Law in Motion: First Information Report – how it works
Non-registration of FIRs takes the citizens away from the police, creating distrust because of ‘perceived partiality’ on the part of the police.
The CrPC, dedicates a special Chapter (XII) to investigation - “Information To The Police And Their Powers To Investigate”. This chapter elaborates the powers and procedures to be followed by the police in conducting investigation into offences. The powers are with regard to cognizable offences as well as non-cognizable offences but the powers u/s 156 CrPC to investigate cognizable offences are virtually unfettered, so long as they are in accordance with the CrPC (Chapter XII). The magistrates and courts are not usually empowered to intervene in police investigation or excesses unless a non-interference would result in a gross miscarriage of justice.
FIRST INFORMATION REPORTS:
Section 154. Information in cognizable cases-
1. Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.
This ‘every information’ which is to be reduced to writing and entered in a book is commonly known as First information Report (FIR). Just a simple analysis of the above clause makes the following things clear:
a) Information has to be regarding a cognizable offence (where police can arrest without warrant);
b) Every such information;
c) Information has to be given to the O/C of a police station – this actually translates to mean, the officer who is holding charge as the O/C at the time and not the O/C by name-designation;
d) Such information if given orally, shall be reduced to writing:
- By the O/C; or
- Under his direction;
e) It shall be signed by the person giving it – this translates to – either the person making the complainant signs it or would put a thumb impression. However, in modern times, even sending a complaint/report by email or whatsapp or such other electronic medium (telephone call to PCR) would be acceptable, especially if the sender of the electronic communication is identifiable. This report/complaint is the only statement to the police which has to be signed by the person.
f) The substance thereof shall be entered in a book – this, traditionally, used to be a register or a booklet prescribed by the State governments. However, with the passage of times, the book/register has become standardised throughout the country. Moreover, now this has been replaced by Integrated Investigation Form (IIF) to aid in the digitisation and computerisation of data. This form is called the First Information Report (IIF-1).
In practice, whenever the O/C receives a report/complaint, he has to, strictly speaking, make an entry of the report in the GD (even if he does not register an FIR). Simultaneously, the O/C makes a determination whether the report discloses the commission of a ‘cognizable offence’. This is a subjective decision but is governed by the provisions of the First Schedule of the CrPC which gives an extensive tabulation of various acts and omissions listed in the Indian penal Code and on their cognizability or non-cognizability and whether the offences are bailable or non-bailable.
Where the O/C determines that the offence is cognizable, he has NO OPTION but to register an FIR. Thus, theoretically, all the reports disclosing commission of cognizable offences have to be registered as FIRs.
However, if the information is given by the woman against whom an offence pertaining to Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc., Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, Sexual harassment, Assault or Criminal force with intent to disrobe, Stalking, Rape and its related offences then such information shall be recorded, by a woman police officer or any woman officer.
2. A copy of the information as recorded under sub-section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.
This section on police reports or FIR makes it mandatory on the police officer to give a copy of the FIR so registered to the informant, FREE OF COST.
This provision has two simple connotations:
- It is a duty cast upon the police officer or police station to give a copy of the FIR to the informant
- The copy has to be given free of cost.
Therefore, it is clear that not only a copy of the GDE but also of the FIR have to be given free of cost to the informant.
There is no money to be charged or given. The police stations are supposed to be allocated budget for all this work, officially. It is no excuse to charge money even for paper or pen or stationery or ‘chai-paani kharcha’ or registration or entry charges or in any other words.
3. Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in sub-section (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.
This provision is a redressal mechanism. Simply explained, if a complainant or an informant is NOT SATISFIED that his information (which disclosed commission of a cognizable offence) was not registered as an FIR, he can complain to the concerned SP for redressal.
Although the CrPC says SP, actually, a complaint against refusal can be sent to any senior officer – SDPO or Additional SP or DIG or IG for redressal. All senior officers can exercise all powers of an O/C:
“Section 36. Police officers superior in rank to an officer in charge of a police station may exercise the same powers, throughout the local area to which they are appointed, as may be exercised by such officer within the limits of his station.”
In practice, in many states, every SP Office has a police-station working directly under him. The SP can assign such complaints to this police station for registration of FIRs or inquiries or even call for a report from the concerned police station or SDPOs/Additional SPs etc.
However, there is a common grouse among the public that police does not register FIRs even when cognizable cases are clearly made out. This practice is clearly incorrect and is responsible for a lot of ills pertaining to the law and order in the society as well as the relative lack of trust and friendliness between police and public. Non-registration of FIRs takes the citizens away from the police, creating distrust because of ‘perceived partiality’ on the part of the police.
Information of crimes by persons with disabilities:
The CrPC makes special provisions safeguarding the interests of persons with temporary or permanent mental or physically disabilities.
In the event that the person against whom an offences like Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.,
Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, assault or criminal force with intent to disrobe, stalking, rape and its related offences, have been committed or attempted and the person is having temporary or permanent mental or physically disabilities, then such information shall be recorded by a police officer:
- at the residence of the person seeking to report such offence or
- at a convenient place of such person‘s choice, in the presence of an interpreter or a special educator.
The CrPC also provides that the recording of such information shall be video graphed and then the police officer shall get the statement of the person recorded by a Judicial Magistrate as soon as possible.
Section 166-A of IPC makes certain in-actions by police personnel punishable. In particular, this provision makes it punishable for a public servant (police officer) if he fails to record i.e., register FIR in relation to a list of cognizable offences - Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc., Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, assault or criminal force with intent to disrobe, stalking, rape and its related offences or word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
Therefore, if police fails to register FIRs, in the above cases, public should immediately inform and seek redressal with senior officers.
My friends in police and other public servants – magistrates or village authorities should be therefore cautious to immediately get FIRs recorded. A mere receipt of a complaint letter or a GD Entry is no excuse or protection for them.