The mandatory registration of FIR need not end up in the mandatory arrest of the accused. There is no need to arrest the accused automatically merely because FIR is registered. The arrest of person and registration of FIR are not directly or irreversibly linked [please see Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1, for details].

If a police officer misuses the power of arrest in excess of what the Code specifically empowers him, he can be subjected to criminal action and punishment under section 166 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  

A police officer can foreclose FIR before investigation, under section 157 of the CrPC, if it appears to him that the case is not of a serious nature and there is no sufficient ground to investigate the crime. The police officer has to report to the Magistrate the reasons for such foreclosure and notify the informant the fact that he will not investigate the case.

FIR helps Magistrate oversee investigation

FIR gives the police unfettered powers to proceed onto investigate any cognizable offence, under section 156 (1) CrPC.  But the provision that the police must send the copy of the FIR to the Magistrate immediately keeps the magistrate informed of the investigation.  Failure to send a copy of FIR is a breach of duty on the part of the police officer. Such an investigation must be looked into with suspicion, the court says.

The lone provision of sending an FIR keeps a Magistrate in the picture at all stages of police investigation. The magistrate therefore can keep a watch on the progress of the investigation and give appropriate directions, under section 159 of CrPC.

The Magistrate however is not authorized to meddle with the police investigation or to specifically direct the police how to conduct the investigation. He gets some authority when the investigation goes beyond the bounds of law.

High Court can quash FIR

The functions of both the police and judiciary are quite complementary. Once an offence is disclosed an investigation into the case must necessary follow. The court will not normally interfere with it. However the court has authority to intervene in the investigation for granting bail or issuing a Writ of Habeas Corpus / Mandamus. It gets authority when there is any visible malafide in the investigative process.

The High Court can stop and quash any investigation, under section 482 of the CrPC or the Article 226 of the Constitution, when the police start any investigation despite no substance is made out in the FIR or when there is any undue exercise of power or harassment in the investigation.

Conclusion

In short, the First Information Report is a crucial document in the process of criminal investigation in setting its track clear and visible right from the very beginning itself. Therefore all the stakeholders of criminal justice system need to pay more attention on it.

 

K Rajasekharan 
on 03 October 2018
Published in Criminal Law
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