First Information Report
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This article is written by Shailja Singh, an LL.B. student of Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be) University, Pune.

Meaning

The term ‘First Information Report’ has not been defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Rather the term has not been used except in section 207 which requires the Magistrate to furnish to the accused a copy of the First Information Report recorded under section 154 (1) of the Code. The report first recorded by the police relating to the commission of a cognizable case is the First Information Report giving information on the cognizable crime.

It may be defined as follows:

  1. It is a piece of information given to the police officer.
  2. The information must relate to a cognizable offence.
  3. It is a piece of information reported first in point of time.
  4. The victim of the cognizable offence or someone on his/her behalf gives information and lodges a complaint with the police.

This is the information on the basis of which investigation begins. The FIR must be in writing.

In the State of Rajasthan v. Shiv Singh, the Rajasthan High Court defined a First Information Report as ‘the statement of the maker of the report at a police station before a police officer recorded in the manner provided by the provisions of the Code.’

Object

The main objective of filing F.I.R. is to set the criminal law in motion. And also to enable the police officer to start the investigation of the crime committed and collect all the possible pieces of evidence as soon as possible.

The various objects of recording F.I.R. are:

  • To inform the District Magistrate and the District Superintendent of Police, who are responsible for the peace and safety of the district, of the offence, reported at the police station.
  • To make known to the judiciary and judicial officers before whom the case has to be ultimately tried, about the facts and scenario which came out after the immediate occurrence of the crime.
  • To safeguard and protect the accused against subsequent additions or variations.

Essential Conditions of F.I.R.

In Moni Mohan v. Emperor, it was decided that the essential conditions of F.I.R. are:

  • It must be a piece of information.
  • It must be in writing. If given in writing, should be reduced into writing by the concerned police officer.
  • The main act or crime should be cognizable in nature, not the ones subsequent to the main act.

The F.I.R. must be in the nature of complaint or accusation with the object of getting the law in motion.

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Information in Cognizable Cases [S.154]

Since the information received u/s 154 is termed as FIR, it is important to know the provisions relating to the procedure for recording information in respect of cognizable cases u/s/ 154.

  • If the information is given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, it has to be reduced in writing by the concerned police officer. It should be then read over to the informant, and then signed by him. The information thus received has to be recorded in a book authorised by the state government regarding the same.
  • A copy of the information recorded is to be given to the informant, free of cost.
  • If the officer in charge refuses to record the information, the person may send such information, the aggrieved person may send, the substance of such information to the Superintendent of Police and the Superintendent of Police if satisfied about the commission of the cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by the subordinate police officer. Such police officer shall exercise all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in the concerning offence.

When the information is given by a woman against whom any of the offences under sections 326 – A, 326-B, 354, 354-A to 354-D, 376, 376-A to 376-E or 509 IPC is alleged to have been committed or attempted, such statement shall be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer.

What Kind of Information is Considered in an F.I.R?

Only information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence can be termed as an FIR. It is not necessary that the information must set out every detail of the case. It need not state the name of the accused also. What is necessary is that it must disclose information regarding the commission of a cognizable offence.

 Information received in the following cases is not considered as FIR:

  1. Information received after commencement of the investigation.
  2. Telephonic information, unless it has been given by a known person who discloses his identity and the message contains all the necessary facts which constitute an offence and such a message is reduced to writing by S.H.O.
  3. Information of mere assemblage of some persons.
  4. Indefinite, Vague and unauthorized information.

Evidentiary Value of F.I.R.

An FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence. That is, it cannot be considered as evidence of facts stated therein. However, FIR may be used for the following purposes:

  1. It can be used to corroborate an informant witness u/s 157 of Evidence Act. But it cannot be used to contradict or discredit other witnesses.
  2. It can be used to contradict an informant witness u/s 145 of Evidence Act.
  3. FIR can be used by the defence to impeach the credit of the maker under sec. 155(3) of the Evidence Act.
  4. A non-confessional FIR given by an accused can be used as an admission against him u/s 21 of Evidence Act.
  5. FIR can be used as a dying declaration as substantive evidence If it relates to the cause or occasion or circumstances and facts which resulted in the informant’s death. within the meaning of section 32(1) of the Evidence Act.

If the accused himself lodges the FIR, it cannot be used for corroboration or contradiction because the accused cannot be a prosecution witness, and he would very rarely offer himself to be a defence witness u/s 315 of the Code.

Delay in Filing FIR

The object of early filing of F.I.R. to the police as soon as possible, in respect of the commission of the offence is to obtain and receive fresh information regarding the circumstances and facts which tend to result in the commission of the offence. The FIR shall have better corroborative value if it is recorded and taken before the informant’s memory fades and before he starts to forget the facts. Thus, if there is a delay in lodging FIR and the delay is unreasonable and unexplained, it is likely to create scope for suspicion or introduction of a concocted story by the prosecution. It is the duty of the prosecution to explain the delay in lodging FIR. If satisfactorily explained, it does not lose its evidentiary value. However, mere delay in lodging FIR is not fatal to the prosecution case.

In Raghbir Singh v. The State of Haryana, It was held that going to the hospital due to the condition of the victim for saving his life instead of going to the police station first was a reasonable and valid explanation for the delay in filing F.I.R.

Delay in Filing FIR in Case of Rape

In cases of rape and other sexual offences, the case is not only related to the victim but also with the family of the victim. Many times due to shame and honour they do not contact the police immediately. Therefore the courts have consistently ruled that delay in a case of sexual assault cannot be equated with the case involving other offences.

In Harpal Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh, It was held that ‘delay of 10 days in lodging the first information report stands reasonably explained when the prosecution stated that as the honour of the family was involved, the members needed time to decide whether the matter should be taken to the court or not.

Relevant Provision qua FIR

  1. Under section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, any former statement relating to the same fact may be proved. The former statement may be written or oral. The account book of a witness may also be included. The object of this section is to admit the statements made at a time when the mind of the witness is still so connected with the event as to make it reasonably probable that the description given by him is or would be accurate or correct.
  2. Section 145 of the Evidence Act provides for one of the matters in which credit of a witness may be impeached. The object is either to test the memory of the witness or to contradict him by the previous statement in writing. The statement in FIR made by the witness can be used for this purpose but a witness can be contradicted only by his own previous statement and not the statement of any other.
  3. Section 8 of the Evidence Act provides the guilty mind begets guilty conduct. Conduct of any person against whom the offence was committed is always relevant and it is shown in illustration (j) and (k) of section 8. Conduct here includes the conduct of both i.e. accused as well as the victim. Conduct of accused which is of non-confessional nature may be brought within section 8 and it will be admissible also under section 21 of the Evidence Act.
  4. The FIR can also be used for cross-examination of informants and for contradicting him. But it cannot be used for the purpose of corroborating or contradicting any witness other than the one lodging the FIR.

Difference Between F.I.R and Complaint

While in common parlance the terms FIR and complaint are often used interchangeably, both terms have different legal meanings and implications. The primary difference between a complaint and FIR is that while FIR is lodged with the police, a complaint is made to the magistrate.

The major points of difference are:

F.I.R COMPLAINT
FIR is not defined under the code. Complaint is defined u/s 2(d) of the Code as “any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this Code, that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but does not include a police report.[1]
FIR is lodged with an officer in charge of a police station. Complaint is filed with the Magistrate.
FIR relates to information as to the commission of a cognizable offence. It may relate to the commission of any offence, whether cognizable or non-cognizable.
The magistrate cannot take into cognizance of an offence. The magistrate is empowered u/s 190 of Cr.P.C. to take cognizance of an offence upon a private complaint.
It is not a substantive piece of evidence. The complaint itself is substantial evidence.
The FIR once lodged with the police station cannot be withdrawn by the informant. In a summons case, a complainant can withdraw a complaint against all or any of the accused, at any time before a final order is passed. (Sec. 257)
The informant is not bound to take an oath before the police officer while lodging FIR. The Complainant must take an oath before the Magistrate.
The informant would not be liable for malicious prosecution if the information furnished by him is found to be incorrect or false. The complainant is liable for malicious prosecution if the complaint is found to be false.

Conclusion

The FIR is the first step of Criminal Procedure that leads to the trial and punishment of a criminal. It is also the most important supportive evidence on which the entire structure of the prosecution case is built-up. As rightly observed in the case of Mohan Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh, FIR is the Bible of the case initiated on the public report.

References

  1. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  2. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  3. R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure

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