F.I.R: Concept and Consequences of its Delay


Introduction

The first thing of bringing a Crime to the notice of the council of justice is lodging of a complaint through the police authorities. It is the duty of the police officer to record the complaint and this is formally known as First Information Report (FIR). An immediate lodging of information at the commission of offence at the first available opportunity is vital for an investigation of the matter. Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) deals with provision with respect to information of cognizable offence.

What is F.I.R? ‘First Information Report’ often used as F.I.R is a written document prepared by police after receiving information about some cognizable offence. This information is often registered as a complaint by the person who is the victim of a crime. Any person can notify the police about any crime either in writing or orally.

When can F.I.R be filed?

FIR is filed only for cognizable offences (those offences in which police does not require any warrant to arrest). According to it, the police have the right to arrest the accused person/ party and investigate into the matter. If an offence is not cognizable, the FIR is not filed and, in this case, the action is not possible without the intervention of the court.

There are 3 ways to file a FIR:

1. The victim can straight approach to the police station and can file a FIR through his oral or written statement.

2. FIR can be filed over investigation of the information received via PCR call.

3. After getting information of an offence, the Duty Officer of the police station sends ASI to the site, ASI writes a chit (a short report) after recording the statements of the witness. Based on this short report, the police file a FIR. However, this method is followed only for heinous crimes.

FIR has its own probative value and when a FIR is refused to be registered by the police in charge or if registration is delayed it can lead to miscarriage of justice where the accused has opportunity to tamper evidence or escape. The involvement of political or high net worth individuals to delay or stop registering a FIR is an impediment in effective administration of law and order.

Objective of Recording FIR

In Hasib v State of Bihar, the court held that the FIR record sets the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of investigating authorities 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. The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the report to the police in respect of commission of an offence is to obtain early information regarding the circumstances in which the crime was committed. In Thulia Kali v State of Tamil Nadu, the court said delay results in embellishment and the report gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity. There is also danger of introduction of a coloured version overstated account or fictional story as a result of discussion and contemplation.

Evidentiary Value Of FIR

A First Information report does not serve as substantial evidence i.e., it is not an evidence to the facts which it mentions. In case if there is changeability between the statement made in FIR and evidence recovered at the time of trial, it would only discredit the evidence at trial but will not make the statement made in the FIR to be considered as evidence. Thus, though in general FIR does not have evidentiary value, in exception case such as dying declaration, the FIR can be considered as evidence. In Macchi Singh v State of Punjab,dying declaration was considered as substantial evidence and good enough to support the order of conviction. Apart from this exception FIR is said to have corroborative value i.e., it will only confirm the evidence or can also contradict what is stated by the witness. The FIR need not contain all the information but should have certain details that aids investigation. It only sets law in motion. However if there is delay in registering an FIR, there may be miscarriage of justice as there is delay in investigation to begin which may give the wrongdoer an opportunity to destroy evidence or to escape. It was observed Emperor v. Khwaja, that FIR is very useful if recorded before there is time and opportunity to embellish or before the informant’s memory fades. Undue or unreasonable delay in lodging the FIR, therefore, inevitably gives rise to suspicion which puts the Court on guard to look for the possible motive and the explanation for the delay and consider its effect on the trustworthiness or otherwise of the prosecution version. Delay In FIR

The delay in registering FIR can be of three types:

i. Delay caused by the informant in getting the FIR registered with the Police

ii. Delay on part of the police in getting the FIR registered

iii. Delay in dispatching the FIR to the magistrate.


I. Delay in Lodging FIR by Informant

There is no duration of time which is fixed either by the legislature or the judiciary for giving information of a crime to the police. However, it has been observed that FIR has to be filed within reasonable time. The question of reasonable time being a matter is for determination of court in each case. Mere delay in lodging the FIR with the police is therefore, not necessarily, as a matter of law, fatal to prosecution. Even a long delay in lodging FIR in murder can be condoned if witnesses have no motive of implicating accused and have given plausible reason for delay. In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Om Prakash, the Supreme Court observed that there was delay of nearly 26 hours in lodging the FIR. But this did not affect the prosecution case as the case was related to rape of a minor and in such case the reputation and prestige of the family and career and life of a young child was involved. Although FIR is not substantive evidence, it cannot be denied that it has probative value. If there is unexplained delay in lodging FIR it can be fatal to the prosecution case. Although delay in filing FIR does not result in quashing the FIR but nevertheless gives rise to suspicion which puts the court on guard to look for the possible motive. Delay in giving first information can be condoned if there is satisfactory explanation. II. Delay by Police in Recording FIR by Police In-charge

At the stage of registration of a crime or the case, on the basis of information disclosing a cognizable offence in compliance of the mandate of Section 154 of CrPC the concerned police officer cannot embark upon an inquiry as to whether information laid by the informant is reliable or genuine and to refuse registration of a case on that ground. In State of Haryana v Bhajan Lal, it is manifestly clear that if the information disclosing cognizable offence is laid before a police officer in charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of Section 154(1) of CrPC the said officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in prescribed form that is to register a case on basis of such information. In State of AP v. Punati Ramulu, the Supreme Court observed that investigating officer has deliberately failed to record the FIR on receipt of information of a cognizable offence of the nature, as in this case, and had prepared the FIR after reaching the spot after due deliberations, consultations and discussions, the conclusion becomes inescapable that the investigation is tainted and it would therefore, be unsafe to rely upon such a tainted investigation, as one would not know where the police officer would have stooped to fabricate evidence and create false clues. The delay in registering FIR would make the FIR unreliable as well as bring suspicion on the police officer and put a black mark on his method of working. In Abhay Nath Dubey v. State of Delhi,where the police refused to register an FIR and the High Court held that where a cognizable offence was prima facie disclosed and he had no option but to embark on full-fledged inquiry too ascertain the genuineness or reliability of such information and allegation and draw conclusions and render the investigation redundant and to refuse registration of an FIR he would be breaching the mandate of Section 154(1).

III. Delay by Police in Forwarding FIR to Magistrate

In cases of cognisable offence, if the police have delayed in forwarding FIR to magistrate the trial and the process is delayed and the accused may escape the claws of law. The police in the cases like theft are reluctant to record the FIR, instead they lodge a non-cognizable report (NCR) which does not require them to investigate immediately. There is no time limit for sending the NCR to magistrate for order of investigation so there is laxity in this matter. After 3-4 months NCR is sent to magistrate when the traces of crime like theft, chain snatching is washed off.


Punishment for Non - Registration Of FIR

Section 221 of IPC provides for punishment for a public servant intentionally omitting to apprehend or keep in confinement any person charged with or liable to be apprehended for an offence or helps such person to escape. But this section does not specifically mention that the public servant is punishable in case of refusal to register FIR. Thus, it is suggested that there is specific mention about punishment for non-registration of FIR in a prima facie case of cognisable offence.

Public Awareness: An Important Suggestion Although law is made for registering of a FIR a common man is unaware of the basic steps of registering a FIR when he is a victim or a witness to a cognizable crime. The administration of police department should through medium of television, internet and newspaper should publish the information of importance of registering a FIR within reasonable time of the commitment of crime. A reasonable assurance must be given by the department and law and order that a fair investigation will be conducted in prima facie case of commission of offence if FIR is registered on time and with sufficient details. The fear of police should be removed from the minds of common man and law enforcement should be viewed by all as for the people protection and service to people. The FIR registered once and forwarded to magistrate if not investigated and crime addressed, it is alleged that the informant registering the FIR is false and to discard this view of the police the informant is required to be present at the magistrate court where he is required to narrate the incident and prove that the compliant in genuine and needs investigation. This compliance is although necessary to deter people lodging false FIR but a real victim is said to run from pillar to post and end result is not remedy but disappointment.

Former President of India, Late. Mr. Abdul Kalam in “Delay in Administration of Criminal Justice by APJ Abdul Kalam” has highlighted the delay in registering FIR and had given suggestion based on the research of Indian Law Institute: -

  1. The Station House officer is to be instructed that he is bound to register the complaint immediately

  2. There must be a computer for registration of complaint

  3. The email id of SHO should be published. In case SHO refuses to register complaint provision for sending email to SHO with copy to higher authority should be made available

  4. Procedure for registering compliant should be widely published

  5. The Police officer should compulsorily file action take report to the superior officers within 10 days of FIR

  6. The Police officer should abstain from pressuring the complainant to withdraw or comprise the complaint. If such case is reported then higher officers should take action against the police officer.


Fixation of Time for Forwarding Report to Magistrate

The CrPC does not provide a time limit under Section 154 or Section 156 to send the report to the magistrate. There is no doubt that the police department is flooded with cases and wants less FIR in the book maintained because it becomes an obligation to investigate. But dispatch of FIR to the magistrate on the next working day will bring the offence to the cognizance of the magistrate and police personnel will be firmer in resolving the case. The law in regard should be made more stringent where delay in sending report to magistrate should also be explained by the police personnel and penal provisions for unreasonable delay in forwarding report to magistrate must also be provided in the law.


Conclusion

The legal maxim “Justice delayed is Justice denied” is apt in case of delay in registering FIR. The FIR being the first step to set the law in motion there should not be any undue delay in the process which will deny the justice to the victim. Every stage in the procedure of law is vital as in criminal cases it may either save life or distress life. The administrator of justice should use their power in the interest of public and not lose the trust of people.

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