What is a First Information Report and how, where, when can I file an FIR and many more questions relating to FIR will be answered through this article.
One of the fundamental human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Indian Constitution, is the Right to Freedom.
Right to Freedom simply means that a person shall be brought before a Court of Law if arrested. Thus, to prosecute one is a constitutional right, that is, a person who is arrested in connection with an offense has the right to be charged in or brought before a court of law.
The accused person or suspect is to be in detention for not more than 24 hours. Within that timeframe, he or she is expected to be brought before a Magistrate.
To restrict the right to freedom requires a complaint against the person. Such a complaint is called the First Information Report (FIR). FIR is the heart of criminal litigation and the purpose is to give the accused or suspect or defendant notice of the case against him or her.
What is a First Information Report (FIR)?Definition
First Information Report is a document prepared and written by the Police on the cognizance of an offense from the information provided by the complainant.
It is also a document containing particulars of an offense or offenses of which an accused or suspect or defendant is charged within a court of law.
It contains allegations leveled against a person in a court of law. It is a peremptory gesture to a police investigation.
It is the most important document. Without it, the police cannot create and register an offense.
The FIR is recognized in several countries such as Singapore, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, etc.
First Information Report is defined under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 particularly section 154 as follows. It stipulated that-
- every information pertaining to the commission of an offense recognized by the law, if given orally shall be reduced to writing by the Officer-in-charge and read over to the informant or complainant or if in writing, shall be signed by the informant or complainant. Thereafter, the information shall be entered or recorded in a book by the Officer kept at the station as prescribed by the State Government.
The reason why information is signed by the informant is to discourage miscreants from making an irresponsible statement on an innocent victim.
The statement is to ensure that the informant is making a responsible and accurate statement.
Refusal to sign the FIR by the informant is so punishable under section 180 of the Indian Penal Code but the absence of signature does not render the Report null and void. The FIR is still admissible in court as evidence.
- Once the information is recorded, a copy shall be provided to the informant free of charge.
- If an officer refuses to record the statement of an informant as provided under section 154(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the informant shall send the substance of the refused information to the Superintendent of Police within the jurisdiction in writing and by post.
- If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied with the information received and believes that an offense has been committed, he can either investigate or order the investigation to be made by his subordinate.
Currently, FIR can be filed either in orally, in writing, in writing and by posting, or online.
Conditions to Fulfill when Filing an FIR-
Two Conditions to fulfill when filing an FIR:
- The substance conveyed must be an information.
- The information must pertain to a cognizable offence.
What are the contents of the First Information Report?
The contents of an FIR may include:
- Preamble section
- Reference Number
- Body section
- Name of the Offender
- Address of the Offender, if available
- The Offence committed
- Nature of the Offence
- Date of the commission of the offense
- Time of commission of the offence
- Place of the commission of the offence
- The jurisdiction where the offence was committed
- Section of the law contravened
- Concluding Section
The central idea of an FIR by the informant or complainant is to inform the accused or suspect in a precise manner the offense against him or her and in detail.
Who Can File A First Information Report?
A First Information Report can be signed by any person. Any person pertains to
- Informant, or
- Other persons reporting a crime or an offense on behalf of someone.
Also, an FIR can be hearsay. The main point is that the offence which brought about the filing is a recognizable offense.
If after investigation, it is discovered that the offence is not a recognizable offence or that the information filed is wrong, or inaccurate, the informant will be severally punished for doing so.
This does not mean that people should be scared or avoid filing information. This measure is put in place to avoid wasting the time of the Police and the State Government.
Where Can A Person File a First Information Report?
An FIR is filed primarily at the Police Station covering the jurisdiction where the crime was committed or the offence was perpetrated.
The reason why an FIR cannot be filed in another jurisdiction is that the Courts and the Police are governed by jurisdictions and they operate within the jurisdictions prescribed to them by law.
For a Police to step out of the jurisdiction assigned, he or she must inform the other jurisdiction of his or her intendment.
Therefore, it is ideal for the informant to file information at the Police Station covering the jurisdiction he or she is or located where the offense was committed.
When Should a First Information Report be filed?
The golden rule of law pertaining to the filing of an FIR by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is that it must be filed timely.
The court and the Police appreciate it when it is filed as soon as possible because it creates room for further and proper investigation at the crime scene which would not have been tampered by any externalities.
Although, there is absolutely no time limit as to when to file an FIR in the eyes of the court, the earlier the better.
If an FIR is filed later than expected, it is at the discretion of the court to decide whether to honor or dishonor such information. The reason being that key evidence may have been tampered with by any externality.
It is pertinent to note that an FIR should be filed immediately, timely, and expeditiously as that will help the case tremendously.
What Does Not Amount to a First Information Report?
Although the list is in-exhaustive, below are instances that do not amount to FIR:
- A statement made before an investigation is commenced does not amount to an FIR. This is provided under sections 162 and 163 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- A Report made and recorded several days after the offence.
- A Report that is not recorded immediately it is made rather, it is recorded after questioning the witnesses.
- A statement or information received by the Police at the Police Station prior to the official lodging of an FIR.
- Information or Statement that does not pertain to a recognizable offence rather, cryptic message examples, a cry for help, and an appeal for immediate help.
- Information or Complaint made to a Magistrate.
- Information received by a Magistrate or Police Officer over the phone. In the case of Damodar v. State of Rajasthan, 2003 AIR SCW 5050, the court held that if the information is conveyed and received by the Police and an entry is made, it will constitute an FIR even if the information pertains to a recognizable offence as stipulated by the State Government or provided by Law.
Laying a First Information Report before a Magistrate
By this method, a suspect arrested usually without a warrant is brought to a police station where the officer in charge of the case listens to the complaint against him (usually by the Investigating Police Officer).
If the police officer is satisfied with the information that public interest will be served by a prosecution, he reduces the complaint into writing in the form called FIR.
If he is not satisfied, he may refuse the information and the alleged offender released. If the information is received, the same shall be read over to the suspect who will, upon satisfaction, sign same.
The statement of the offender may be taken at this stage. Thereafter the suspect and the FIR are taken before the Magistrate who, if satisfied that the allegation is well founded, direct the matter to the Magistrate with jurisdiction to try the matter.
If it is a matter over which the receiving Magistrate has jurisdiction to try, he may hear the matter.
The particulars of the offence of which the suspect is accused will be read out to him and he will be asked if he has any cause to show why he should not be tried by the Magistrate.
If the accused admits or suspect or defendant commission of the offence, his admission shall be recorded as nearly as possible in the words used by him and he can be convicted summarily without even drafting a formal charge.
This is what is usually referred to as the short summary trial procedure. But if he denies, and states that he will show cause why he should not be convicted, the Magistrate shall proceed to hear the complaint and take evidence from prosecution witnesses. The suspect is entitled to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.
The prosecution will be invited to call witnesses after which the Magistrate will draft a formal charge and trial will proceed accordingly.
The First Information Report is filed by an informant at the Police Station. If it is filed elsewhere, it does not amount to an FIR. The only exception to that is the online filing of FIR called e-FIR.
It is pertinent to file an FIR timely as it will help with the investigation of the information, the evidence from the investigation adduced in court and the discretion of the court in handling the case.
For individuals or persons who are too scared to file FIRs at the police station, they can file it online if they are in the jurisdictions that have adopted e-FIR.