Law in Motion: FIR- basic questions one needs to know
Refusing to register an FIR on jurisdictional ground could now cost a policeman a year in jail.
Having briefly outlined things like what is an FIR, where can it be lodged, who can lodge an FIR, what form/format should it be in, when it can be lodged and how an FIR can be lodged, there are some other basic questions which a commoner needs to know. Let us address some of them in the subsequent paras.
a) Can an FIR be Lodged any time after an offence is committed –
This question can be considered from two perspectives – before an offence is committed and after.
There can be four stages in the commission of offences – intention, preparation, attempt, commission. There are only a few offences where all four stages are punishable. Some such offences are dacoity, sedition and terrorist acts. While preparation, attempt and commission (act) are obvious acts which usually have external manifestations which may be visible, ‘intention’ is usually inferred from a persons conduct individually or from being a part of a group or association which may be overtly involved in any of the other three stages. Therefore for offences which invite punishment or culpability at all four stages, it is possible to report to the police and lodge FIRs at any stage where a person or police officer comes to know about it. It is not necessary to wait for the next stage or an outward manifestation to occur. As I have suggested earlier, the safest course is to report to the police. This is also desirable because knowledge to any person about any of the four stages and failure to report to the police can be construed as complicity or abetting the conspiracy. This is more so where a duty is cast upon the public.
The second aspect is – within how much time after commission of an offence can an FIR be lodged. There can be variations in this aspect based on when the offence was committed, when the offence becomes known, when the information about an accused/suspect becomes known etc.
There is a bar to courts taking cognizance of offences i.e., refusal to entertain complaints/information and register FIRs due to inordinate delays. This is called a period of limitation.
Usually there is no limitation for registration of FIRs. However, there are specific time limitations for Court to take cognizance for various types of offences. It is for this reason that delays in registration of FIRs should be avoided.
Thus, the beginning of the period of limitation usually commences from:
On the day when the offense was committed.
In case the individual aggrieved by the act had no information regarding the commission of the offense or the police officer, it begins on the day when it comes to the information of the aggrieved party or police examining the case whichever is earlier.
When the individual who has committed an act is obscure or not being identified, the first date on which the accused was known either to the aggrieved individual or to the police officer examining the case whichever is earlier.
However, the period of limitation starts from the next day i.e., the first day from which the period of limitation starts to be calculated shall not be included while computing the period of limitation.
Secondly, the law provides for broad categories of period of limitation as below:
For offences punishable with fine only -limitation period is six months;
For offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, the limitation is one year; and
For offences punishable with imprisonment exceeding one year but not exceeding three years, the limitation is three years.
The above limitation period are indicative and usually followed strictly. However, their strict applicability is subject to many other factors and at times it can be extended to reasonable extent, if judicial conscience is satisfied or where the laws have been amended.
In some cases the delay, if any, may be condoned by the courts if the court finds it appropriate to do so. In such cases, nevertheless, an FIR can still be lodged by the police but it’ll become infructuous i.e., purposeless as the court will not be able to take the notice of matter, unless the court otherwise condones the delay for some satisfactory reasons rendered by the victim or complainant.
b) What can be done if the Police (including SP) refuse to register FIR?
If the police refuses to register and FIR (including the SP who may refuse to register an FIR), the informant is legally entitled to file a complaint to the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate u/s 156(3) read with Sec. 190 of the criminal procedure thereby praying FIR to be registered by the police and investigation into the matter.
Secondly, the informant may also file a Writ Petition in the respective High Court may be filed for the issuance of Writ of Mandamus against the defaulting Police officers, inter alia, to Register the FIR and directing him to show cause about:
(i) why he has not registered the FIR; and/or
(ii) why disciplinary proceedings for “Misconduct” should not be initiated against him for dereliction of duty; and/or
why he should not be suspended from Police service for interfering in the administration of justice and shielding the accused person.
Refusing to register an FIR on jurisdictional ground could now cost a policeman a year in jail. A Letter Petition in this connection (refusal to register on ground of jurisdiction) may be lodged and submitted to the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court/Chief Justice of India, praying them to take Su Moto Cognizance of the alleged contempt of the Court.
A copy of said letter may be sent to the concerned Police Officer. The status of such letter petition can be inquired through an application under the Right to Information (RTI).
Besides, request for registration of FIR, the petitioner, in the Writ Petition in respective High Court may seek damages/compensation, if the inaction of the Police on the complaint/non-registration of FIR, has resulted in frustration/deprivation of life and liberty of any person, guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution of India.
The Supreme Court has held that genuineness, reliability and credibility of the information is no ground to refuse to register the information, if a cognizable offence is made out in the information given to the police. In fact, refusal to record the information is a dereliction of duty on the part of the police officer.
c) False F.I.R:
Sometimes, there is a tendency on the part of individuals to file false or frivolous complaints. False FIRs can be lodged by informant or by the police to implicate a person in a case. False FIRs by policemen are more prevalent than those by individuals. Under Indian criminal law, lodging a false F.I.R. against someone is a punishable offence u/s 182 and u/s 211 of the Indian Penal Code.
Sec. 182 prescribes a punishment for six months and fine in case any person gives false information to a public servant, on the basis of which the public servant takes certain action which he might not have taken if he had known the true state of facts.
On the other hand, u/s 211, there is no use of the term ‘public servant’. Thus if any person who institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceedings against a person to cause him injury, knowing that the complaint and allegations are false, is liable to face imprisonment for a period which may extend to two years. If the charge alleged discloses an offence punishable by death/minimum imprisonment for seven years, the informant is punishable with imprisonment for a maximum period of 7 years.
It is the duty of the authorities to initiate proceedings u/s 182 IPC if they conclude that the complaint given is a false one.
e) Remedy against FIRs against a person:
If a person gets to know that an F.I.R. has been registered against him and he either knows that it is false and baseless or has reason to believe that it is false, as a matter of abundant caution, to avoid arrest, he can apply for anticipatory bail u/s 438 of the CrPC.
Besides this, the aggrieved or accused person can file a complaint about the offence of defamation in the Court.
Further, a person against whom such false complaint has been filed can file a petition u/s 482 of the CrPC praying for the quashing of the F.I.R.