In this blog post, Vinit Kumar, a Third Year student of Law from NLU, Odisha, analyses the concept of “FIR and police complaints” and it’s importance in the Indian legal system.
The basic purpose of filing a FIR is to set criminal law into motion and not to state all the minute details therein. A First Information Report is the initial step in a criminal case recorded by the police and contains the basic knowledge of the crime committed, place of commission, time of commission, who was the victim, etc. The definition for the First Information Report has been provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by the virtue of Sec. 154, which lays down that:
“Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf”.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, while delivering its judgment in the matter of T.T.Antony vs. State of Kerala & Ors., laid down certain important points regarding Sec. 154 of the Cr.P.C.:
“ Information given under sub-section (1) of Section 154 of Cr.P.C., is commonly known as the First Information Report (FIR), though this term is not used in the Code….And as it’s nick name suggests, it is the earliest and the first information of a cognizable offence recorded by an officer in charge of a police station”.
In another case, the Court held that:
“After all registration of FIR involves only the process of entering the substance of the information relating to the Commission of a cognizable offence in a book kept by the officer in charge…as indicated in Sec. 154 of the Code”.
Who Can Lodge an FIR?
FIRs can be registered by a victim, a witness or someone else with knowledge of the crime. As per the laws laid down u/s 154 of the Cr.P.C., the complainant can give information about the offence either in written or orally. In regard to who can file an FIR, the Apex Court of India has observed that;
“Section 154 does not require that the Report must be given by a person who has personal knowledge of the incident reported. The section speaks of information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence given to an officer in charge of a police station”.
The police is obliged to read the FIR back to the complainant in case it is conversed to them orally to prevent the possibility of any differences in the oral and the written versions. Further it is the duty of the complainant to report to the police station in person in case he had given the information on a telephone. Rajasthan High Court, in the matter of Tohal Singh vs. State of Rajasthan, has opined that:
“if the telephonic message has been given to officer in charge of a police station ,the person giving the message is an ascertained one or is capable of being ascertained the information has been reduced to writing as required under S.154 of Cr.Pc and it is faithful record of such information and the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and is not cryptic one or incomplete in essential details, it would constitute FIR”.
However in a case wherein though the police officer went to the scene hearing rumours but recorded a statement at the police station, it was held that in circumstances of the case that statement could be accepted as FIR. The police are required to give a copy of the FIR to the complainant free of charge.
Providing a Copy of FIR to the Accused
Under Indian criminal law, the informant, as seen earlier, is entitled to get a copy of the first information report lodged by him at the police station free of cost. It is a necessary document in a criminal case and can majorly support the case of the informant or the victim. However, the accused person is also entitled to get a copy of the first information report. Sec. 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 entitles the accused to get the copy of the first information report the investigation has been completed by the police in the said case, and the charge sheet has been filed in the Court. The provision states that the Magistrate, in such circumstances, must furnish to the accused a copy of the FIR free of cost.
Further, on analysis of Sec. 173 (5) and (7) of the Code pf Criminal Procedure, 1973, it can be easily implied that the police may also provide c copy of the first information report to the accused free of cost after the filing of the charge sheet. The essential pre-requisite of both Sec. 207 and Sec. 173 is that the police must have filed the charge sheet in the subjected matter.
There have been some cases where the Court has provided the accused with the copy of the FIR even before filing of charge sheet and on his request and payment of a certain fee. Under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Sec. 74 lays down the definition of a ‘public document’. In many decisions, the Courts in India have held the first information report to fit within the definition of ‘public document’ and hence, have held that u/s 76 of the Evidence Act, certified copy of the FIR has to be given to the accused person on his request on payment of the applicable legal fees by every public officer (such as the officer in charge of the police station) having the custody of such document.  The decision of Allahabad High Court in the matter of Shyam Lal vs. the State of U.P., Karnataka High Court’s ruling in the matter of Chnnappa Andanappa Siddareddy vs. State, and the decision of Bombay High Court in the case of Mohammed Khalid Shaikh vs. State of Maharashtra [decided on 4 March 2010] are most cited judgments in this regard where the Courts have held that FIR fits the definition of ‘public document’ u/s 74 of Indian Evidence Act.
Cognizable Offences have been defined u/s 2(c) of the C.P.C., 1973. This is the class of offences in which the police has the power to make an arrest without a warrant. These offences are serious in nature, and thus the aim is to prevent the culprit or accused of harming others. Hence, the police have been given authority to make an arrest without a warrant so that precious time involved in all the legal procedures of issuing a warrant is saved. What offences fall under the category of cognizable offences has been specified in the first schedule of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Though there is no pre-defined pattern of classification of offences into cognizable and non-cognizable offences but on a study, it can be seen that offences having a punishment of more than three years are classified as cognizable offences and those who have punishment for less than three years are referred to as non-cognizable offences.
As per Sec. 156(1), the police has the authority to investigate a case involving a cognizable offence without prior permission of the Magistrate. Sec. 156(1) lays down that:
“Any officer in charge of a police station may, without the order of a Magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a Court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have the power to inquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII.”
Section 156 (2) further reads,
“No proceeding of a police officer in any such case shall at any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one which such officer was not empowered under this section to investigate.”
The term ‘cognizance’ as such has not been defined in the Code. The word as such has no esoteric or mystic significance in Criminal Law or procedure. In reference to Courts or judicial process, it simply means when the Court ‘takes notice judicially.’
Difference between an FIR & a Police Complaint
The main point of difference between a first information report and a police complaint is that an FIR relates a cognizable offence whereas a police complaint can be filed for both non-cognizable and cognizable class of offences. Though the basic meaning of both is a complaint but they are different in terms of offences they deal with, punishments, legal consequences, evidentiary value, etc. further, a complaint is to be given to a magistrate either by the way of spoken words or in writing, whereas the first information report is lodged at the police station nearby the place of commission of crime.
According to s. 2(d) Cr.P.C., a complaint is the allegation of fact which constitute a complaint. Further, a complainant and a first informant need not be the same person. Indian criminal laws do not provide any strict form for a complaint, and thus an affidavit or a petition may also amount to a complaint in the court of law. The general rule is that any person having knowledge of the commission of an offence can file a complaint, even though the concerned person is not personally interested or affected by the offence, except in cases of offences relating to marriage, defamation and offences mentioned in ss. 195 to 197 Cr.P.C. When an informant approaches the police authorities relating the information about the commission of a cognizable offence it is called filing a complaint. This ‘first information’ in the form of a complaint when registered as prayed for by the informant u/s. 154 Cr.P.C., it constitutes ‘FIR’ which should on the face of it and in the light of subsequent events disclose the information within the meaning of this section.
A Magistrate can take cognizance of a complaint u/s 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. When a Magistrate takes cognizance of an offence (upon receipt of a complaint or otherwise), he examines the complaint in accordance with Section 200 by examining the facts and the witnesses. If he finds that the complaint is with merits, the case is deemed committed for trial and the magistrate issues the process under Section 204. If the offence is exclusively triable by Court of Session, the Magistrate commits the case to Court of Session under Section 209.
As per Sec. 190, the Magistrate is empowered to take cognizance of an offence in three ways provided therein. However, if he chooses to take cognizance on the basis of a complaint then to investigate and decide upon the matter further, he is bound to follow the provisions laid down by Sec. 200 to Sec. 203 of the Cr.P.C. and if the case demands, also under Sec. 204.
In the case of a first information report, the offence involved is of cognizable nature and thus the police has authority to initiate the investigation in the said case without prior permission from the Magistrate and then file a charge sheet. On the other hand, when a Magistrate takes cognizance of an offence on the basis of a complaint, he orders an investigation in the matter and can also direct the police to lodge an FIR if he feels that the offence is of a serious nature. He is not empowered to take sou moto cognizance on the complaint if he is satisfied that there is no grave offence requiring an immediate course of action. He can act upon the complaint only if it reveals a prima facie commission of an offence.
The Court, in the matter of P. Kunhumuhammed vs. State of Kerala held that:
“The report of a police officer following an investigation contrary to S. 155(2) could be treated as complaint under S. 2(d) and S. 190(1)(a) if at the commencement of the investigation the police officer is led to believe that the case involved the commission of a cognizable offence or if there is a doubt about it and investigation establishes only commission of a non- cognizable offence”.
Thus, if at the initial stages of investigation, it is found that the offence committed is of a non-cognizable nature, then the report submitted after investigation cannot be treated as a ‘complaint’ within the scope of Sec. 2(d) or Sec. 190(1)(a) of the Cr. P.C.
In the case of the first information report, the police is authorised to investigate the matter and then search and seizure of the evidence they find. The police then proceeds to file a charge sheet against the accused in the Court u/s 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 at the end of investigation. Further, the court then decides upon the charges.
The Office in Charge, on receipt of a complaint by an informant that reveals a non-cognizable offence committed within the limits of its jurisdiction, enter the substance of the case in the station diary and refer the informant to approach the concerned Magistrate on whose order only can the police investigate such cases with the same powers as exercised in a cognizable case, except the power to arrest without warrant. Where a case relates to two or more offences of which one is cognizable, then the case will be considered to be a cognizable offence, notwithstanding the fact that other offences are non-cognizable.
Refusal to Lodge an FIR by the Police
Sometimes, the police may refuse to lodge a first information report. This can be both legal and illegal. In cases where they don’t have jurisdiction or is not in their legal capacity to take cognizance or the offence is of non-cognizable nature, it will be held legal. But where police refuses to file the complaint for blatant reasons, without any substantial legal ground, it is contrary to law. When a police officer refuses to register the FIR on the ground that it discloses a non-cognizable offence, he must inform the informant and direct him to file a complaint to the magistrate. In case the offence committed is beyond the territorial jurisdiction of a police station, information should be recorded and forwarded to the appropriate police-station having jurisdiction, otherwise refusing to record on this ground will amount to dereliction of duty.
The compulsoriness of registering any information is also based on the understanding that the FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence  and can only be used to contradict or corroborate the contents. As per Sec. 155(1) of the Cr.P.C., of a police officer receives information about commission of a non-cognizable offence committed in jurisdiction of the police station, he should enter the substance of the case in the station diary and refer the informant to approach the concerned Magistrate.
- If the concerned officer in charge refuses to register a first information report about commission of a cognizable offence within his territorial jurisdiction under Sec. 154(3), the informant can approach the Superintendent of Police or the Commissioner of the police with a written complaint. If, upon analysis of the complaint, the S.P. of the Commissioner is satisfied that it discloses a cognizable offence, he may either investigate the case himself or direct his subordinate to register the FIR and initiate investigation in the matter.
- If the above listed remedies go in vain, the informant is legally entitled to file a complaint to the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate u/s 156(3) read with Sec. 190 of the criminal procedure thereby praying FIR. to be registered by the police and investigation into the matter. A Writ Petition in the respective High Court may be filed for the issuance of Writ of Mandamus against the defaulting Police officers, inter alia, to Register the FIR and directing him to show cause (a) why he has not registered the FIR; (b) why disciplinary proceedings for “Misconduct” should not be initiated against him for dereliction of duty; (c) why he should not be suspended from Police service for interfering in the administration of justice and shielding the accused person. In a civil matter, a contempt petition can be filed before the High Court against the officer who refused to lodge an FIR Hon’ble Supreme Court, recently, in Lalita Kumari case, has held that the Police must register FIR where the complaint discloses a cognizable offence.
- Refusing to register an FIR on jurisdictional ground could now cost a policeman a year in jail.A Letter Petition may be logged and submitted to the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court / Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, praying them to take Su Moto Cognizance of the alleged contempt of the Court. Further, a copy of said letter may be sent to the concerned Police Officer. The status of such letter petition can be inquired through an application under the Right to Information (RTI).
- A Writ Petition may be filed in respective High Court for seeking damages/compensation, if the inaction of the Police on the complaint/non-registration of FIR, has resulted in frustration/deprivation of ―life and liberty‖ of any person, guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution of India.
- Also, u/s 166A(c), if the Public servant concerned fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to cognizable offence punishable under section 326A, section 326B, section 354, section 354B, section 370, section 370A, section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376E or section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, he is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.
The Apex Court of India has held that genuineness, reliability and credibility of the information is no ground to refuse to register the information. In another case, it was held that refusal to record information is declaration of duty by a public officer. However, to prevent misuse of the remedies provided for refusal to lodge complaint, the court has ruled that:
“A vague, indefinite or unauthorised piece of information cannot be regarded as first information merely because it was received first in point of time. Likewise an unclear message over the phone simply stating that a person is lying dead on the road does not amount First information report”.
The word ‘information’ has been used carefully by the legislature u/s 154(1) of the Cr.P.C. “wherein the expressions, “reasonable complaint” and “credible information” are used. Evidently, the non-qualification of the word “information” in Section 154(1) unlike in Section 41(1)(a) and (g) of the Code may be for the reason that the police officer should not refuse to record an information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence and to register a case thereon on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or credibility of the information”.
In Kathiravan vs. State, the court held that:
“It is quite obvious that the officer in-charge of the police station, on receipt of a complaint (information) disclosing commission of a cognizable offence, is duty bound to register a case and such officer cannot probe into the allegations to find out whether they are true or not before registering a case. However, it does not mean that in no case the officer in-charge of the police station can conduct a preliminary enquiry to make a decision as to whether a case can be registered for being investigated upon in accordance with the provisions of Cr.P.C. But such cases are only exceptions to the general rule. Such exception should not be generalised by the police to say that the police do have a discretion either to register the case or to conduct a preliminary enquiry to make a decision whether to register a case or not”.
The police can make three different kinds of statements. The first kind of statement is one which can be recorded as an FIR, the second kind of statement is one which can be recorded by the police during the investigation, and third kind of statement is any kind of statement which would not fall under any of the two categories mentioned above.
Evidence is the matter of testimony manifesting fact on particular precision or circumstances.
The first information report is not considered a substantive piece of evidence in the court of law because it is not given in a trial, given in the absence of oath, and is not scrutinized by cross-examination. But the relative importance of a first information report is far greater than any other statement recorded by police during the course of investigation. It is the foremost information the police gets about commission of an offence and thus it can be used to corroborate the story put forward by the informant u/s 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 or to contradict his version of facts u/s 145 of the Act in case he is summoned as a witness in the case by court. On an analysis of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, it can be inferred if the circumstances demand corroboration of testimonies of any kind of witness, then Sec. 157 is to be invoked which lays down that for there to be corroboration of any form the earlier statement must relate to the same fact or the same time, it must also be before an authority which has the legal competence to conduct investigation of the particular fact which is being discussed, and needs to be proven in the court. But the Apex Court has given different opinion in the matter of Nisar Ali vs. State of U.P., ruling that:
“The FIR is a kind of evidence whose contradictory value is only for the person who has lodged the FIR (the informant) and it cannot be used to contradict the statement made by any other person, witness”.
The decision given in the case of Damodar Prasad vs. State of Maharashtra further strengthens this view of the Court, which says:
“It necessarily has to be the person who is informing the police about the crime at the first instance.”
The accused can utilize the FIR to make the person lodging the FIR look less credible and therefore make the value of the FIR as a piece of evidence goes down. However this is only applicable to the informant and not to any other person. Even if the informant is contradicted and the FIR loses some credibility the other witness are enough for conviction of the accused, that is, the value of the FIR is not that substantial.
It may happen that the informant is the accused himself. In such cases, the first information lodged by him cannot be used as an evidence against him because it is embodied in the basic structure of our constitution that a person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. In a number of cases, it has been held by the Court the only possible action that can be taken on the basis of FIR is to either corroborate or contradict the statements given by such informant as per the provisions of the Evidence Act. The court went on to hold that if the maker is also the accused even this is not possible. Apex Court has held that:
“The contents of the FIR can only be used for contradiction and corroboration of the maker and not any other eye witness”.
It was held in Pandurang Chandrakant Mhatre vs. State of Maharashtra, that it is fairly well settled that first information report is not a substantive piece of evidence and it can be used only to discredit the testimony of the maker thereof and it cannot be utilised for contradicting or discrediting the testimony of other witnesses.
Where a person named in the FIR is to be summoned, the FIR can be taken into consideration if the charge sheet has not been prepared as it is a very important evidence at that stage. Further, if the FIR is a confessional one, it can be admissible. A confession is received in evidence on the presumption that no person will voluntarily make a statement which is against his or her interest, unless it be true. In case of a confession by the accused, the Court must look into two tests, i.e. (a) whether the confession is perfectly voluntary, and (b) if so, whether it is true and trustworthy. Satisfaction of the first test is s sine qua non for its admissibility in evidence and if the circumstances of the case throw any doubt on its voluntary nature the confession must always be rejected. If the confession is shown to be made in consequence of inducement, threat or promise, it is inadmissible in evidence as it will lack the important element of voluntary action on the part of accused and may be a result of undue influence, coercion, threat, blackmailing etc.
As for the second test, the Court must examine the evidence available, the contents of the statement so made and then apply to them the test of probability. If the court finds that the material statement in the confession is inconsistent with the evidence of eye witness, it must be held that the prosecution has failed to prove that the confession is true and it must be put aside.
Confession can form the sole basis of conviction against its maker on the conditions that it is true and voluntary; it fits in the circumstances of the particular case which may at least create an impression that it is true and it either admit in terms of the offence or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. There is no compulsion that a true and voluntary confession needs to be materially corroborated for using it against its maker.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “Though the FIR is not supposed to an encyclopedia of the factors concerning the crime, yet there must be some definite information vis-`- vis the crime”.
Death of Informant
In certain cases, the first information report can be used u/s 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 or under Sec. 8 of the Act as to the cause of the informant’s death or as a part of the informant’s conduct. If the informant deceases, the first information report can be unquestionably used as a substantive evidence. A pre-requisite condition must be fulfilled before F.I.R. is taken as a substantive piece of evidence, i.e.. the death of the informant must have nexus with the F.I.R. filed or somehow having some link with any evidence regarding the F.I.R. this is a derivation of Sec. 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, by the Court in the matter of Damodar Prasad vs. State of U.P. This view was earlier displayed by Court in the case of Kapoor Singh vs. Emperor. The courts of this land have also said that an FIR can be a dying declaration if the informant dies of his injuries after lodging the same. However, when the FIR clearly implicates the person who is the accused and contains the details of the incident this is not considered to be a dying declaration. The essential element of certainty must be fulfilled and there must be no doubt left that it might be a disappearance.
Another important thing is that for an F.I.R. lodged by a deceased person to be treated as a substantial, its contents must be proved. “It has to be corroborated and proved for there to be any value of the same in the case”. To consolidate this view, it was further held that:
“If the informant died during the trial, and the prosecution starts to treat the FIR as a dying declaration without ascertaining the questions as to his death, then is cannot be a dying declaration”.
FIR can be used by the defence to impeach the credit of the person who lodged the FIR U/s-155(3) of I.E. Act.
In case the death of the informant has no nexus with the complaint lodged, i.e. he died a natural death and did not succumb to injuries inflicted on him in relation to a matter, the complaint is not applicable. The Court has upheld this view in the matter of Umrao vs. State of M.P., ruling that:
“If the complainant who had been belaboured died a natural death and not because of the injuries caused to him, Sec.32 (1) is not applicable”.
The Supreme Court, with a view to prevent any misuse of law and ensure the justice is served, has held that:
“Non-examination of the complainant on account of his death could not be factual on its own to the prosecution case, and it will depend on the facts of each case. If the prosecution story as revealed by the witnesses in the court is directly contradictory to the contents of FIR, it may have one effect and on the other hand, if the contents of FIR are in conformity with the evidence during the trial, it may have altogether a different effect”.
The value of F.I.R depends on the circumstances of each case, nature of the crime, information, and opportunity of witnessing the offence. F.I.R got recorded by the police has been taken as dying declaration by the Honorable Supreme Court, when the person did not survive to get his dying declaration recorded.
Delay in Lodging an F.I.R.
As per the law, the first information report is to be registered as soon as possible so that no time is wasted and the culprit is caught timely and no danger is present to others. But sometimes, there is a delay in lodging the F.I.R. It may be due to the ignorance or actions of the police or mistake by the informant himself. If there is a delay on the part of police, they must provide substantial grounds for such delay and no vague basis of delay would be sufficient in the eyes of law. The police would not be liable under Indian criminal law if the delay was inevitable and upon reasonable grounds. Further, such different contexts of delay in lodging first information report has different legal consequences. Though the law itself has not prescribed any time for lodging F.I.R., it is an accepted rule that it should be filed promptly. If a delay is caused explanation for the delay should be given in the F.I.R. because such a delay can cause embellishment, which can be considered an afterthought in the Court. In Bathula Nagamalleswara Rao & Ors. vs. State Rep. By Public Prosecutor the Apex Court held that:
“Delay in lodging of FIR, if justifiably explained, will not fatal. An undue delay in lodging a First Information Report is always looked with a certain amount of suspicion and should as far as possible be avoided”.
Delay in F.I.R. can be understood under following three categories:
- Delay by an informant in lodging F.I.R.
- Delay in recording the F.I.R. by the officer in charge of the police station.
- Delay in dispatching the F.I.R. to the magistrate.
Delay by Informant in Lodging an F.I.R
The court might look into various minor detains while deciding upon delay caused in lodging F.I.R., such as distance between the nearest police station and the place of commission of crime, time of the commission of crime, whether the informant has any conveyance when he approached the police, type of crime, societal and financial status of the aggrieved party, area they belong to, etc. The Court, in the case of Munna @ Pooran Yadav vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, held that the distance of six kilometres between the village and the police station cannot be ignored and the delay of approximately 1 hour caused in lodging F.I.R. is the result of this distance, and hence the F.I.R. was held genuine. The law demands a reasonable explanation for the delay caused in registering the F.I.R., whether it was on the part of the informant or the part of the police. In a rape case, where the F.I.R was lodged 10 days after the commission of crime, it was explained that the reason was that honour of the family of prosecutrix was involved, and thus, members of the family took time to decide whether or not is would be feasible to lodge a first information report in the matter, the Court accepted this explanation as a justified ground for the delay.
Delay in Recording the F.I.R. by the Officer in Charge of the Police Station
In some cases, the police choses to first visit the scene of the crime to ascertain an idea about the incident and afterwards records the F.I.R. on the statement of witnesses present. This might amount to be wrongful on the part of police as in case of a cognizable offence, the police must register the complaint first and then it has power to investigate the case. This amounts to inordinate delay and the first information report is likely to be quashed on the ground of inordinate delay. The Court has held that F.I.R quashed due to inordinate delay in investigation not to be interfered with.
In the matter of Tara Singh and others vs. The State of Punjab, the court gave an important view on the law regarding delay in recording F.I.R. in the following words:
“The delay in giving the FIR by itself cannot be a ground to doubt the prosecution case. Knowing the Indian conditions as they are, one cannot expect these villagers to rush to the police station immediately after the occurrence. Human nature as it is, the kith and kin who have witnessed the occurrence cannot be expected to act mechanically with all the promptitude in giving the report to the police. At times being grief-stricken because of the calamity it may not immediately occur to them that they should give a report. After all, it is but natural in these circumstances for them to take some time to go the police station for giving the report. Of course, in cases arising out of acute factions, there is a tendency to implicate persons belonging to the opposite faction falsely. In order to avert the danger of convicting such innocent persons the Courts should be cautious to scrutinize the evidence of such interested witnesses with greater care and caution and separate grain from the chaff after subjecting the evidence to a closer scrutiny and in doing so the contents of the FIR also will have to be scrutinised carefully. However, unless there are indications of fabrication, the Court cannot reject the prosecution version as given in the FIR and laters substantiated by the evidence merely on the ground of delay. These are all matters for appreciation and much depends on the facts and circumstances of each case”.
Human life is most essential and in an incident, attempts should be made to make sure that the victim lives. Rushing to Hospital to save victim’s life instead of first going to police station is a satisfactory explanation for delay in filing F.I.R.
If the delay is unexplained and some blatant reasons are at the base of the excuse, then such a delay could prove fatal for the prosecution case. However, the delay alone is not sufficient to prove fatal to the prosecution. This rule of law has been upheld by Courts in many cases. In Ramdas & Ors vs. State of Maharashtra, Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “mere delay in lodging FIR not by itself necessary fatal to prosecution case”. Similarly, recently, Bombay High Court, in a rape case, held that delay in lodging the first information report (FIR) by a rape survivor cannot be a ground for acquittal of the accused. Further, the delay alone in itself cannot be a ground for suspicion that the F.I.R is not credible, just as the promptness is not sufficient reason to believe that it is perfectly authentic. In Kesar Singh vs. State of Haryana the Apex court observed that delay of 6 days in lodging FIR is not fatal to the prosecution case. In this case injuries were inflicted on the deceased and death occurred after six days, deceased remained in the hospital for treatment, matter was not reported to Police by doctors.
Delay in Dispatching the F.I.R. to the Magistrate
Sometimes, the first information report reaches the Magistrate late due to certain administrative actions as they are time taking and out of the control of both informant and police. If such a delay, on the part of the officer in charge, can be explained, then the reliability of F.I.R. would automatically increase. In a case where the dispatch of the report to Magistrate was delayed on account of floods, it was held by the court that the delay has been explained and cannot prove fatal to the prosecution. There is no hard and fast rule that delay in filing FIR in each and every case is fatal and on account of such delay, prosecution version should be discarded.
Following are some circumstances which can be said to be reasonable explanations for delay on lodging F.I.R. are: fear of accused persons (psychological cause of delay), fear of damage of honour of family (psychological cause of delay), delay sue to shock caused by murder, Delay in FIR due to infliction of grievous injuries, to the injured person (physical cause of delay), motive of falsely implicating the accused, when facts mentioned in the complaint cannot be altered by mere delay, rough road, bad weather, non-availability of transport, when amicable settlement was started. In the case of Rahit Hazra & Others vs. State of West Bengal, the unexplained delay in registering F.I.R. was, as per the court, one of the reasons that did not let the prosecution prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Condonation of Reasonable delay in Lodging FIR– Delay in many cases brings the prosecution case out of the court and court has to look into the matter seriously for the purpose so that justice may be done to the victim person. All reasonable delay in lodging the FIR must be condoned in the interest of Justice, and the accused should not be allowed to take defences of technicalities and delay in Justice delivery system.
No Second F.I.R. – Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has expressed its views on delay in registering F.I.R. and laid down that there cannot be a second F.I.R. The first statements and story of informant is to be penned down in the F.I.R. and if there is a second complaint, the scope of getting a first-hand information is narrowed down. The Court has ruled that “A First Information Report cannot be lodged in a murder case after the inquest has been held.” This view was upheld by the Apex Court of India in the matter of Mokab Ali & Others vs. State of West Bengal, where the inquest was held before the registration of first information report. Also, the registered F.I.R. reached the magistrate three days after registration.
Irrespective of country, region or society, a false complaint is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. These false F.I.R. can be lodged by an informant or by police to implicate a person in a case. Cases regarding the latter mode of registrations of a false F.I.R. are found more the earlier one. Under Indian criminal law, lodging a false F.I.R. against someone is a punishable offence u/s 182 and u/s 211 of the Indian Penal Code.
Sec. 182 prescribes a punishment for six months and fine in case any person gives false information to a public servant, on the basis of which the public servant takes certain action which he might not have taken if he had known the true state of facts. On the other hand, u/s 211, there is an ono use of the term ‘public servant’. As per this provision, any person who institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceedings against a person to cause him injury, knowing that the complaint and allegations are false, is liable to face imprisonment for a period which may extend to two years. Further, if the charge alleged discloses an offence which is punishable by death, or a minimum imprisonment for seven years, is punishable with imprisonment for a maximum period of 7 years.
It is the duty of the authorities to initiate proceedings u/s 182 IPC if they conclude that the complaint given is a false one. The Punjab & Haryana High Court, in the matter of Harbhajan Singh Bajwa vs. Senior Superintendent ofnPolice, Patiala & Anr., has given a wide explanation of Sec. 182 and it was held that:
“Whenever any information is given to the authorities and when the said authority found that the averments made in the complaint were false, it is for the said authority to initiate action under Section 182 I.P.C. The offence under Section 182 I.P.C. is punishable with imprisonment for a period of six months or with fine or with both. When the authorities themselves found in the years 1996 and 1997 after due investigation that the averments made by Ashwani Kumar in his complaint were false, it is for them to initiate proceedings immediately or within the prescribed period as provided under Section 468 Code of Criminal Procedure. The acceptance of the cancellation report by the Court is immaterial. It does not save the limitation under Section 468 Cr.P.C. which prescribes the period of one year for taking cognizance if the offence is punishable, with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year. Since the offence under Section 182 I.P.C. is punishable with imprisonment for a period of six months only, the authority should file the complaint under Section 182 I.P.C. within one year from the date when that authority found that the allegations made in the complaint were false. Since more than four years lapsed from the date when the authority found the allegations were false, no question of filing any complaint under Section 182 I.P.C. at this belated stage arises”.
Madras High Court is of a view the principal object of the FIR from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to promptly record it so as to reduce the doubt created by the delay, if any, in registration regarding embellishment and possibility of false implication of the accused.
In this regard, the possibility of the fallout of police practise ignoring complaints on the grounds of trivial, petty or minor nature can be brought home. Nowadays, people tend to lean towards informal resolution of disputes, and this has somehow led to vitiate the whole complaint process. Thus to ensure either registration of the case or with an aim to extract a better deal from the tribunal process, or as the officer alleged that to implicate someone falsely, the public may sometimes engage in unfair practices of misrepresentation of facts in the complaint of falsely alleging someone as accused in a particular incident. There is a statutory deterrent in Sec. 211, but the Courts sometimes chose to avoid taking that path as they are already overburdened.
But, as held in the case of Rajinder Singh Katoch vs. Chandigarh Administration & Ors.:
“Although the officer in charge of a police station is legally bound to register a first information report in terms of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if the allegations made by them gives rise to an offence which can be investigated without obtaining any permission from the Magistrate concerned; the same by itself, however, does not take away the right of the competent officer to make a preliminary enquiry, in a given case, in order to find out as to whether the first information sought to be lodged had any substance or not”.
The judiciary on numerous occasions has held that (i) when the petitioner approaches the police and prays for registration of FIR, the police with the statutory duty to register a cognizable offence has thus no option but to register it in the form in which it receives and thereafter starts investigation; (ii) it has no discretion or authority to (a) enquire about the credibility of the information before registering the case, or (b) refuse to register the case on the ground that it is either not reliable or credible. Where the police refused to register FIR on the basis of a written report on the grounds of false allegations as concluded in an ex parte preliminary enquiry, the High Court directed the registration of the FIR and fresh investigation treating the ex parte preliminary enquiry as non-est. The Court has ruled that the police should not start an investigation in a case or on the basis of a complaint, with a presumption that it is false and fabricated.
The Court has discussed the important elements of Sec. 182 while delivering a verdict in the matter of Santosh Bakshi vs. State of Punjab & Ors. As follows:
(i) A piece of information was given by a person to a public servant. (ii) The information was given by a person who knows or believes such statement to be false. (iii)Such information was given with an intention to cause or knowing it to be likely to cause (a) such public servant to do not to do anything if the true state of facts respecting which such information is given were known by him, or (b) to use the lawful power of such public servant to the injury or annoyance of any person.
If a person gets to know that an F.I.R. has been registered against him and he knows that it is false and baseless, as a precaution he has the freedom to apply for anticipatory bail u/s 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The aggrieved or accused person can file a complaint about the offence of defamation in the Court. Further, a person against whom such false complaint has been filed can file a petition u/s 482 of the Cr.P.C. praying to quash the F.I.R. on the ground that (a) acts” and “omission” attributed towards the accused person in the FIR does not constitute any offence; or (b) No incidence of offence as alleged in the FIR has happened; or (c) the FIR contains “bare allegLation” without attributing whatsoever “acts or omission” on the part of the accused person, towards the commission of the offences.
The Law Commission of India, in its 243rf Report in the year 2012 recommended an amendment in Sec. 358 of the Cr.P.C. in order to discourage the practice of false/frivolous complaints which is a reason for harassment of some people and results in an arrest.
Under section 195(1)(a) CrPC, a person making a false complaint can be prosecuted on a complaint lodged with a court of competent jurisdiction by the public servant to whom the false complaint was made or by some other public servant to whom he is subordinate.
Quashing of F.I.R
The Indian legal system has empowered the High Courts with power to quash criminal proceedings in a case if it is satisfied that such quashing is necessary to meet the ends of justice and to prevent misuse of power, rights, and freedoms provided by law. The High Court and Supreme Court have the power to quash F.I.R. on lawful grounds by the virtue of Sec. 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. These powers of the Courts are referred to as ‘inherent powers of Court’.
In the matter of Devendra & Ors. vs. State of U.P. & Anr., it was held that:
“it is now well-settled that High Courts ordinarily would exercise its jurisdiction under Sec. 482 of the Cr.P.C. if the allegations made in the F.I.R., even if given face value and taken to be correct in their entirety, do not make out any offence. When the allegations made in the F.I.R. or the evidence collected during the investigation, do not satisfy the ingredients if an offence, the superior courts would not encourage harassment in a criminal court for nothing”.
Earlier, it was held in the matter of Dr. Sharda Prasad Sinha vs. State of Bihar, that:
“It is now settled law that where the allegations set out in the complaint or the charge-sheet do not constitute any offence; it is competent to the High Court exercising its inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to quash the order passed by the Magistrate taking cognizance of the offence.”
The Apex Court specified the circumstances when the proceedings could be quashed u/s 482 Cr.P.C. and laid down that in the following cases an order of the Magistrate issuing process against the accused can be quashed or set aside:
- Where the allegations made in the complaint or the statements of the witnesses recorded in support of the same taken at their face value make out absolutely no case against the accused or the complaint does not disclose the essential ingredients of an offence which are alleged against the accused;
- Where the allegations made in the complaint are patently absurd and inherently improbable so that no prudent person can ever reach a conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;
- Where the discretion exercised by the Magistrate in issuing process is capricious and arbitrary having been based either on no evidence or on materials which are wholly irrelevant or inadmissible; and
- Where the complaint suffers from fundamental legal defects, such as want of sanction, or absence of a complaint by legally competent authority and the like.
The cases mentioned by us are purely illustrative and provide sufficient guidelines to indicate contingencies where the High Court can quash proceedings.
The Apex Court has recently laid down guidelines according to which the FIR can be quashed in the following circumstances:
- Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie, constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers underSec.156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Sec.155(2) of the Code.
- Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same, do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Sec. 155 (2) of the Code.
- Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
- Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
- Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to a private and personal grudge.
The Court, while delivering judgment in Madhavrao Jiwaji Rao Scindia case, has observed that where matters are also of civil nature i.e. matrimonial, family disputes, etc., the Court may consider “special facts”, “special features” and quash the criminal proceedings to encourage genuine settlement of disputes between the parties.
Limits to Inherent Powers
The powers under section 482 Cr.P.C. are recognised as forming the ground on which the judicial review of criminal matters rests. The Supreme Court, in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India & another, has made a long and strong exposition of inherent powers both of the High Court and the Supreme Court. The fundamental problem faced in this regard is to keep the powers and authority of the High Courts and Supreme Court within the boundaries of constitutionality and legality. The SC can punish an advocate for the offence of contempt of court under Art. 129 read with Art. 142of the Indian Constitution but the revoking license of an advocate can be an excess use of inherent powers as it is the function of the Bar Councils.
The power conferred on the High Court under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution and under Section 482 of Cr. P.C. have no limits. But, more the power more due care and caution is to be exercised while invoking this power. The gravity and scope of the powers of the High Court prompts one to think of the possible limitations in applying the inherent powers; section 482 Cr.P.C. proclaims that nothing in the Code shall affect or limit the inherent powers. Matters which are specifically included under the Code are made immune to inherent powers.
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