This article is written by Sparsh Mali, a fourth- year law student at the School of Law, UPES, Dehradun. The article explains about the evidentiary value of FIR and how FIR can be used in the Court for different purposes.
In layman’s word, First Information Report (FIR) is the knowledge or information of any occurrence especially related to crime or the subjects which are either restricted or prohibited by law. The term FIR is not defined anywhere in our law but Section 154 & 155 of CrPC talks about the cognizance of any information related to cognizable offenses and non-cognizable offenses respectively. The purpose of FIR is to bring the law into the action of cognizance of any offence, and with the cognizance, it is the duty of the state to offer redressal to the victim and protect the society from such offences.
In, State of Haryana v/s Bhajan Lal it was held that in a condition where there is an information and that information must disclose a cognizable offence. And if any such information before an officer satisfies the requirements of Section 154(1), the said police officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in the prescribed form.
Evidentiary Value of FIR
The evidentiary value of FIR is very important than any other statements during the process of cognizance of any offense or at the time of initiating the investigation about information recorded as per Section 154 or 155 of CrPC. But at the same time the established principle of law that FIR cannot be assumed as a substantive piece of evidence and can only be considered as an important piece of evidence. The reason for which the FIR is regarded as an important piece of evidence is- because of its nature that it is the first information of the cognizance of any offence, and it can be of very important nature as it will help in the initiation of investigation about the offences.
In, Pandurang Chandrakant Mhatre v. State of Maharashtra, it was seen that ‘it is fairly well settled that FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence and it can be used only to impeach the creditworthiness of the testimony recorded by the maker and it cannot be used for the purpose of contradicting or discrediting the testimony of other witnesses’.
Does FIR has Substantive Values or Its Just an Important Piece of Evidence?
The main reasons why FIR does not have any substantive evidentiary value:
- Because the statements in the FIR are not made on oath.
- Because the statements in the FIR are not made during the trial or at the time of proceedings.
- Because the statements recorded in FIR has no cross-examination in the Court.
- Because the statements recorded by the police officers are not admissible in court.
The reasons why FIR are treated as an important piece of evidence:
- For corroborating the statements made by the person who recorded the FIR.
- For cross-examination of the statements made by the person in the FIR.
- For refreshing informer’s memory.
- For impeaching the creditworthiness of the informer.
- For the purpose of ascertaining the general facts like the identity of accused, witnesses, time of offenses etc.
Certain exceptions, when an FIR can be used as a substantive piece of evidence
For the purpose of corroboration and contradiction the information of the informant- Section 145 of Indian Evidence Act, talk about ‘A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him for the purpose of contradicting him’. The scope of Section 145 is to deal with the methods of contradicting the information of the informer. Under Section 153(2) of the Evidence Act, a witness may be asked any question for the purpose of impeaching his impartiality and permits oral statement to be used for contradiction. But the present Section which is Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, only deals with the method of contradicting previous statements of witness in writing by cross-examination. The rule will apply where a witness is not a party to the suit and would not apply when a party to the suit is examining himself as a witness.
Section 145 of Indian Evidence Act has 2 basic principles which are- According to the first part- a witness may be cross-examined as to the previous statement made by him in writing or is reduced into writing without showing the writing to him or proving the same. And the second part is intended to contradict him through cross-examination where the previous statement is in writing. The main objective of this provision is either to test the memory of witness or to contradict him by previous statements in writing.
In, Ram Chandra V. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court observed that the contents and information of the FIR can only be used for the purpose of contradiction & corroboration the facts stated by the informer or of any other witness.
Section 157 of the Evidence Act which talks about- “Procedure for investigation preliminary inquiry”. The FIR is a kind of evidence whose contradictory and creditworthiness values is only subjected to the person who lodged a FIR or the informer of the offence and the principles laid down under Section 145, 154(2) and 157 of Indian Evidence Act can’t be used for the purpose of contradicting and checking the creditworthiness of any other witness other than the person who is the informer of the offence. And these principles are usually benefiting the accused in way of contradicting and checking the creditworthiness of the informer.
And it has been held by the Apex Court of India that with regard to FIR there can only be two possibilities which are- corroborating and contradicting the informer; and hence it is observed that FIR cannot be considered as a substantive piece of evidence in any manner.
In, Hasib v/s State of Bihar, it was held by the Supreme Court that considering the principles of Section 157 and 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, it is quite obvious that the FIR can only be used for the purpose of corroborating or contradicting the informant the one who lodging the FIR.
In, The State of Orissa v. Makund Harijan and another, the Orissa High Court held that FIR can only be used to corroborate or contradict the maker of FIR. But omissions of certain important facts, affecting the probabilities of the case, are relevant under Section 11 of the Evidence Act in judging the veracity of the prosecution case.
If the informant of any certain offence is accused himself, then it cannot be possibly to use the facts or information of the FIR for the purpose of corroboration or contraction because accused cannot be a prosecution witness, and he would very rarely offer himself to be a defense witness under Section 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is noted that if the F.I.R. is of a confessional nature, then again it cannot be proved against the accused as such actions are prohibited by Section 25 of the Evidence Act.
Where confession made to a police officer cannot be used or proved against a person who is accused of a certain offence. But at the same time if the accused admits his act then the F.I.R. is admissible as evidence under Section 21 of the Evidence Act. And if the F.I.R. contains not only the confession of the accused but also relates to several other matters which are relevant to the trial or the procedure, then the provisions make the latter admissible.
Though the contents of F.I.R. can be used only to contradict or corroborate the informant, still there may be cases where the contents become relevant and the F.I.R. can be used as a part of the informant’s conduct under Section 8 and 11 of the Evidence Act.
- Statements or information by the informant as dying declaration in FIR.
The word “Dying Declaration” means any statement is written or verbal of relevant facts made by a person, who is dead or it is the statement of a person who had died explaining the circumstances of his death.
The concept of dying declaration was evolved from a legal maxim, ‘nemo mariturus presumuntur mentri’ i.e. a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. Although it may sound impractical but our law has adopted this concept and functions accordingly. Section 32(1) specifically deals with the concept of dying declaration in respect of a cause of death and it is assumed that such statements are relevant even whether the person who made them was not at the time when they were made.
In Uka Ram v. State of Rajasthan, the Apex Court defined dying declaration in a way that, “when a statement is made by a person in the threat of his death or as to any circumstances which cause threat or results into his death, and when the cause of his death comes in question the statements made by him are admissible as evidence, such statement in law are compendiously called dying declaration.”
The Supreme Court in deciding P.V. Radhakrishna v. State of Karnataka, Appeal held that ‘the principle on which a dying declaration is admitted in evidence is indicated in the Latin maxim, ‘nemo morturus procsumitur mentri’, which means that a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. Information lodged by a person who died subsequently relating to the cause of his death is admissible in evidence under this clause.
In K.R. Reddy v. Public Prosecutor, the evidentiary value of dying declaration was observed as:-
“The dying declaration is admissible under Section 32 & because the statement not made on oath so that its truth could be tested by cross-examination, the court has to observe the closest inspection of the statement before acting upon it. And it is also assumed that the words of a dying man are of very serious nature because a person on the verge of death is not likely to tell lies or to connect a case to a malice prosecution of an innocent person. Once the court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true & voluntary and are not influenced, then the statements can be sufficient to prove the conviction even without further corroboration.”
The evidentiary value of FIR in the circumstances of dying declaration comes from the concept that- A dying declaration can also be recorded by public servants, or by a doctor as well, where the victim is hospitalized and is badly burnt or injured and wants to make a statement, the doctor can also record the same and make a note of that statement. Although, it is advisable that the dying declaration should be made to the magistrate itself or in the presence of magistrate but if there is a condition where no such possibility is seen then the dying declaration can also be recorded by the police officers, although the court discourages such declaration to the police officer but if the condition and circumstances are of such a nature that no other possibilities are seen, then the dying declarations written by the police officers are also considered by the courts.
In, Kapoor Singh V. Emperor  the court observed that the FIR lodged by the deceased person can be admissible as a piece of evidence in the court if the FIR is relating and explaining the circumstances of his death. Also in the case of Sukhar V. State of UP , it was observed that if the dying declaration in the FIR is not sufficient to ascertain the facts and reasons for the cause of his death, even though the FIR has enough information related to the accused and details of the incident. Then the information cannot be considered as dying declaration.
In the case of Maniram V. State of Madhya Pradesh , the dying declaration was recorded by the doctor but the doctor did not attest the consciousness report of the deceased and also there was no thumb signature on the dying declaration, in that case, the FIR has lost its credibility and it was difficult to rely on the dying declaration.
After ascertaining the provision it can be assumed that the FIR is an important report and if duly recorded provides valuable evidence. Now it can easily be considered as an important and a valuable piece of evidence in any trial either for the purpose of corroborating evidence or for contradicting witnesses, Therefore, it becomes necessary that such report to be recorded in all circumstances and it is the duty of the police officer to initiate the investigation as soon as the information is received. In the discussion of the evidentiary value of the FIR, it is also concluded that the statements recorded by the police officers are not admissible in the court of justice and hence the ascertainment of the facts by the police officer’s also comes under the umbrella of important piece of evidence but not a substantive piece of evidence. FIR can sometimes also be considered as Substantial Evidence but in most of the cases it ends up having a just value of an important piece of evidence. Hence we can assume that FIR is an important and a circumstantial piece of evidence.
- [AIR 1992 SC 604]
- (1972) 4 SCC 773
- (1983) Crl. LJ. 1870
- A.I.R. 2001 S.C. 1814
- (crl.) 1018 of 2002
- 1976 AIR 1994, 1976 SCR 542
- (AIR 1930 Lah. 450)
- (1999) 9 SCC 507
- (AIR 1994 SC 840)