FIR stands for ‘First Information Report.’ A First Information Report as the name suggests is the first step towards any criminal proceeding that leads to the trial and subsequent punishment of a criminal.

It is a document that places on record the victim’s side of the story. Police Authorities base their investigation based on a filed FIR. When the case comes to the court, it is also one of the most important pieces of evidence on which the entire structure of prosecution case is build upon.

Hence, it is pretty clear that an FIR is the first step to any criminal case in India.

FIR and the Legal Provisions which empower it.

Now that the importance of an FIR and why it is the first step of any criminal prosecution has been mentioned, let us look at the provisions of law which empower this document

  • Section 154 of the CrPC, 1973 deals with the information in cognizable offence. According to this section 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 the informant and every such information, either given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid shall be signed by the person given it and the substantive there of shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the state Government may prescribe in this behalf. A copy of the information as recorded shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant of the FIR.
  • Section 154[1] of the CrPC, 1973, makes it clear that an FIR can be registered only in the case of a cognizable offence. Cognizable offences are those in which a police officer can arrest an accused without a warrant. Due to the nature of gravity involved in the offences, police authorities can arrest without a warrant under CrPC. The classification of cognizable and non-cognizable offences is furnished under the first schedule of CrPC.
  • Any person who has been refused the right to an FIR by the police officer in charge  can send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offense.

FIR: Who can lodge it?

An FIR can be lodged by any individual who has information about a cognizable offence taking place. The police officer in charge has to file an FIR irrespective of the gravity of the crime as long as it is a cognizable offence. Any police officer can lodge an FIR on his/her own if they come to know about the Commission of any cognizable offence.

How to lodge an FIR?

  • The process of filing an FIR is very simple. It is as simple as narrating a story to the police. The informant has to visit the nearest police station to the place at which the crime took place and furnish all the information he/she has pertaining to the happening of that offence.
  • Section 154 of the CrPC gives a choice to the informant to furnish information orally or in writing. If the information is in oral form then the report must be written down by the police officer himself. Once completed, the report must be read out to the informant. The informant then has to sign the report. The informant also has to be given a copy of the FIR as proof.

What must an FIR contain?

The contents of an FIR are as follows:-

  • Whether the informant is eye witness or hearsay evidence.
  • The nature of the cognizable offence.
  • The name and detailed description of the accused person (entire physical description)
  • The name and identity of the victim of the crime(if aware)
  • The date and time of the occurrence.
  • The place where the crime was committed.
  • The motive for committing of the crime(if aware)
  • How the crime was committed (description of the actual occurrence of the crime)
  • The name and the address of the witness of the crime.

What can you do if the Police refuses to lodge an FIR?

  • If a police officer refuses to lodge an FIR because the case does not fall within their jurisdiction, deals with an offense which is non-cognizable in nature or it is outside their legal capacity to take cognizance of such an offense, in such circumstances the refusal to lodge an FIR is legitimate and justified.  However in cases where an unjustified reason is given to not lodge an FIR, one can:
  • Under section 154(3) of CrPC he/she can approach the Superintendent of Police and submit the substance of such information in writing by post. If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense then, he might investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him.
  • A complaint can be submitted to the magistrate orally or in writing under section 200 of the CrPC. After the submission of a complaint, the magistrate will conduct a hearing, deciding upon the issue of cognizance. In this channel, the informant and the witnesses thereof are examined on oath in front of the magistrate.
  • Mandamus is one of the writs issued by the High Courts or Supreme Court, which is in the form of a command to the State to compel them to perform their public duty. A writ of mandamus can be filed under Article 226 or Article 32 of the Constitution of India, directing the police officials to perform their duty and register an FIR.

Importance of an FIR

The following are the reasons why an FIR is important:

  • To inform the Magistrate or the District Superintendent of police, who are responsible for the peace and safety of the area in which the offence took place
  • To make known to the Judicial Officer whom the case is ultimately tried, what are tried, what are the facts given out immediately after the occurrence and on what material the investigation commenced
  • To protect the accused against subsequent variations or additions.
  • To set the criminal law in motion in that particular case
  • To help with the investigation of the crime.

What to do if an offence is non-cognizable in nature

An FIR is filed only when the offence is of cognizable nature. In non-cognizable offenses, the informant has to approach the officer in charge, who then:

•    Enters such information in his book (format prescribed by the State Government).

•    A police officer can begin with the investigation for a non-cognizable offense, only after receiving an order from the magistrate under section 155(3) of the CrPC.

•    The power of investigation of a police officer is the same in cognizable and non-cognizable offenses, except the power to arrest without a warrant.

•    Hence, if a person wants to register a complaint regarding the commission of a non-cognizable offense, he/she has to first register a complaint with the magistrate having jurisdiction.

•    There are no strict norms pertaining to the format of a complaint. A complaint can be in the form of an affidavit or a petition or a letter. After receiving the complaint, the magistrate will decide upon the issue of cognizance. If the magistrate is satisfied that a non-cognizable offense has been committed, he can order for further investigations.

Can FIR be lodged through a telephonic conversation?

Usually a telephonic conversation is generally made with an intention to gather police at the scene of a crime. In such cases, the telephonic conversation made between the informant and the police officer would not amount to registration of an FIR. However, the Supreme Court of India in Sidhartha Vashisth: Alias Manu Sharma vs State held that “Phone calls made immediately after an incident to the police constitutes an FIR only when they are not vague and cryptic. Calls purely for the reason of getting the police to the scene of crime do not necessarily constitute the FIR”. Hence, it can be said a telephonic conversation would amount to the constitution of an FIR if the information furnished about the crime is unambiguous, clear and in detail.

Immunity against FIR

  • A police officer cannot register an F.I.R against the President of India and governors of the Indian states while they are holding their office, because they enjoy the immunity as per Article 361 of the constitution of India.
  • Also no FIR can be registered against any sitting member of the legislature or Parliament for anything spoken or done on the floor of the house. But the police officer shall register a case if it is preferred by the speaker of the concerned house or any person authorized by him. These members are protected by Article 105 and 194 of the Constitution of India. However, it is to be noted they are liable for criminal prosecution for any act committed by them in their private capacity outside the Legislature and Parliament.

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