KEY TAKE AWAYS
- FIR its meaning, objectives, contents, its evidentiary value and its corroborative value.
- Understanding related concepts like Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offences, Information and Complaint.
- Some important case laws that bring about a better understanding of the various concepts of an FIR
FIRST INFORMATION REPORT
The term FIR has not been defined by the CrPC. However, it can be defined as the information given to the police, related to a cognizable offence, given in the “first point of time”, with which the investigation into the offence is commenced.
SECTION 154 OF THE CrPC
Section 154 CrPC talks about information provided on cognizable cases. Though Section 154 of the CrPC doesn’t talk about FIRs specifically it does provide the police a statutory power to write a FIR and investigate the matter and for which they do not need to take the permission of the court.
SUB-CLAUSES OF SECTION 154 OF THE CrPC
There are 3 sub-clauses mentioned under this section which states as follows: -
1. As mentioned above an FIR contains information about a cognizable offence, this sub cluse deals with the verbal and non-verbal communication between the informant and the police officer.
If the information is given in a written format, then all the officer needs to do is record the same in his station diary however, if the information is given to him/her in an oral form then he/she needs to reduce the same into a written form and then read the same out to the informant and then finally take the signature of the informant and then record it into the station diary.
2. Sub-cluse 2 states that a copy of the information recorded must be given to the informant and this copy should be given free of cost.
3. The third sub-cluse states that in case any officer-in-charge or police station refuses to report the information then the informant can send, in writing, the said information (as mentioned in sub-cluse one) to the Superintendent of that police station.
Furthermore, in the situation where the information give was that of a cognizable offence then that officer must investigate the case himself/herself or direct an investigation to be made by any other police officer who is subordinate to him/her. In the scenario where the officer directs one of his/her subordinate to investigate the case, then the subordinate officer would then, in the manner provided in this code, have all the powers of an officer-in-charge would have in relation the that case and that police station.
SOME RELATED CONCEPTS
Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences: -
Cognizable Offences are those offences that are more serious in nature, like that of rape, murder, dowry death etc. For such offences arrests can be made without a warrant and the investigation can take place without the court’s permission (as this process of asking permission can cause a delay as it might take time to get). Moreover, an FIR can be launched for such offences.
Non-Cognisable Offences, on the other hand, are those offences that are not so serious in nature like that of assault and defamation. In such cases a warrant is needed for an arrest and investigation can only take place after the court gives permission for the same. For such cases an FIR is not needed.
Information and Complaint: -
The words ‘Information’ and ‘Complaint’ are often seen as the same though it is not. A complaint is given/made to a magistrate and is examined with oath whereas information is given to a police officer and is not examined by oath.
A police officer, unlike that of a magistrate, exercises discretionary powers. This means that once a complaint is made to the magistrate, they have to act upon the complaint whereas a police officer based on elements like not enough serious grounds available, seriousness of the case or not enough grounds to investigate can decide to not act upon the information given to them. If a magistrate decides to not act on a complaint and decides to dismiss it, he/she must, in writing, the reasons why he/she dismissed the complaint however if a police officer decides to dismiss the information given then he/she doesn’t have to mention the reasons in written.
Lastly, a complaint given to the magistrate is a prayer for prosecution in which the details of the offence may or may not be given whereas information given to the police has details of the offence.
CONTENTS OF AN FIR
The contents of an FIR can also be denoted as the 11 W’s
I. WHAT information has come – the details of the cognizable case but be very detailly and clearly spelled out.
II. In WHAT capacity did the informant report – is he/she a victim, a witness or the accused.
III. WHO committed the crime – it is imperative that the details of the accused must be give, information like the name and description must be given. (If the informant knows and knowingly hides the name of the accused then, during the enquiry, a proper explanation for the same must be given)
IV. Against WHOOM has the crime been committed – name and details of the victim must be given.
V. WHEN – wen did the offence take place. This includes details like the time.
VI. WHERE - Details like the place and address of where the offence had taken place must be given.
VII. WHY – if the informant knows then the reason why the offence took place, the intention or the motive must be given.
VIII. WHICH WAY – this includes details of how the crime was committed.
IX. WITNESS – here all the details of all the witnesses must be given. (Here again, if any detail about any witness is knowingly hidden or later on added then the informant will be answerable for the same)
X. WHAT was taken way – includes the details of the list of stolen property.
XI. WHAT traces were left behind by the accused – this includes details about any clue or any hint that was left behind by said accused person.
WHERE IS AN FIR LODGED
The territorial jurisdiction in which the crime has been committed is the area in which the related FIR should be lodged.
However, the Supreme Court also has mentioned that one can also file an FIR in another police station outside of that territorial jurisdiction.
OBJECT OF AN FIR
The importance of time, it is of utmost importance to lodge a report to the police as soon as possible due to various factors like that of early commencement of investigation, tracking, authenticity of information, remembering small factors etc. If there is a delay in the FIR and such a delay cannot be explained or be backed with a proper reason then the FIR would lose its authenticity. This also prevents the possibilities of any manipulation or any calculated embellishments in the statement.
Furthermore, an FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence, which basically means that the statement alone cannot be used as evidence, it merely is to corroborate the statement of the maker. It only helps in the proceeding of further investigations.
It also, and most importantly, sets the process of criminal justice in motion.
EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF FIR:
As I’ve mentioned above, FIRs cannot be taken as substantive pieces of evidence. This is because these statements are not taken under oath and hence can be fabricated, manipulated and tainted moreover, these statements do not get cross-exanimated in courts and are not made during the proceedings or during trial.
Yet however, FIRs do possess evidentiary value than other statements in reference with cognizable cases because they first and foremost corroborate the statements made by the informant and also helps to cross-examinate the informant. They also, in scenarios where the case prolongs for too long or due to any other reason if the informants start to forget any detail it, then refreshes their memory. They also act as an excellent measure to judge the creditworthiness of the informant and lastly helps ascertain the information related to the happening of an offence.
An FIR can be considered as substantial evidence only in the following scenarios: -
Firstly, when the declaration is made by the person who is dead. Secondly, when the incident took place in the presence of Station House Officers and the injured person makes the statement to the officer, and lastly when the informant doesn't remember the facts but is certain about the facts stated within the FIR.
CORROBORATIVE VALUE OF AN FIR:
An FIR can have corroborative value under Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 in the sense that it could be used to contradict the informant under Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that to be corroboration of any sort, the previous statement must disclose an equivalent fact or the time. It must be presented before any authority having the legal competence to research the actual fact and also be proved within the court.
Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 refers to the method in which one can contradict the witness during the cross-examination using their written statements.
SUPPORTING CASE LAWS:
1. State Of Andhra Pradesh vs Punati Ramulu and Others on 19 February, 1993 Citations: AIR 1993 SC 2644, 1993 CriLJ 3684, 1994 Supp (1) SCC 590
In this case, a constable refused to write down a complaint on the basis that the area in which the crime had taken place was not under the territorial jurisdiction of his police station.
The Supreme Court held that, the refusal of recording a complaint amounts to the dereliction of duty (which means to neglect one’s duties), because any lack of jurisdiction would not have prevented the constable from recording the complaint.
It should also be noted that a message sent via phone call to a police officer and if said police officer records the same in his/her station diary and it is regarding the information on a cognizable offence then this would also amount to an FIR.
2. Sevi And Anr. vs State of Tamil Nadu and Anr. on 3 March, 1981 Citations: AIR 1981 SC 1230, 1981 CriLJ 736, 1981 Supp (1) SCC 43
It was in this case where the Supreme Court held that the original FIR was suppressed by the police officer and a fake FIR had been substituted. When the FIR book or general diary had been asked for by the court the police officer was unable to produce the same. This created suspicion. (The police officer had hence asked to give sufficient clarifications.)
3. Rajinder Singh Katoch vs Chandigarh Administration & Ors on 12 October, 2007CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 1432 of 2007
It was held under this case that a police officer is legally bound, as a mandatory duty, to register an FIR. Moreover, if the information given is in line with section 154 of the CrPC, i.e it is of a cognisable offence, then the police officer can start the investigation WITHOUT obtaining any permission of the magistrate.
4. The State Of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh & Ors on 16 January, 1996 Citations: 1996 AIR 1393, 1996 SCC (2) 384
Under this case it was held that it is okay and completely justified to report sexual offences delayed, as it is understandable how such a sensitive matter would amount to slower and more though-out decision making by the victim and the victim’s family.
5. State Of Punjab vs Karnail Singh on 14 August, 2003
The court accepted the delay in the reporting of the FIR under this case because of the valid reason that the police station was far and it was not safe for them to travel to the police station as the murder happened at night and was due to terrorism activities that were taking place in that area at that time.
It was held under this case that the deliberate delay in lodging a complaint can be fatal.
7. State Of Haryana And Ors vs Ch. Bhajan Lal And Ors on 21 November, 1990 Citations: 1992 AIR 604, 1990 SCR Supl. (3) 259
Under this case it was held that if information has been given via phone call and IT IS NOT reduced into writing and signed by the informant then it can not be considered as an FIR.
8. Apren Joseph Alias Current Kunjukunju vs The State Of Kerala on 1 September, 1972 Citations: 1973 AIR, 1 1973 SCR (2) 16
The court held that it is the totality of the evidence that matters when it comes to deciding the case and the FIR is only one piece of such a collection of evidences.
9. Pandurang Chandrakant Mhatre vs State of Maharashtra on 8 October, 2009
The court held that the FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence. And as I have already mentioned above, this just means that the statement alone cannot be used as evidence, it merely is to corroborate the statement of the maker. It only helps in the proceeding of further investigations.
10. Darshan Singh vs State Of Punjab & Anr on 15 January, 2010
The prosecution must give sufficient explanation if any names of the accused are not mentioned in the FIR.
It was under this case where the court held that the information that is entered in the station dairy will also be considered as an FIR.
12. State Of Rajasthan vs N. K. Accused on 30 March, 2000 AND State Of Himachal Pradesh vs Gian Chand on 1 May, 2001
It was under these two cases where the court held that the mere delay in reporting an FIR cannot be a ground on its own for throwing the entire prosecution case over board.
An FIR depending on the situation can prove to be highly valuable and case changing however it can also prove to have very little value.Now if we look it through the point of view that it is highly crucial and holds a lot of evidentiary value then it can easily be considered asa vital piece of evidence in any trial either for the aim of evidence or for contradicting witnesses.It then becomes necessary that such reportsbe recorded irrespective of the circumstances andit’s the duty of the officer to initiate the investigation as soon as the information is received.
Moreover, when we look into the evidentiary value of an FIR, we find the statements recorded by the police officers aren’t admissible within the court of justice and hence the ascertainment of the facts by the police officerswould also come under the umbrella of important pieces of evidence but again not a substantive piece of evidence.
And so, its safe to conclude that in most cases FIRs can be considered, if not crucial pieces of evidence, then at least defiantly as, useful pieces of evidence than can prove to be truly helpful.