This article is written by Chandrasmita Priyadarshini from Kiit School Of Law, Bhubaneshwar. This article covers how FIR plays an important role in any criminal trial and its procedures during a criminal trial.
FIR is not defined in the criminal law but Section 154 and Section 155 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives a detailed procedure of FIR and any related information to it. Like cognizance of facts associated with any kind of offence i.e., cognizable or non-cognizable offences. FIR stands for “First Information Report”, it is the first document required in any criminal proceeding, for its initiation. Section 154(1) of CrPC clearly states that FIR can be registered in cognizable offences only. It is documentation that is registered in the police station by the inspector in charge of the concerned jurisdiction. It is a record of the aggrieved party who files an FIR either by himself or someone on behalf of that party. FIR acts as a tool for the police authorities which provides a base to carry on the investigation which shows that without FIR no proceeding or investigation can be started.
Essentials of an FIR in a criminal trial
As per the provisions of Section 154, the First Information Report should:
- Relate to the commission of a cognizable offence;
- Shall be reduced in writing and read over to the informant;
- Shall be signed by the information;
- The substance of FIR must be recorded in the General Diary.
Though the Section requires that the substance of FIR must be recorded in General Diary but the omission to enter it in the General Diary is not illegal that will not vitiate the trial. It is merely a lapse on the part of the police and does not constitute sufficient ground to discard the case of prosecution outright. FIR may be said to be a document that sets the criminal law into motion and therefore has a great evidentiary value. But it is not a piece of substantive evidence nor is it conclusive evidence of the facts which it mentions. As held in Manohar M. Kulkarni v. the State of Maharashtra (2005), that under the Civil Rights Act, 1955 there could not be any registration of information for an offence or any investigation regarding similar offence or caste of the informant or complainant is to be taken into consideration in the FIR. In this case, the caste of the informant was not given in the FIR due to which the proceedings carried as based on the FIR was quashed. As all the investigation and proceedings are liable to be quashed in such absence of mention of the caste in the FIR.
Purpose of an FIR in a criminal proceeding
- Provides a base to the criminal proceeding which allows starting the investigation.
- It gives information to the magistrate of the required jurisdiction and the Inspector in charge of Superintendent of the police officer of that area with regards to the offence so reported at the police station.
- Acts as information for the judicial authorities before whom the matter will be tried giving brief about the facts, circumstances and occurrences related to the case.
- Provides as a defence for the accused against any loopholes.
- Provides exact information on the alleged criminal activity to take the required action to bring justice to the victim.
- Regulates the action of cognizance of any offence.
Contents of an FIR
- Name and address of the victim,
- The exact date and time of the offence that has occurred and is being reported,
- Accurate facts of the offence that has occurred,
- Details of any other person if involved in the offence,
- Location of the offence so committed.
FIR and its importance in any criminal case
The first information report has always been considered a very important document relating to criminal cases. Though it is not a piece of substantive evidence, it can be used to corroborate or impeach the testimony of a person lodging it. The importance of the FIR is not lost only because it was lodged by an unconcerned person or sent to the Police station by an unknown person or sent to Magistrate by post. The two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in Mehraj Singh v. the State of U.P, (1994), observed that F.I.R, in a criminal case and particularly in a murder case is a vital and valuable piece of evidence for the purpose of appreciating the evidence led at the trial and the object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the F.I.R, is to obtain the earliest information regarding the circumstances in which the crime was committed, including the names of actual culprits and the part played by them, weapons used, if any, names of an eye witness, if any. Delay in filing F.I.R, in such cases provides scope for manipulating the material evidence and provides scope for presenting a coloured version or the exaggerated story thus adversely affecting the prosecution case. It was held by the Supreme Court in Ramesh Kumar v. State of (NCT), Delhi (1994), which stated that the provision as given under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code is mandatory and the concerned police officer of such a police station is bound by its duty to register the case on the basis of such information which involves a cognizable offence. FIR can be presented as evidence if the person who has lodged an FIR in the police station is not produced. FIR informs the concerned magistrate and the district superintendent of police who is responsible for that jurisdiction where the particular offence has occurred with this brief facts, occurrence and circumstances are to be derived in order to start with the investigation. Which protects the accused from being framed for additional crimes as per when the investigation becomes concrete.
Registering of an FIR providing a base in a criminal trial
Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 states how and why FIR is the first step of any criminal trial. As FIR deals with any information in case of cognizable offence. Section 154 provides any information that is received as to the commission of a cognizable offence may be given orally or written to the inspector in charge of the police station or as per his discretion can be read over by the informant and later signed by the victim or any other person who has given the information and the substantive information thereafter shall be recorded in the book for the records to be maintained by such in charge as prescribed by the state government on such matter. This information must have a copy made as records without any cost imposed on the informant of the said FIR. This proves that FIR can only be registered for cognizable offences as mentioned in Section 154(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Cognizable offences are those where a police officer can arrest without a warrant with the reason being the gravity of the offence.
In Gulshan Kumar v. Delhi (1993), the accused killed his brother and assaulted his father in the same transaction and soon after the incident, the father in the injured state, named the accused an assailant in the FIR recorded by the police in the hospital, it was held that such an FIR was of great value because it contained the version of the incident at the first available opportunity on the basis of which the investigation commenced. Upon receipt of information being a cognizable offence being commenced no police officer can refuse the case on the ground that it is not reliable or not credible. If any person is refused from being able to file an FIR then it would block the very operation of criminal law, as to be given to the inspector/police officer who is supposed to send the information either by writing or by post to the superintendent of police who is concerned for that particular jurisdiction if such information proves to be a cognizable offence then the inspector starts with the investigation of the offence himself or direct procedures is to be started by the subordinate police officers as provided in the code officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station about that offence.
Prudence behind an FIR
FIR is the first report of the occurrence of any crime. It gives any criminal case a kick to start with the procedures. An FIR is used for cross-examination and re-examination. Section 154 of the CrPC states that information can be produced orally or in writing under the guidance of the officer in charge and signed for authentication. This signature is considered to be an important part to lodge the FIR as it provides authentication to verify or vitiate the information which exempts fake reports from getting registered. In order to constitute an FIR, it must prima facie contain information of the offence and the code mandates a police officer to record such information as prescribed by the state government the informant should be examined orally as to the details of facts and occurrence of the crime. The informant is bound to answer the questions truthfully and these statements should be recorded as they hold evidentiary value and used for corroboration during the trial.
The reason as to why FIR is supposed to be lodged promptly/immediately after the occurrences of such offence, so as to obtain first-hand information regarding facts, circumstances of the crime committed, any eyewitnesses if present at that time, name of the accused. This is done to avoid any form of delay in filing an FIR as there is room for exaggeration or addition to the facts by the prosecution, hence delay must be avoided at all means. However, delay in lodging of FIR can be satisfactorily explained as avoiding it to lose its evidentiary value, although if the delay is unusual or unreasonable then the results of its admiral decrease. Determining a delay in FIR depends on the facts and circumstances of a case which also varies from case to case basis. The Supreme Court in Ram Jag v. State (1973), has ruled that prompt filing of the first information report is by itself no guarantee of the trustworthiness of the prosecution version, though it has a great evidentiary value. FIRs are an extremely important commission of a crime as they act as a record, proving to inform about such crime. The investigation on the basis of the FIR helps in finding the guilty. FIR proves to be a prominent and circumstantial piece of evidence.
The FIR has great importance in any criminal case as it is the first step of any criminal prosecution. FIR proves to trigger the initiation of criminal proceedings and hence resulting in the conviction of a criminal. As the name suggests, a first information report is the first step for a criminal act that then leads to investigation, trial and punishment of the guilty. It is a record of the information on the victim’s story. Every further proceeding carried on by the police officers is based on the FIR. FIR proves to be the most important evidentiary piece on which the prosecution’s case is built. The cognizance is the state’s duty, which provides a remedy to the victim and brings justice to society. As per Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, FIR is the initial phase on which the police officers carry on their investigation. Hence, this states clearly that an FIR is a preliminary step in any criminal proceeding.
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