Crime and its reporting happen in relays, a country for its good governance & maintenance of tranquility requires complaints to be registered, these then need to be taken in cognizance and resolved in an established manner. A proper administration of the criminal justice system, therefore, requires balancing the rights of the victim and the accused. In India, the distribution of power takes place among its departments and thus reporting of crime, and its settlement happens by involving various branches of government. Reporting of crime is the initial step in the criminal justice system. The ‘First Information Report’ is an essential process in the investigation of a criminal case, in common parlance and in media reporting.
What Is FIR?
On a plain reading of the abbreviation ‘FIR', we can interpret its meaning on its face value, that it is the information of a crime reported by any person and recorded by the police officer on duty, it is the original & primary recording of occurring of any offence . FIR is the earliest report made to the police officer expecting him to take action in the matter. It is the foundation of the criminal justice system. It is nothing but a statement of the informant at a police station before a police officer, recorded in the manner provided by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
> FIR is that document that puts the victim’s side of the story; it acts as a tool upon which authorities start investigating. It also has the characteristic of being de novo because it is as fresh as it can be.
It requires to be written in simple language as far as possible and is written in the first person. The language of section 154 keeps its interpretation as simple as it can be that, when the reported offence is such, which is considered as a cognizable offence , which allows the investigating agency to arrest a person without procuring a warrant , the police will then register the FIR in its books with no prejudice.
Consider one example here- the section uses the word ‘report’. It may be possible that there may be more than one report of the exact incidence; in this case, the report which is recorded first amongst the other would be considered as First Information Report.
Need of FIR & Objective of Section 154
Section 154 is as important as any other provision in the criminal proceeding; it not only registers complaints about the happening of an offence but also promotes the exercise of the executive powers of the state; to maintain law & order and tranquility of the state. All the competent investigating authority exercise their powers of investigating and thereof in twofold, either they get the information of happening of a cognizable offence or they are reported by any person through the way of registering an FIR which initiates the investigation or inquiry.
> A duty has been casted upon the police by adding “shall’ in section 154(1), which is mandatory in character. The mandate of S.154 (1) does not confer any discretion on the officer in charge for registering it.
In Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. , the Supreme Court held the legislative intent is, therefore, quite clear, i.e., to ensure that every cognizable offence is promptly investigated in accordance with law. This being the legal position, there is no reason that there should be any discretion or option left with the police to register or not to register an FIR when information is given about the commission of a cognizable offence. Every cognizable offence must be investigated promptly in accordance with the law, and all information provided under Section 154 of the Code about the commission of a cognizable offence must be registered as an FIR so as to initiate an offence. The requirement of Section 154 of the Code is only that the report must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence, and that is sufficient to set the investigating machinery into action.
The legislature has consciously used the expression “information” in S.154 and has used “reasonable” and “credible” in S.41 of Cr.P.C. which shows that reasonableness and credibility is not a precedent in getting FIR registered but to arrest and it is for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence on the ground that he is not satisfied with reasonableness or credibility. It is the first step to access a criminal justice system for a victim; it upholds the rule of law in as the ordinary person brings forth the commission of a cognizable crime in the knowledge of the state.
Prerequisites for Registration of FIR
Reasonableness or credibility of the information is not a quintessential condition for the registration of a case under S.154. Needless to say that FIR is to be filed only in cognizable cases, also information per se doesn’t constitute to FIR, and here are some important conditions that need to be fulfilled -
* The information must be sufficiently definite and clear enough to suspect that a cognizable offence has been committed. To get an FIR registered, the first information should also disclose the possibility of occurrence of a cognizable crime.
* Here the matter is not of a competent or incompetent informant, the information so given in an FIR may be hearsay or not given by an actual victim of crime.
* An FIR can be recorded, even if a single cognizable offence is found, amongst the non-cognizable  offences. There is no need for multiple offences.
* FIR shouldn’t be vague - Supreme Court of India in, State of U.P. vs. Nahar Singh ; held, “….Purpose of FIR is only to set the investigating agency in motion, it should neither be too vague nor too sketchy, yet non-mentioning of details of each and everything is no ground to reject the case of prosecution…”
* It should be made timely with no unreasonable delays. A prompt FIR diminishes the chances of any false or mala fide implication of the informant being tutored.
Evidentiary value of FIR in a case
Supreme Court, through its plethora of judgments, has stated that FIR is not an encyclopedia of a case, but the value it holds is unparallel. Because of its freshness in recording the information about the commission of a crime, its value cannot be undermined. It is the bible of the case, which is why it has been provided U/S 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that the first information report should be send forthwith to the concerned magistrate. On few occasions, FIR can be used as substantive evidence, like:-
* Dying Declaration u/s 32 of Evidence Act- Declaration when a person while deposing about the cause of his death had died.
* When injuries to a person are being caused in the presence of police personnel.
* A person making FIR becomes lunatic or unsound after making it or at the time of trial.
Under Section 157 & 145, Evidence Act, 1872, the FIR can be used as a document with other evidences and can be either corroborated or contradicted during the trial. If contents of the FIR can be corroborated, the guilt can be proved, if contradicted, previous statements can be questioned and can turn against prosecution.
FIR need not contain an exhaustive account of the incident. For instance, in the case of Superintendent of Police, C.B.I. vs. Tapan Kr. Singh7 held, “…It is well settled that a First Information Report is not an encyclopedia, which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported. An informant may lodge a report about the commission of an offence though he may not know the name of the victim or his assailant. He may not even know how the occurrence took place. What is significant is that the information so lodged must provide a basis for the police officer to suspect the commission of a cognizable offence….”.
How FIR gets transformed-
We are discussing a general procedure; some states may adopt a certain procedure accordingly, wherein after getting information-
> Registration of FIR is to be done in the FIR book or FIR register.
> One doesn’t have to pay any fees for getting it registered.
> After getting the information, registering it and duly signing it, A unique annual number is given for each FIR, for e.g.: - ‘Crime No. 0646/2020’
> A copy is to be given to the victim and accused (FREE OF COST)
> The gist of FIR or substance of FIR may be simultaneously noted in the general diary of the police station.
> When there is sufficient evidence, CHALLAN is prepared. In which every single document is affixed.
> When there is insufficient evidence, FIR is declared as UNTRACED, it may refer to either non-availability of name accused or any evidence.
After registering the FIR, the contents of the FIR cannot be changed or altered. Only High Court can quash FIR (power conferred u/s 482 of Cr.P.C. & Article 226 of Constitution Of India, 1950)
A very interesting question was discussed in Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of U.P.8 was dealt about registering FIR that, “…In case of inconsistency between provisions of S.154 and S.44of Police Act, 1861, with regard to whether FIR is to be registered in FIR book or General Diary, provisions of S.154 shall prevail and S.44 of Police Act, 1861 shall be void to the extent of repugnancy –hence, a contention that information will first be recorded in the General Diary and only after preliminary inquiry if required, shall the information be registered as FIR, is rejected….”.
False FIR- a misuse of law
We, humans, are bound to sabotage and exploit the privileges we have, and FIR is also not spared by our conduct. False or Fake FIR is a growing problem in these past decades, a law whose mandate was to report happening of crime and safeguard the interests of the victim is now being used to defame, jeopardise and sometimes take vengeance from a person. A baseless allegation made in a false FIR will result in wastage of public funds and the valuable time of police, courts and the person accused. Hence Section 2119 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 penalise the person giving false FIR.
These FIRs can have few things in common like unreasonable delays, discrepancies when trialled, colouring a civil matter to the criminal, vague and baseless allegation, lacks of freshness. Sometimes political rivalries are also fought through Fake FIRs. False FIR made in heinous crime like; rape can be very depressing and fatal. Cases of fake FIRs for rape- to extort money and to defame accused in society is becoming a game for few, which is a serious problem and wastes money & time, thus an abuse of law.
Thus, First Information Report’s mandate is to secure victims right under Article 21 of the Constitution and also not to jeopardise the rights accused, Supreme Court, in its plethora of judgments, has shown the importance of FIR and held how minimal things are to be taken care of when we discuss FIR. It sets the criminal justice system in motion; it remains the foundation of the criminal justice system in India as well. Its utility and importance are notable. Everything which happens in this code involves FIR, in some way or other. To investigate every cognizable crime promptly and in accordance with the law, the presence of FIR is a basic requirement. The principle of Ubi jus ibi remedium (where there is a right, there is a remedy) cannot find a better way to get its justice other than First Information Report.
1 Section 2(n) of Cr.P.C 1973.,- “offence” means any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force and includes any act in respect of which a complaint may be made under section 20 of the Cattletrespass Act, 1871 (1 of 1871);
2 Section 2(c) of Cr.P.C.1973 “cognizable offence” means an offence for which, and “cognizable case” means a case in which, a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without warrant;
3 Section 2(x) of Cr.P.C.1973 -"warrant-case" means a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years;
4 Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh & Ors (2014) 2 SCC 1
5 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 155 (4) Where a case relates to two or more offences of which at least one is cognizable, the case shall be deemed to be a cognizable case, notwithstanding that the other offences are non-cognizable.
6 State of U.P. vs. Nahar Singh AIR 1998 SC 1328
7 Superintendent of Police,C.B.I. vs. Tapan Kr. Singh, AIR 2003 SC 4410
9 “...Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person…”