The law exists to protect citizens from devious and unwarranted acts. However, the issue in most cases is, every citizen may not be fully aware of which law is put in place to come to their rescue under what circumstances. For instance, we are aware that we have the right to legally register a complaint against an individual who has committed a criminal act against us, but, we do not know the detailed procedure for doing the same.
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 under Section 154 enumerates the concept of a First Information Report, famously known as an FIR that is nothing but the first available information that is provided regarding the commission of a cognizable offence (where police have a right to arrest without a warrant) to the officer in-charge of a police station within whose jurisdiction, the offence has been committed.
Once an offence has been committed, any person, whether the victim or any other person who has knowledge of the incident (termed as an informant) can proceed to register a complaint at the nearest police station which then has to be reduced in writing and mandatorily read over and explained to the informant. Further, this information once given, also has to be signed by the person who has given the same and the substance thereof has to be entered in a register or book that is kept by such police officer in accordance with the rules prescribed by the respective State Government.
At this point, a proviso has been added to Section 154 in 2013 which mentions that, if the information has been provided by a woman against whom an offence has been committed under Sections 326A (voluntarily causing grievous hurt using acid), 326B (throwing acid), 354 (outraging modesty of a woman), 354A (sexual harassment), 376 (rape) and related offences or 509 (insulting modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, then such sensitive information has to be recorded by a woman police officer.
Further, the proviso also states that, where such an offence has been committed against a woman who is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then it is the duty of the police officer recording the information to visit the residence of the victim that wishes to report such offence or any other convenient place of the victim’s choice.
While such an FIR is being filed, the recording of such information also has to be videographed and a copy of such FIR has to be given to the informant, absolutely free of cost.
Sometimes, it so happens that the victim visits the police station to register an FIR but the officer in-charge of the police station may not oblige and decline to register the same. We commonly hear of incidents where people mention that the police refused to register an FIR due to which diligent reporting of crime somehow suffers a setback.
At this point, it is necessary for every one of us to know that the Code of Criminal Procedure under Section 154, sub clause 3 provides every such aggrieved person with the option to send across the substance of the information pertaining to commission of the crime in writing and by post to the concerned Superintendent of Police, who then, upon receiving the information and satisfying himself that the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence, can either investigate the matter himself or can direct an investigation to be made by any police officer that is subordinate to him, in accordance with guidelines of the Code.
An FIR can also be filed regardless of the location at which the offence has been committed or has occurred. This is known as a Zero FIR as it is given the serial number ‘0’ (zero) and is immediately transferred to the police station holding jurisdiction of the location where the offence took place. Once the requisite police station receives such zero FIR, the officer in-charge assigns a serial number to such FIR.
Generally, there is no set time limit or limitation period for filing of the FIR. Nonetheless, the FIR has to be filed as soon as possible after the offence has taken place. Unnecessary delays in filing of the FIR could affect the case on both, the technical as well as legal front. Once the FIR has been registered, it must be reviewed carefully to check for the name and address of the informant, along with crucial details of the alleged crime such as date, time, place, etc.
Therefore, it is advisable that every person who is the victim of a crime must first get in touch with the police and carry out necessary recording of the information as the FIR is the first step towards setting the wheel of a criminal investigation and trial into motion!
(The writer is a lawyer and
Assistant Professor at
V M Salgaocar College of Law,