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This article has been written by Max Croson, pursuing the Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy from LawSikho.

Introduction

First Information Report is the intimation to the police officer by an informant regarding a cognizable offence. It must be noted that the term “First Information” does not always mean that the information which is given first, will constitute an FIR. For an FIR to be registered, it must fulfill the essentials of Section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter CrPC). Let us examine what are the essentials of an FIR and whether a telephonic message can be considered for registering an FIR along with the view of various judgments on this particular issue.

Essentials of an FIR

According to Section 154 some of the essential ingredients that constitute an FIR are:

  • The offence must be a cognizable offence.
  • The FIR should be given to the officer-in-charge of the police station.
  • The FIR shall be reduced into writing if given orally and read over to the informant.
  • It must be signed by the informant and a free of cost copy of the FIR must be given to the informant.

Special conditions while recording of an FIR

After the 2013 Amendment of CrPC, some important elements and conditions were inserted in Section 154.

These conditions are:

  • In case a woman gives the information regarding an offence committed (sexual offences or grievous hurt by use of acid) against her then it must be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer.
  • Moreover in cases of sexual offences if a woman is temporarily incapacitated (mentally or physically) then the police officer shall record the FIR at the residence or preferred place of the person giving the statement.
  • An additional condition in these situations is that the FIR must be video graphed, and the statement must be recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 (5A), as soon as the commission of offence against any woman is brought to the notice of the police.

Now, after a bare reading of the essentials in relation to the topic, one might think that information of an offence through a phone call to a police station cannot be considered as an FIR. Well, that would be a fair assumption, given the essentials of an FIR have no provision related to telephonic information. In addition, there is no specific provision anywhere in the CrPC to ascertain whether a telephonic message which specifies an offence can be treated as an FIR. This issue has come up time and again before our Hon’ble courts and a plethora of judgments have critically analyzed this aspect and reached a rational conclusion. The courts have set certain guidelines to ascertain in what situations telephonic information to the police regarding an offence can be treated as an FIR. It must be noted that in general practice there is no such embargo on the police to register an FIR without physical presence of the informant. Nowadays, FIRs are registered through emails as well. However, it is always recommended to get the FIR registered in person in the police station exercising jurisdiction over the area of offence. However, in cases of emergency, the police can definitely consider and register an FIR through an email or phone call relaying specific and credible information.

As per the numerous judgements of Supreme Court and High Courts a telephonic message is classified into two parts:

  • Telephonic message which is cryptic in nature;
  • Telephonic message which is non cryptic in nature.

What type of information will constitute a cryptic telephonic message?

A cryptic telephonic message to a police officer can be any type of intimation by a person regarding an offence. However, it may not specify what type of offence has been done or who has done what to whom. The lack of such crucial information makes a message ambiguous and untrustworthy. However, such telephonic intimations can be taken into account and the police officer can go and do a preliminary investigation to determine the nature of the offence. Although the police officer can go and do an investigation on a cryptic telephonic message, the same cannot be constituted to be an FIR. The police officer will only make a General Diary entry and go to the scene of the crime for confirmation.

In Ramsinh Bavaji Jadeja vs State Of Gujarat 1994 SCC (2) 685, the Supreme Court while relying on Tapinder Singh v. State of Punjab , AIR 1970 SC 1566, Soma Bhai vs State Of Gujarat AIR 1975 SC 1453 and Dhananjoy Chatterjee v. State of West Bengal, (1994) 2 SCC 220 held that a cryptic telephonic message not specifying any clear details of the offence cannot be treated as an FIR merely on basis that the information provided was first in point of time and had been recorded in the Daily Diary of the police station. Moreover, the court also held that the object and purpose of a telephonic message were to register a request to the officer in charge of the police station to reach the place of occurrence after getting the information, and was not a mandate to lodge a first information report.

What would be the case if the telephonic message is non-cryptic?

The Supreme Court in the judgment of Netaji Achyut Shinde (Patil) Vs. State Of Maharashtra LL 2021 SC 176 while considering the issue of whether the initial information received on the day of the incident via a phone call to the police constituted as an FIR, observed that: 

“A cryptic phone call without complete information or containing part-information about the commission of a cognizable offence cannot always be treated as an FIR. This proposition has been accepted by this Court in T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala  (2001) 6 SCC 181  and Damodar v. State of Rajasthan  (2004) 12 SCC 336. A mere message or a telephonic message which does not clearly specify the offence cannot be treated as an FIR.”

The Apex court further observed that the information received merely set out the bare facts of an attack, making the information incomplete and ambiguous. “Neither the name of the victim nor the names of the alleged attackers or even the precise location where the incident occurred were mentioned.” 

In Tehal Singh Vs. State Of Rajasthan the Rajasthan High Court in its Para 21 has given a very pragmatic view on the registration of FIR in case of a telephonic message while differentiating between a cryptic and non-cryptic message. 

The court laid down its observation that there was no hard and fast rule to determine whether a telephonic message can be treated as an F.I.R or not and the same would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Moreover, if the officer in charge of a police station receives a credible telephonic message, then naturally the person giving the message is capable of being ascertained. In addition, once that oral statement over the telephone has been reduced into writing as per the requirements of Section 154 CrPC and it the police officer has reason to believe that the information furnished discloses a cognizable offence, is non-cryptic and complete outlining the essential details, then it should constitute an F.I.R.

The court further held that a piece of anonymous information, or information that is vague or cryptic and lacks essential details or information which has not been faithfully recorded, would not constitute an F.I.R under Section 154 of CrPC.

Applying the court’s reasoning and the tests laid out in the various judgements along with the essentials of Section 154 CrPC, these are a broad outline of the requirements needed for a telephonic message to be considered as an FIR.

  • The details of the event which occurred.
  • The nature of the attack to determine whether it is cognizable or not.
  • The place of occurrence of the attack.
  • The names and identities of the accused or any details.
  • It should be reduced into writing by the officer-in-charge of a police station or by any person under his direction. 
  • It should be a true and faithful record of the information given to the officer-in-charge by the informant.
  • Whether the information has been read over to the first informant or not or whether it has been signed by them or not would be a mere formality and does not hold much substance. 

The rationale behind reading over the information reduced into writing to the first informant and obtaining their signatures on it is intended to ensure and ascertain the authenticity of the information given to the officer-in-charge of the police station. Moreover, this reasoning is also supported by the observations made in the case of Jagdish B. Rao Vs. Govt. of the Union Territory, in which the Bombay High Court held that “obtaining signatures of the first informant is a mere technicality of form and does not alter the basic character of the information.”

Some prominent judgements in this regard

In Surjit Sarkar vs State Of West Bengal, the Supreme Court held that a telephonic conversation received from an unknown person, the question of reading over that information to the anonymous informant does not arise nor does the appending of a signature to the information, as recorded, arise. So, the telephonic information where crucial details of the incident are missing cannot be termed as an FIR.

In State Of A.P vs V.V. Panduranga Rao, the Supreme Court observed, “…where some cryptic or anonymous oral message which did not in terms clearly specify a cognizable offence cannot be treated as an FIR. The mere fact that the information was the first in point of time does not by itself clothe it with the character of FIR…”

In Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs State (Nct Of Delhi), the Supreme Court held, “Phone calls made immediately after an incident to the police constitute an FIR only when they are not vague and cryptic. Calls purely for the reason of getting the police to the scene of crime do not necessarily constitute the FIR.”

Conclusion

So, after a careful perusal of the above reasoning given by the various High Courts and Supreme Court along with the indicative requirements, it can be clearly concluded that a non-cryptic telephonic call specifying a cognizable offence can be termed as an FIR. Such information relayed to the officer-in-charge of the police station on the telephone will provide the police officer with reasonable grounds to go and investigate the offence. Thus, in the case of an emergency, a telephonic call relaying credible and specific details of an offence can be treated as an FIR.


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