By- Ujjwal Tripathi
F.I.R. is the earliest report recorded by the police officer in case of a criminal offence. It contains information such as commission of an offence, victim name, time at which offence was committed etc. The provisions of F.I.R. are defined under section 154 of CrPC.
It is an essential step for initiating criminal law. In Hasib v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that "the object of a first information report from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law in motion. From the point of view of investigating authorities it is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps for tracing and bringing to book the guilty party."
● Section 154(1) of CrPC makes certain that there needs to be information, and such information must relate to cognizable offence. The cognizable offence has been defined under section 2(c) of CrPC. These offences are more severe in nature, and police have the power to arrest the accused without a warrant.
● It must be in writing.
● It should be read over to the informant by the officer.
● It should be duly signed by the person giving such information, and the officer has to maintain the record of that information in a book in such form as prescribed by the state government.
● A copy of the recorded information should be given free of cost to the informant.
F.I.R. vs Police complaint
The significant difference between F.I.R. and a police complaint is that F.I.R. is related explicitly to cognizable offences. In contrast, a police complaint can relate to both cognizable and non-cognizable offences. A complaint must be delivered to a magistrate either orally or in writing, whereas the first information report must be filed at the police station closest to the crime scene.
Delay in filing F.I.R.
If there is an unjustified and unexplained delay in filing an F.I.R., it is likely to raise suspicion or allow the prosecution to introduce a crafted story. It is the prosecution's responsibility to explain why the F.I.R. was not filed sooner. It does not lose its evidential value if it is correctly explained. A mere delay in filing an F.I.R., on the other hand, is not fatal to the prosecution's case.
It was held in Raghbir Singh v. The State of Haryana that heading to the hospital to save the victim's life rather than going to the police station first was an acceptable and valid reason for the delay in filing the F.I.R.
Refusal by police to lodge F.I.R.
In some cases, police may refuse to lodge F.I.R. The reasons can be both valid and invalid. It will be deemed legal in circumstances where they lack jurisdiction, are unable to take cognizance, or the offence is non-cognizable. However, it is against the law if the police decline to register the complaint for obvious reasons, without any substantial legal basis.
Suppose an F.I.R. is refused due to a lack of jurisdiction. In that case, the police officer is required to record information about the commission of a cognizable offence and submit it to the relevant police station. Otherwise, it would be considered a breach of duty.
There are both statutory and judicial remedies available to such informants if the police officer refuses to lodge F.I.R.
Section 154(3) CrPC: When an informant's right to file an F.I.R. is denied, he or she might go to the Superintendent of Police and present the substance of the information in writing via postal mail. If the Superintendent of Police believes that such information reveals the commission of a cognizable offence, he may conduct an inquiry himself or instruct an investigation to be conducted by any police officer under his authority.
Section 156(3), read with section 190 CrPC: If an informant is still dissatisfied after seeking the remedy outlined in section 154(3), he or she may pursue the remedy set forth in section 156(3) read in accordance with section 190 CrPC. This remedy works in a similar way to filing a complaint about non-cognizable offences. A magistrate takes cognizance of an offence under section 190 and subsequently orders for consequential investigations under section 156(3) through this method.
A writ of mandamus can be filed under Article 226 or 32 of the Indian Constitution, instructing police officers to do their duties and submit an F.I.R.
F.I.R. is the first step in setting the criminal law in motion and defined under section 154 of CrPC. It can only be filed in case of cognizable offences, and it is also the essential piece of supporting evidence upon which the prosecution's whole case is formed.
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