First Information Report (FIR)

From Justice Definitions Project

What is an FIR?

An FIR (First Information Report), as the name suggests, is the first document providing information regarding the commission of a Cognizable offence created by the police; by recording information of the alleged crime. It is the first step that sets the criminal justice system in motion. It is generally lodged by the victim of a cognizable offence or on their behalf.

Official Definition of an FIR:

While the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does not specifically lay down a definition of the phrase. “First Information Report”, Section 154 lays down the relevant details pertaining to the filing of an FIR:

Broadly, three essential elements may be identified in an FIR. According to Section 154 of the CrPC, firstly, the information must deal with the commission of a cognizable offence. Next, it should have been given orally to the head of a police station. And lastly, it ought to be reduced to writing and signed by the informant, with its key points to be duly noted in a daily diary.

Before dealing with additional details pertinent to FIRs, a critical point to be noted is the fact that FIRs can only be filed in cases involving cognizable offences. Cognizable offences are offences where the police officer may, in accordance with the first schedule of Code of Criminal Procedure or any other law in force, arrest the accused without the necessity of a warrant.

An FIR should contain the following details:

  • The name and details of the person lodging the FIR.
  • The location, date and time of occurrence of the incident.
  • Specific details of the event that transpired or the offence that had been committed.
  • The name of the accused, if known, or any details for identification of the accused.
This sample FIR form indicates the relevant details required for the filing of an FIR. Source-https://police.py.gov.in/Police%20manual/Forms%20pdf/FORM%20IF%201.pdf

Mandatory Registration of FIRs:

It has been established by the Supreme Court, in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of UP[1], that the registration of an FIR is mandatory, when the information received indicates the commission of a cognizable offence. The police may carry out a preliminary inquiry only when, from the information provided, it is unclear whether the offence committed is cognizable or non-cognizable. However, such an inquiry must be completed in seven days, and cannot be carried out to verify the veracity of the information received. The usage of the phrase ‘shall’ register an FIR affords no discretion to the police officer in the registration, merely requiring a prime facie commission of a cognizable offence.

That being said, however, a second FIR cannot be filed on the identical offence, to protect the accused against double jeopardy unless the case opens up a wider scope of investigation, or deals with different facts and circumstances[2].

Remedies on refusal to register FIR:

Section 154(3) of the CrPC provides for remedial measures on refusal by an officer to register an FIR; the information may be sent to and taken up by the Superintendent of Police. In case he believes that the information indicates the commission of a cognizable offence, he may investigate the matter himself or direct an investigation to be made by any subordinate police officer.

Upon the superintendent’s refusal to take up the matter, however, the aggrieved person may approach the magistrate, who is conferred with the power to order such investigation under Section 156(3) of the CrPC[3].

Zero FIR and Telephonic FIR:

A police station may register an FIR irrespective of jurisdictional area; however, the investigation will be taken up by the police station with the competent jurisdiction. The serial number for such FIRs are marked as zero and thus, such FIRs are known as “Zero FIRs”.[4]

A telephonic message which is cryptic or unclear cannot constitute an FIR, however, may be noted as a general diary entry[5]. However, if the offence is clearly specified and all of the requisite details for an FIR are duly intimated, an FIR via a phone call may be accepted[6].

Evidentiary Value of an FIR:

An FIR can be used for the corroboration of a witness under Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It can also be used for the contradiction of a witness under Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act. Additionally, over the course of the trial, it may be used for establishment of the identity of the accused, eyewitnesses and the location of the crime under Section 9 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Differences Between FIRs and General Diary Entries:

The General Diary (GD) ought to be duly distinguished from a First Information Report, as was established by the Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of UP.  Under Section 44 of the Police Act,  1861, police officers are required to maintain a general diary, chronologically recording all transactions and events in a police station, including arrests, charges, seizures and all relevant details. While the substance of an FIR is also to be recorded in the general diary, a GD entry, an does not require any signature of the complainant, unlike an FIR which requires a signature. An FIR book is to be maintained simultaneously, which may provide a far more detailed account of the offence, while the GD entry may only contain the gist or the substance of the offence. The two are to be prepared simultaneously, and the GD entry must contain the appropriate FIR number too. However, as held in CBI v. Tapan Kumar Singh[7], a GD entry may be treated as an FIR if it discloses the commission of a cognizable offence , in the absence of a registered FIR.

Quashing of an FIR

Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure confers the High Courts with the  powers to, among other things, quash an FIR or a criminal complaint. An FIR may be quashed if it is frivolous, falsely implicates the accused, does not make out a prime facie offence by the accused or involves a malafide intention in instituting the proceedings. The Court, in State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal[8], laid down the guidelines to be followed in the quashing of an FIR by any court, which include, aside from those above, when an express legal bar exists to the continuance of proceedings before the Court, where the allegations appear absurd or improbable, or when the allegations in the FIR only indicate a non-cognizable offence, requiring an order of a Magistrate for any investigation under Section 155(2) of the CrPC.

Supply of the FIR and Police Report to the Accused:

Under Section 207 of the CrPC,  in cases where the proceedings have been instituted on a police report, in addition to a copy of the police report and recorded statements, the Magistrate is required to furnish a copy of the First Information Report to the accused.

Special proviso for Women Victims

Section 154(1) of the CrPC provides for special procedures for FIR registration for offences against women. If such an offence is alleged, the recording of such information is to be carried out by a woman police officer or any other women officer. Additionally, on account of mental or physical disability of the victim, the FIR is to be recorded at the residence of the victim or a place of her choice, in the presence of a special interpreter and to be videographer. Failure to adhere to the guidelines is punishable under Section 166A of the Indian Penal Code.

Appearance in official databases

e-FIRs-

Various state governments have introduced e-FIR portals for the filing and electronic tracking of the status of FIRs. An e-FIR, as the name suggests, may be filed online without a physical visit to the police station. The table below indicates some of the websites through which an FIR may be filed:



An e-FIR may be filed via the state e-FIR portals, and based on the state, may be lodged for cases involving theft, of articles or motor vehicles, as the case may be, often found under the “citizen services” category.

For the Karnataka police website, e-lost reports may be filed for lost articles. Source:https://bcp.karnataka.gov.in/en
On the website of the Delhi Police, FIRs may be filed under citizen services for stolen items or specifically, vehicles. Source: http://59.180.234.21:85/


e-Court FIR Search Filter-

The status of cases, on the e-Courts services website, may be accessed and filtered on the basis of the FIR number:

Applying filters and FIR numbers, the e-courts website provides the case status
Upon input of the above FIR details, the e-Courts services website displays key details regarding the case status.


CBI FIRs:

FIRs lodged via the Central Bureau of Investigation and its various divisions, including the Anti-Corruption Bureau, may be accessed online via the CBI website, filtering by the branch and case number.

Source: cbi.gov.in- https://cbi.gov.in/view-fir

Data on FIRs

NCRB

The National Crime Records Bureau gives data on  the total registration of FIRs, including eFIRs, under the Indian Penal Code and Special Local Laws across states:


Terms used for registered FIRs

The terms in the report namely ‘Cases Registered’, ‘Cases Reported’, ‘Number of Cases’, ‘Number of Crimes’, ‘Number of incidences’, ‘Incidences’ are interchangeably

used to indicate the number of registered FIRs.[9]

References

  1. Lalita kumari vs Govt of U.P. 2014 2 SCC 1.
  2. TT Antony v. State of Kerala (2001) 6 SCC 181.
  3. Sakiri Vasu v. State of UP (2008) 2 SCC 409.
  4. Neelu Shrivastava vs State & Ors 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5158
  5. Ramsinh Bavaji Jadeja v. State of Gujarat 1994 SCC (2) 685.
  6. Manu Sharma v. NCT of Delhi (2010) 6 SCC 1.
  7. CBI v. Tapan Kumar Singh (2003) 6 SCC 175.
  8. State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335.
  9. https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/CII-2021/CII%20Methodology%202021.pdf
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