What is an F.I.R.?

The full form of an F.I.R. is ‘First Information Report’. The term is self-explanatory as it is the very first information furnished to the Police by a person with respect to a crime. Such information can be submitted to the officer-in-charge of a police station either in writing or orally, which is then reduced to writing by the Police Officer-in-charge or any other Officer of the Police Station authorized in this regard. If the information is given orally and reduced to writing by the Police Officer, such Police Officer is duty-bound to read out the contents penned down by him. Also, the First Information Report has to be necessarily signed by the informant, whether given in a written form or reduced to writing.

It isn’t necessary that all the minute details of the incident are given to the Police. However, there must be some definite information of a ‘cognizable offence’ having taken place, and a broad picture of the incident/s should be narrated. It must be kept in mind that the allegations made in the First Information Report do not have a strong evidentiary value and will have to be subsequently proved during the course of trial in a competent court of law.

Are you entitled to a copy of the F.I.R.?

The law mandates that a copy of the report be given to the informant free of charge. A copy of the F.I.R. is also sent to a Judicial Magistrate, generally the Chief Judicial Magistrate of that district. If the Police deny providing a copy of the report, the informant can write a complaint to the Superintendent of Police concerned and also get a certified copy of the F.I.R. from the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court.

Importance of a First Information Report.

The F.I.R. is a crucial document as it sets the investigation into motion. The Police cannot take any action unless they are given information of an alleged crime. Further, registering of an F.I.R. may act as a safeguard for the informant or the victim in certain situations e.g. if the informant’s cell phone gets stolen and is misused, later on, the proof that he had reported the incident to the Police shall stand as a safeguard for him and may exonerate him from any liability arising out of the misuse of his phone.

When should you register the F.I.R.?

An F.I.R. should be registered at the earliest possible opportunity as the informant is generally in a better position to narrate the facts immediately after the incident. While there is no legal bar in registering an F.I.R. even a long time after the incident, however, such F.I.R.’s may be looked upon with suspicion by the Courts of Law unless an adequate reason for the delay is accorded. It must be further noted that delay in registering a First Information Report is looked upon with a relatively liberal view in case of sexual offences against women.

Who can register an F.I.R.?

There’s a general misconception that a First Information Report can only be registered by the victim or someone related to him/her or someone related to the incident. However, the law is very clear that a First Information Report can be registered by any person having knowledge of an incident and can even be someone completely unrelated to the alleged incident.

Duty of Police to register an F.I.R.

As per the law, it is the duty of the Police Officer-in-charge of a Police Station to register the First Information Report if the information discloses a ‘cognizable offence’. Cognizable offences are those offences that warrant or permit the Police to initiate an investigation without the sanction of a judicial magistrate or, in other words, the cases wherein the Police can take suo-moto cognizance. Such offences are of a relatively serious nature and are considered as offences against the State, e.g., murder, rapes etc., as opposed to ‘non-cognizable’ offences, which are considered to be private wrongs, e.g., defamation.

If the information does not disclose a cognizable offence, the Police Officer may hold a preliminary inquiry. However, such an enquiry can only be held to determine whether a cognizable offence has occurred or not. If the inquiry indicates the occurrence of a cognizable offence, then the Police shall register an F.I.R. and start the investigation. However, if no such offence is disclosed and Police decides to close the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure is to be given to the informant within a week. The closure must disclose in brief the reasons for not proceeding further with the complaint.

As per directions of the Supreme Court, a preliminary inquiry may be held in the following cases:

i) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes

ii) Commercial offences

iii) Medical negligence cases

iv) Corruption cases

v) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.

The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.

Can the F.I.R. be registered in any police station?

Although the report must be ideally registered in the Police station having territorial jurisdiction, it is not always necessary that the incident is reported to the police station having territorial jurisdiction over the area where the incident has allegedly occurred. The territorial jurisdiction of a police station refers to the geographical limits over which such police station exercises control, e.g. Lal Chowk, the centre of the Srinagar city mainly falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Kothi Bagh Police Station.

An informant may report the incident to any police station, whether or not having jurisdiction over the area, and the Police Officer-in-charge is duty-bound to record the information. However, if the information is given to a police station not having jurisdiction, then such information will not be given a serial number in the register wherein the F.I.R.’s are recorded and the serial no. 00 will be given to such a report. The Police Officer shall then transfer the complaint to the police station having apparent jurisdiction in order to allow them to initiate an investigation. Such an F.I.R. is known as ‘Zero F.I.R.’, and it stands on the same pedestal as a normal F.I.R.

What to do if the Police are not registering an F.I.R.?

If the Police Officer-in-charge refuses to register an F.I.R., the informant can straightaway post the complaint in writing to the Superintendent of Police concerned. If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a ‘cognizable offence’, he is duty-bound to either investigate the case himself or direct a Police Officer subordinate to him to investigate the case.

Also, a complaint may be submitted to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, who can then direct the Police to register an F.I.R. and investigate the case.

Published on 1st July, 2021


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