This article is written by Shailja Singh, an LL.B. student of Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be) University, Pune, and Nimisha Dublish, a student of Vivekananda Institute Of Professional Studies (VIPS), GGSIPU.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
Imagine you saw a crime happening or anticipated that a crime was going to be committed by a person. You feel panicked and wish to inform the police authorities to stop or prevent the crime from happening. As a responsible citizen and a human being, you feel that you must report the crime and seek legal remedy for it. It could be anyone at this spot. As we have seen in various television series and movies, it only takes an FIR to get registered if you want to report a crime or an apprehension of the same. But it’s not that straightforward and easy; there lies a quantum of requirements that should be fulfilled before going down the path of filing an FIR. This article will unravel the rights, requirements, and responsibilities and the path thereafter to successfully deliver justice in society.
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:
- It is a piece of information given to the police officer.
- The information must relate to a cognizable offence.
- It is a piece of information reported first in point of time.
- 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.’
The FIR marks the beginning of the journey of investigation that is to be performed by the police officers. The police officers, during the process of investigation, look for evidence and possible witnesses who could testify for the commission of the offence or the offence for which the FIR is filed. It is essential that the person filing an FIR not give false information with malicious intentions to hamper justice. An FIR is a fundamental document that initiates legal proceedings by providing significant information about the offence committed or the apprehension of the same. It can be a criminal offence, a public concern, or both. This document plays a major role in providing direction to police officers as to in which direction they need to proceed with the investigation. This document is essential for both parties to the case.
A brief overview of all the sections dealing with FIR
Section 2(c) of the CrPC
Section 2(c) of the CrPC defines the cognizable offences for which an FIR can be lodged. These offences are listed in Schedule I of the Code. These offences fall under this category and are allowed for filing/lodging an FIR.
Cognizable offences are those for which the police officer is allowed to arrest the accused without a warrant or magistrate’s permission. These offences are more heinous and serious in nature. For example, murder, rape, kidnapping, abduction, etc. These crimes have the capability of harming the peace and harmony of a society. They are mostly public offences. Usually, the punishment given for cognizable offences is more than 3 years and may extend to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Schedule I of the CrPC
Schedule I of the CrPC enlists the offences that are classified as cognizable offences, for example, murder, robbery, etc. These offences require immediate police attention, and preventive measures are needed to be taken by them. These offences are generally more severe and graver in nature and act against the public interest at large.
Section 154(1) of the CrPC
Section 154(1) of the CrPC talks about the procedure for recording an FIR. Cognizable offences that are reported orally or in writing must be written down by the police officer. They should be re-read by the officer for the person lodging the FIR and signed by him thereafter. A copy of the report must be given to the person lodging the FIR, i.e., the informant, free of cost.
This Section lays out a brief outline of the process by which an FIR must be recorded, documented, and acted upon by the police officer.
Section 154(3) of the CrPC
Section 154(3) of the CrPC talks about the actions to be taken if a police officer denies recording the FIR. In such cases, the informant can go to the Superintendent of Police (also known as the Deputy Commissioner in a Police Department). On satisfaction that the crime committed is cognizable, he should either investigate the case himself or direct a subordinate to take the required measures. This Section provides for a remedy or legal recourse that may be taken by the informant if he feels that his complaint is not being entertained by the police officer.
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.
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:
- Information received after commencement of the investigation.
- 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.
- Information of mere assemblage of some persons.
- 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:
- 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.
- It can be used to contradict an informant witness u/s 145 of Evidence Act.
- FIR can be used by the defence to impeach the credit of the maker under sec. 155(3) of the Evidence Act.
- A non-confessional FIR given by an accused can be used as an admission against him u/s 21 of Evidence Act.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Who can lodge an FIR?
An FIR may be filed by any person who either witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a cognizable offence. The police officer is under the obligation to file such an FIR for the cognizable offence. The person against whom an FIR is being filed can be the person who either committed an offence, has knowledge of the commission of an offence, witnessed the offence, or abetted in such an offence. The informant doesn’t need to have first-hand information about the offence. Even an anonymous notice to the police that contains information about such an offence can be treated as a formal complaint. The police officer can also lodge an FIR himself if he has knowledge that a cognizable offence has been committed. In Hallu v. State of MP (1974), it was held that Section 154 of the CrPC talks about the information that an informant holds relating to the cognizable offence given to the officer in charge; thus it is not necessary for the informant to have personal knowledge of such an offence.
Duration for filing an FIR
It has been seen that an FIR should be filed promptly and expeditiously without wasting any time. However, there might be certain circumstances where some amount of concession must be given on reasonable grounds. This shall only be allowed in the interest of justice. Judges have to judiciously decide using their wisdom whether to grant such a concession or not. There is no fixed duration of time that can be granted to apply the test of reasonableness. It is purely dependent on the facts and circumstances of the case and the gravity of the offence.
Steps for filing an FIR
The procedure to get an FIR lodged is fairly simple:
- The moment a cognizable offence is committed or is apprehended, you need to contact your nearest police station. The FIR must be filed immediately, and there shall be no delay in filing the FIR. If, for some reason, it gets delayed, then you need to provide reasonable justification for the delay.
- The informant has to tell the police officer the exact things and circumstances that he knew or witnessed. You can describe the incident either orally or in writing. However, it is the duty of the police officer to reduce it in writing.
- The report must be read back to the informant and signed by him. Before signing the report, you must ensure its accuracy. You should sign the report only after it has been carefully read and verified by you.
- It is the duty of the police officer to serve you with a free copy of the FIR.
- The following things must be mentioned in the FIR-
- Date, time and location of the incident,
- FIR number,
- Name of the police station,
- Facts of the incident,
- Name and descriptions of the persons involved in the incident,
- Witnesses (if any).
Rights of a person lodging FIR
There are certain rights and protections given to the person who is lodging an FIR in the interest of justice, and those are:
- The informant has the right to receive copies of the FIR and related documents as soon as they are filled out by the police officer in charge, as per Section 154(2).
- The informant has the right to receive the information in case the police officer does not conduct an investigation on insufficient grounds. This right is vested with us under Section 157(2).
- The police officer must deliver a copy of the report submitted by him for the inquiry by the magistrate. As per Section 173(2)(i) and (ii), the informant must have knowledge of the actions taken by the police officer.
- If the magistrate issues the process, then the informant must be given notice and a fair chance of getting heard by the magistrate.
Reports and statements that do not amount to FIR
- A report or a statement that is recorded after the commencement of the investigation under Sections 162 and 163 of the CrPC.
- Information not about the occurrence of a cognizable offence but only a cryptic message in the form of an appeal for immediate help.
- Information to the Magistrate or police officer is given via phone or any electronic device.
- Reports were recorded after several days of development of facts and circumstances.
- Information received at the police station prior to the lodging of an FIR.
- Reports not recorded immediately but after questioning of witnesses.
- Complaint to the Magistrate.
It was held in Damodar v. State of Rajasthan (2011) that if the information was conveyed to police by telephone and a DO entry was made, it would not constitute an FIR even if the information disclosed the commission of the cognizable offence. The Supreme Court has given Directions to be followed in regard to the registration of an FIR. These directions are as follows-
- The registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the CrPC. It is mandatory only under the circumstances where there is the commission of a cognizable offence or no preliminary inquiry is allowed in such a situation
- A preliminary inquiry can be conducted in cases where it is not clear whether a cognizable offence was committed or not.
- An FIR must be registered if it is clear from the inquiry conducted that a cognizable offence was committed.
- If the inquiry is closed with a complaint, then the informant must be informed about it along with the reasons in writing within 1 week of such closure.
- The officers cannot refuse to register the FIR if a cognizable offence is committed. If any officer denies, action must be taken against him.
- A preliminary inquiry is conducted just to know if a cognizable offence was committed or not.
- Cases in which preliminary inquiry is conducted are as follows (the mentioned list is not exhaustive but is merely illustrations)-
- Matrimonial disputes
- Family disputes
- Commercial offences
- Medical negligence cases
- Corruption cases
- Cases where there’s a delay in the initiation of proceedings
- The preliminary inquiry must be time bound and should not exceed 7 days. The general diary entry must contain the facts and reasons for the delay.
- The diary in which all the information relating to a cognizable offence is recorded must reflect the reason for conducting a preliminary inquiry.
Types of FIR
An FIR filed with a malicious intention to spread false information about someone or defame him. If such information is given to a public official to harm another person, he can be punished under Section 182 or Section 203 of the Indian Penal Code (1860), as the case may be. Section 177 of the IPC covers the situation where the police officer himself gives incorrect information even after being aware of the truth.
There has been a lot of debate over the permissibility of a second FIR. It completely depends on the nature and circumstances of a case. It is permissible even if there are the same facts and conditions, provided that the formal complaint was decided on insufficient grounds and without understanding the gravity of the offence. However, it won’t be maintainable if the case was decided and disposed of on the complete merits and after consideration of facts and circumstances.
Various courts have laid down different interpretations of the circumstances. They have provided various tests for it. Tests are given by the courts for figuring out the following:
- Whether the conspiracies are identical or not?
- Whether the earlier complaint was disposed off on immaterial grounds or not?
- Whether an order has been passed without understanding the nature of the complaint or not.
A zero FIR can be registered in cases of cognizable offences that require the immediate attention of the police to act. It can be registered at any police station, irrespective of jurisdiction. The police officers can act on this without the court’s permission and even before the complaint is handed over to the relevant jurisdiction. It is typically used for offences like murder and rape. Zero FIR is meant to help victims of serious offences, especially women and children. It is a quick and convenient way to lodge a complaint, without having to go from one police station to another. If an officer disregards the registration of a zero FIR, he may face consequences under Section 166A of the IPC.
When the parties involved in a case file an FIR against each other regarding the same incident, it is known as a cross FIR.
When the aggrieved parties file multiple FIRs for the same cause of action, same incident, and same persons, it is called a multiple FIR. Filing multiple FIRs is prohibited by the court in the case of Surender Kaushik v. State of UP (2013). This act jeopardises the inquiry and causes confusion, and delays justice.
Evidentiary value of FIR
The FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence but can be considered evidence in the following situations:
- As per Section 154 of the CrPC, the FIR marks the beginning of the investigation proceedings, and on the basis of this investigation, the charge sheet is made under Section 173 of the CrPC.
- Though the FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence, it helps in corroborating the facts and statements made by the informant and cross-examining him thereafter.
- As per Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act (1872), the FIR can be used as proof of the actions of the informant.
- As per Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act (1872), if the informant dies and the statement recorded by the police in the FIR includes the reason for his death or about the events that might lead to his death, then it can act as substantial proof to validate the reasons for his death. This acts as a dying declaration, wherein the person testifies about the circumstances leading to his death.
- As per Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act (1872), the FIR may be used to refute the informant’s testimony. This Section allows the contradiction of witnesses during the cross-examination.
- As per Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act (1872), the FIR may be used in support of a witness but cannot be used to refute or undermine the testimony of other witnesses.
- 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 as per Section 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
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:
|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.|
|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.|
Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2010 (famously known as Jessica Lal’s murder case)
Facts of the case
In this case, model Jessica Lal was found shot dead in a restaurant in Delhi. Jessica Lal refused to serve more drinks to the petitioner, as a result of which the petitioner shot her, which led to her death. Manu Sharma managed to escape from the scene but later on, he was called upon for the offence he committed. The offence took place at Qutub Colonnade, and there were several witnesses who testified to the presence of Manu Sharma at the crime scene. The prosecution relied on the telephonic/wireless message that was received by the Mehrauli Police Station. The communication was relied on as evidence. Manu Sharma was acquitted in the initial trial, but later on, the decision was overturned by the Delhi High Court who found him guilty of the offences. As a result of which he appealed for conviction in the Supreme Court.
Issues involved in the case
Along with the main issue of whether or not Manu was present at the murder scene, there was one more issue, i.e., the reliability of the wireless message as evidence.
Judgement of the Court
The Supreme Court in this case held that telecommunication or wireless communication, i.e., phone calls that are made immediately after the offence, will be eligible to be considered an FIR only when it is established that they were not vague or cryptic. However, the calls that are made to police officers to merely get them to the crime scene do not necessarily qualify as an FIR. Hence, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Delhi High Court.
Tehal Singh and Ors. v. State of Punjab, 1978
Facts of the case
In this case, telephonic communication was received by the police officer in charge, and the court examined the circumstances that are to be considered for such information to be considered an FIR under Section 154 of the CrPC. There was a chain of events involved, for which Tehal Singh was accused of attacking and killing Pirthi Singh. They claimed that they were provoked by Pirthi Singh, but it was not considered part of the same transaction. Tehal Singh contended that he and his companions were falsely involved in this case and that whatever he did was in self-defence.
Issues involved in the case
Whether the telephonic conversation meets the criteria of an FIR or not?
Judgement of the Court
The High Court of Punjab and Haryana held that there are certain conditions that must be met to consider telephonic communication an FIR. The Court emphasised the fact that the information given by the informant must be reduced to writing to be considered an FIR as per Section 154 of the CrPC. Further, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also confirmed the decision given by the High Court and dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court didn’t find any flaw in the session court’s judgement, which was then confirmed by the High Court.
Lalita Kumari v. Government of UP, 2013
Facts of the case
In this case, a writ petition in the Supreme Court was filed by Lalita Kumari’s father, Bhola Kamat, under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Lalita Kumari was the minor daughter of Bhola Kamat. She was kidnapped, and her father lodged an FIR at the nearest police station. The police officers did not take any action to find Lalita Kumari, even after registering the FIR. The case was heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench. The Supreme Court examined the mandatory requirements for filing an FIR under Section 154(1) of the Code. The Court attempted to distinguish between cognizable and non-cognizable offences and laid down guidelines for the procedure related to FIR registration.
Issues involved in the case
The main issues were the scope, applicability, and obligation of the police while registering an FIR.
Judgement of the Court
The Supreme Court held that the conditions under Section 154(1) of the Code must be strictly adhered to. The police must conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if the nature of the offence is cognizable or non-cognizable. The informant must be told within seven days after the preliminary inquiry is concluded, whether or not the FIR should be filed. If not, then the reasoning must be provided.
The FIR is the stepping stone of the whole justice delivery system. It is a very crucial document for every criminal case. It marks the beginning of the criminal prosecution. An FIR can be registered in simple steps and is still a significant document for the investigation to begin. As rightly observed in the case of Mohan Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1988), an FIR is the Bible of the case initiated on the public record. Hence, it is vital for every citizen to understand their rights related to an FIR. These are very helpful in understanding how an individual should proceed if he wishes to report a crime or raise his voice against public offences.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What information should be included in an FIR?
It must include the date, time, location, nature, description, witnesses, accused, and evidence of the offence committed.
Can FIR be filed online?
Yes, in many jurisdictions, an FIR can be filed online. It is for the convenience and accessibility of the informant.
What is the difference between a complaint and FIR?
A complaint is an allegation made either orally or in writing to a magistrate. The complaint is made regarding a known or unknown person who has committed an offence, but it doesn’t include a police report. Whereas an FIR is a document that is prepared by police officers after verifying the details of the crime and the alleged person. An FIR is only filed in case of a cognizable offence.
What is the importance of an FIR?
An FIR is a document that embarks on the beginning of the process of investigation. An investigation can only be done after filing an FIR. (Lalita Kumari v. Government of UP)
What are the basic rights of an informant?
The basic rights of an informant are the right to be heard, the right to confidentiality, and the right to be informed. However, the informant also has the obligation and responsibility to provide true and accurate information. He must also cooperate with the police investigation and attend court proceedings as and when called.
What should I do if the police refuse to file my FIR?
The police may refuse to file your FIR on reasonable grounds such as date, time, place, gravity of the offence, etc. But if you think that they are refusing to file an FIR on unreasonable grounds, then you can approach a higher-ranking police officer or superintendent of police and address your issue there. You can submit a written complaint at their office and attach supporting documents and evidence. If you are unable to get justice, you can seek legal assistance and consult with a lawyer. At last, if all these steps fail, you can file a private complaint with the local magistrate or Metropolitan magistrate, as per the jurisdiction. If your complaint is reasonable and the magistrate is convinced that further inquiry must be done in this case, then he shall, at his own discretion, direct the police to file the FIR and conduct the investigation.
Can an FIR be used as evidence in court?
Yes, it can be used as evidence, as it serves as a formal record of the complaint. However, an FIR alone may not act as a strong piece of evidence.
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