When a person becomes a victim of a crime, their first instinct is to go to the police and file a First Information Report (FIR). An FIR is a written document prepared by the police that outlines the details of the crime reported by the victim.
Nowadays, crimes are rising at an alarming rate in our society and hardly a single day is passed when we don’t hear news relating to the commission of severe criminal offenses, such as rape, murder, theft, robbery and many more. At this juncture, the only ray of hope for an aggrieved person is to approach the police station and seek help in getting justice. In other words, the victim of the crime visits the police station to register a First Information Report (FIR) and the police commence the investigation.
However, imagine a situation where you visited a police station being severely distressed and traumatized by the crime requesting the police officer to register the FIR and he refused to do so by citing some false reasons or even he didn’t listen to you. The non-registration of FIR has become very common and a large number of incidents are reported against police officials. But the moot question is – What will you do at such a sensitive stage or where will you go to register your complaint?
To answer this pertinent question, do read this article thoroughly and carefully. In this article, we are going to discuss the alternative remedies when the police refuse to register an FIR. Further, we will shed light on the meaning of FIR and the offenses in which registration of FIR is mandatory.
What is a First Information Report (FIR)?
Before moving ahead, it is important to understand the meaning of FIR. As the name suggests, it is the first document which is prepared in a criminal proceeding by police officials. In the FIR, all the important information related to the offense is recorded. It is important to note that an FIR must bear the signature of the person who has approached the police station.
In a catena of Supreme Court Judgments, it has been repeatedly held that an FIR is not an encyclopedia of facts and it is common to miss out on some additional or even material facts pertaining to the offense. This is based on the reasoning that after facing a horrific crime, it cannot be expected a victim to narrate the chain of events in detail. However, if a contrary stand is taken at the trial stage, the burden of proof would lie on the prosecution. To set the criminal law into motion, registration of FIR is the first and foremost step and the police commence its investigation only thereafter.
When Registration of FIR is mandatory?
As per Section 154(1) of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 (CrPC), an FIR can only be registered in case of a cognizable offense. The term ‘cognizable offense’ refers to those offences in which police are empowered to arrest someone without a warrant. In other words, the Police don’t need to take official permission from the Court as it is competent to take suo moto cognizance and commence an investigation. Schedule 1 of CrPC provides a detailed list of the cognizable offense.
Normally, these offenses entail a punishment of 3 years or more, which can be extended to the death penalty. Interestingly, cognizable offenses can be bailable or non-bailable, depending upon the discretion of the Court.
Who is Eligible to File an FIR?
It is important to note that an FIR can be filed by the victim or his relative or any other person having knowledge of the offense. However, if a person does not know the offense, he is not legally capable of registering the FIR. The person who approaches the police station to register an FIR is called an informant.
The process to register an FIR
The process to register an FIR is provided under section 154 (1) of CrPC. As per the said Section, if the informant approaches the police station and informs about the commission of a cognizable offense, it is the duty of a police officer to record the same in a register which is maintained by them. If the information is given orally, a police officer is required to reduce it in written form and get it signed under his supervision. After this, the substance of the case is recorded in a daily diary register.
It is important to note that if the offense under 326B, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376E or 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1908 is alleged to have committed against a woman, FIR must be registered by a female police officer. In case, the victim is not physically or mentally capable to visit a police station, the recording of the informant can be made at his/her residence. It is a trite law that the informant must be provided with a copy of the FIR.
Remedies against non-registration of FIR
In our criminal jurisprudence, police officers can refuse to register FIR only in two scenarios, firstly, if the information is about a trivial issue and, secondly, if the police station does not have the territorial jurisdiction to record an FIR. The first scenario does not carry much relevance for the purpose of our article but with respect to the second scenario, the solution is ‘zero FIR’. The concept of zero FIR means that if a person has approached a police station having no territorial jurisdiction, the complaint will be recorded and later on, it will be transferred to the correct police station.
Apart from the aforesaid two scenarios, if the police officer refuses to register an FIR by citing some frivolous reasons, you can resort to the below-discussed alternative remedies –
As per Section 154(3) of CrPC, if the officer-in-charge of the police station refuses to register an FIR, the aggrieved person has an option to send the content of information about the crime in written format to the Superintendent of Police via post. After receiving such information, if the SP believes that a cognizable offense is committed, he may order to examine the case by himself or by any other subordinate police officer in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is important to note that the investigating officer would have the same power as conferred to an officer-in-charge of a police station.
If the statutory remedy discussed above does not prove to be effective, the informant has a legal right to file a private complaint before the judicial magistrate under Section 156 (3) read with Section 190 of CrPC. After receiving such a complaint the magistrate after conducting a preliminary enquiry can either dismiss it or can order the police officer to investigate the case as per the Provisions of the Code.
Lalita Kumari Judgment – A settled law on the Registration of FIR
In the landmark judgment of Lalita Kumari v Govt of UP, the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down comprehensive guidelines to be followed by police officials. It was clearly held that it is the first and foremost duty of the Police officer to register an FIR after the commission of a cognizable offense. In normal cases, the police shall not conduct a preliminary enquiry, and it shall only be done in case of family disputes, commercial offenses, medical negligence, etc.
Consequences of non-registration of FIR
To ensure a robust justice delivery mechanism, some severe consequences are provided if the police officer fails to perform his duty relating to the registration of FIR, which is discussed below-
- The most effective remedy is provided under Section 166A of IPC, which provides that if a public servant fails to register an FIR, he shall be subject to rigorous imprisonment for a minimum period of 6 months, which can be extended to 2 years coupled with fine.
- The aggrieved person can approach the High court by filing a Writ Petition requesting the Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus against the delinquent police officer. If the Writ is issued, the Court will ask the impugned officer to give an explanation of his conduct.
- In addition to this, the aggrieved person can approach the High Court seeking compensation, if the non-registration of FIR deprived him of his fundamental right of life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
From the above analysis, it is clear that an FIR is the first legal document having information about the commission of an offense and it is mandatory for a police officer to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offense. If he doesn’t perform his duty, you can approach the Superintendent of Police under Section 154(3) or you can file a private Complaint before the Magistrate under Section 156(3) of CrPC. Moreover, you can approach the High Court seeking a Writ of Mandamus or adequate compensation highlighting the violation of your fundamental rights.