Two FIRs for same offence permissible: Supreme Court
While on one hand the manner of recording of First Information Report (FIR) and the commission of offences revealing from FIR are take with caution and circumspection, the Supreme Court in a recent decision (Babubhai v. State of Gujarat) has approved the recording of more than one FIR in respect of same acts committed on the ground that the police is required to register the FIR on the basis of the information provided and that "where the version in the second FIR is different and they are in respect of the two different incidents/crimes, the second FIR is permissible".
Making a reference to the earlier decisions of the Court on the issue, the Bench declared the position of law in the following terms;
12. In Ram Lal Narang Vs. Om Prakash Narang & Anr. AIR 1979 SC 1791, this Court considered a case wherein two FIRs had been lodged. The first one formed part of a subsequent larger conspiracy which came to the light on receipt of fresh information. Some of the conspirators were common in both the FIRs and the object of conspiracy in both the cases was not the same. This Court while considering the question as to whether investigation and further proceedings on the basis of both the FIRs was permissible held that no straitjacket formula can be laid down in this regard. The only test whether two FIRs can be permitted to exist was whether the two conspiracies were identical or not. After considering the facts of the said case, the Court came to the conclusion that both conspiracies were not identical. Therefore, lodging of two FIRs was held to be permissible.
13. In T.T. Antony Vs. State of Kerala & Ors. (2001) 6 SCC 181, this Court dealt with a case wherein in respect of the same cognizable offence and same occurrence two FIRs had been lodged and the Court held that there can be no second FIR and no fresh investigation on receipt of every subsequent information in respect of the same cognizable offence or same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences. The investigating agency has to proceed only on the information about commission of a cognizable offence which is first entered in the Police Station diary by the Officer In-charge under Section 158 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter called the Cr.P.C.) and all other subsequent information would be covered by Section 162 Cr.P.C. for the reason that it is the duty of the Investigating Officer not merely to investigate the cognizable offence report in the FIR but also other connected offences found to have been committed in the course of the same transaction or the same occurrence and the Investigating Officer has to file one or more reports under Section 173 Cr.P.C. Even after submission of the report under Section 173(2) Cr.P.C., if the Investigating Officer comes across any further information pertaining to the same incident, he can make further investigation, but it is desirable that he must take the leave of the court and forward the further evidence, if any, with further report or reports under Section 173(8) Cr.P.C. In case the officer receives more than one piece of information in respect of the same incident involving one or more than one cognizable offences such information cannot properly be treated as an FIR as it would, in effect, be a second FIR and the same is not in conformity with the scheme of the Cr.P.C. The Court further observed as under:
“A just balance between the fundamental rights of the citizens under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and the expansive power of the police to investigate a cognizable offence has to be struck by the court. There cannot be any controversy that sub-section (8) of Section 173 CrPC empowers the police to make further investigation, obtain further evidence (both oral and documentary) and forward a further report or reports to the Magistrate……. However, the sweeping power of investigation does not warrant subjecting a citizen each time to fresh investigation by the police in respect of the same incident, giving rise to one or more cognizable offences, consequent upon filing of successive FIRs whether before or after filing the final report under Section 173(2) CrPC. It would clearly be beyond the purview of Sections 154 and 156 CrPC, nay, a case of abuse of the statutory power of investigation in a given case. In our view a case of fresh investigation based on the second or successive FIRs, not being a counter-case, filed in connection with the same or connected cognizable offence alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction and in respect of which pursuant to the first FIR either investigation is under way or final report under Section 173(2) has been forwarded to the Magistrate, may be a fit case for exercise of power under Section 482 CrPC or under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution.”
14. In Upkar Singh Vs. Ved Prakash & Ors. (2004) 13 SCC 292, this Court considered the judgment in T.T. Antony (supra) and explained that the judgment in the said case does not exclude the registration of a complaint in the nature of counter claim from the purview of the court. What had been laid down by this Court in the aforesaid case is that any further complaint by the same complainant against the same accused, subsequent to the registration of a case, is prohibited under the Cr.P.C. because an investigation in this regard would have already started and further the complaint against the same accused will amount to an improvement on the facts mentioned in the original complaint, hence, will be prohibited under section 162 Cr.P.C. However, this rule will not apply to a counter claim by the accused in the first complaint or on his behalf alleging a different version of the said incident. Thus, in case, there are rival versions in respect of the same episode, the Investigating Agency would take the same on two different FIRs and investigation can be carried under both of them by the same investigating agency and thus, filing an FIR pertaining to a counter claim in respect of the same incident having a different version of events, is permissible.
15. In Rameshchandra Nandlal Parikh Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr. (2006) 1 SCC 732, this Court reconsidered the earlier judgment including T.T. Antony (supra) and held that in case the FIRs are not in respect of the same cognizable offence or the same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences nor are they alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction or the same occurrence as the one alleged in the First FIR, there is no prohibition in accepting the second FIR.
16. In Nirmal Singh Kahlon Vs. State of Punjab & Ors. (2009) 1 SCC 441, this Court considered a case where an FIR had already been lodged on 14.6.2002 in respect of the offences committed by individuals. Subsequently, the matter was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which during investigation collected huge amount of material and also recorded statements of large number of persons and the CBI came to the conclusion that a scam was involved in the selection process of Panchayat Secretaries. The second FIR was lodged by the CBI. This Court after appreciating the evidence, came to the conclusion that matter investigated by the CBI dealt with a larger conspiracy. Therefore, this investigation has been on a much wider canvass and held that second FIR was permissible and required to be investigated. The Court held as under:
“The second FIR, in our opinion, would be maintainable not only because there were different versions but when new discovery is made on factual foundations. Discoveries may be made by the police authorities at a subsequent stage. Discovery about a larger conspiracy can also surface in another proceeding, as for example, in a case of this nature. If the police authorities did not make a fair investigation and left out conspiracy aspect of the matter from the purview of its investigation, in our opinion, as and when the same surfaced, it was open to the State and/or the High Court to direct investigation in respect of an offence which is distinct and separate from the one for which the FIR had already been lodged.”
17. Thus, in view of the above, the law on the subject emerges to the effect that an FIR under Section 154 Cr.P.C. is a very important document. It is the first information of a cognizable offence recorded by the Officer In-Charge of the Police Station. It sets the machinery of criminal law in motion and marks the commencement of the investigation which ends with the formation of an opinion under Section 169 or 170 Cr.P.C., as the case may be, and forwarding of a police report under Section 173 Cr.P.C. Thus, it is quite possible that more than one piece of information be given to the Police Officer Incharge of the Police Station in respect of the same incident involving one or more than one cognizable offences. In such a case, he need not enter each piece of information in the Diary. All other information given orally or in writing after the commencement of the investigation into the facts mentioned in the First Information Report will be statements falling under Section 162 Cr.P.C. In such a case the court has to examine the facts and circumstances giving rise to both the FIRs and the test of sameness is to be applied to find out whether both the FIRs relate to the same incident in respect of the same occurrence or are in regard to the incidents which are two or more parts of the same transaction. If the answer is affirmative, the second FIR is liable to be quashed. However, in case, the contrary is proved, where the version in the second FIR is different and they are in respect of the two different incidents/crimes, the second FIR is permissible. In case in respect of the same incident the accused in the first FIR comes forward with a different version or counter claim, investigation on both the FIRs has to be conducted.