Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Multiple FIRs against the same accused and based on the same set of facts can be quashed.
  • Multiple FIRs on the same issue and same facts can be considered as an ‘abuse of statutory power of investigation’.
  • Kerala High Court in its recent judgment made it clear that there cannot be a second FIR based on the same allegations as the first one, especially when the first FIR was quashed.
  • The Supreme Court in the Case of Arnab Goswami v/s the Union of India and Ors. highlighted the legality of multiple FIRs.

INTRODUCTION

An FIR or First Information Report is filed when one is a victim of a cognizable offense i.e. offense for which the police can take action without prior permission of the Court of Law. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with Information in Cognizable Offenses – ‘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 a writing format by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof should be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such a form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.’ There have been instances where there are multiple FIRs filed based on the same set of facts. What is the legality of such FIRs? Keep reading to find out!

KERALA HIGH COURT’S RECENT JUDGMENT

The Petitioner in the present case was V. S. Achuthanandan and the Respondents were the State of Kerala, Oommen Chandy (former CM of Kerala), E. K. Bharath Bhushan (Retired Chief Secretary to Government), Ashok Kumar Singh (Former Managing Director, Kerala Water Authority), T. V. Vijaya Kumar (Additional Secretary, Revenue Department), Avruthi Mall Management Company Limited, Jayesh Sonaji (Managing Director, Avruthi Mall), Artech Realtors Ltd., and T. S. Ashok (Managing Director Artech Realtors Ltd.).

A Complaint was filed by the former CM of State of Kerala, V. S. Achuthanandan against the order of the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge Thiruvananthapuram that dismissed the complaint filed by the Petitioner against Respondents under Prevention of Corruption Act. The Complaint filed by the Petitioner alleged that a main sewerage pumping line of the Kerala Water Authority that was laid diagonally through the property of Avruthi Mall Management Co. Ltd. (one of the Respondents) was shifted to a part of the property that effectuated construction over a larger area.

The land over which the sewerage line was drawn is government land that had been vested with the Water Authority of Kerala under section 16 of the Kerala Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 1986. Respondents 6 and 7 had reduced the property into their possession by creating false documents. The Complaint alleged that by shifting the sewerage line, the Respondents 2 to 5 aided the Respondents 6 to 9 in gaining an advantage. The order of shifting the pipeline was issued by suppressing adverse reports and was violative of the prescribed procedure. The Petitioner contended that this shift helped all the Respondents gain an undue pecuniary advantage by reducing the Government property in their possession.

Before the present complaint was filed by the petitioner, another public-spirited person had already filed an FIR before the Lok Ayukta on the same issue which was quashed. The Counsel for Petitioner, Advocate S. Chandrasekharan Nair, contended that both the FIRs contained allegations about different issues and it was improper to reject the present FIR by conducting a preliminary enquiry.The Petitioner relied on Lalita Kumari v/s State of U.P. in their arguments.

The Hon’ble High Court of Kerala held that both the FIRs were on the same grounds and a second FIR cannot be registered on the same facts as the first, especially when the first FIR has been quashed by the Court. The Court noted the reference of the decision of Apex Court in the case of Lalita Kumari made by the Petitioners was misplaced and that the case had no relation to the present case as it did not deal with a situation where a preliminary enquiry is bound to be made when a second FIR is already registered on the same facts as the first. The Court observed that question considered by the Bench in this case dealt with the duty of the police to register an FIR on receipt of information regarding the commission of cognizable offense/s. The Court in its judgment also stated the conclusion in the case of Lalita Kumari v/s State of U.P.

Further, the High Court also considered the case of T. T. Anthony v/s State of Kerala concerning the legality of registering a second FIR on the same allegations. The Court held that in the case, the Special Judge was justified in rejecting the complaint, as a second FIR based on the same allegations cannot be registered.

Finally, the Court gave the verdict that in its opinion, a preliminary enquiry is not bound to be held in the cases where there is a subsequent FIR based on the very same allegations as the first one and a second FIR cannot be registered on the same allegation as the first one, especially when the first FIR was quashed.

SUPREME COURT’S ELUCIDATION ON THE LEGALITY OF MULTIPLE FIRS

In the latest case of Arnab Goswami v/s Union of India & Ors., multiple FIRs had been filed concerning the issue. In this case, the Apex Court placed reliance on the decision in the case of T. T. Anthony v/s State of Kerala and held that a second FIR cannot be filed which concerns the same cognizable offense as the first FIR. It was also held that once an FIR has been filed under the provision of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, any information received after the commencement of the investigation cannot be a ground to file a second FIR.

The Court further held that except counter-cases, an FIR filed based on the same or connected offense would be ‘abuse of statutory power of investigation’ and will be a fit case for exercising the power u/s 482 of CrPC or Articles 226/227 of the Constitution.

The Court also relied on the decision in Kari Choudhary v/s Mst. Sita Devi, where it was held that two FIRs cannot be filed against the same accused in respect to the same case. For further supplementary explanation, the Top Court also considered the decision in Upkar Singh v/s Ved Prakash and Babu Bhai v/s State of Gujarat which were concerned with filing two FIRs with different versions or counterclaim. Only in such cases, the investigation for both the FIRs has to be concluded.

In the Arnab Goswami case, the Court ordered all the other FIRs to be quashed for being identical and abuse of process and were not counterclaims; except the Maharashtra FIR.

CONCLUSION

Hence, it can be concluded that one cannot file a second FIR when there already is an FIR based on the same allegations and same set of facts. A preliminary enquiry for a second FIR is not binding to be conducted if there’s a same FIR registered on the same issue first. However, if the FIRs are two different versions or with a counter claim, the investigation may very well be carried on. If there are multiple FIRs based on the same issue, it can be held as ‘abuse of statutory power of investigation’.

So before a complaint is filed in the public interest, it is important to cross-check if there is an FIR already registered based on the same issue. This makes it clear that one cannot file two FIRs on the same issue. The second FIR will not be taken into consideration if there’s already one FIR registered based on the same facts.


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