Legal Jungle

FIR and the Criminal Justice System

Aryaman Shivendra Pratap : FIR and the Criminal Justice System


Criminal law is necessary to protect society against criminals and lawbreakers. For this purpose, the law gives punishments to the offenders as well as prospective lawbreakers. The criminal law therefore consists of both, procedural law as well as substantive law, ie CrPC and IPC. Substantive law defines offenses and prescribes punishments for the same, while the procedural law administers the substantive law.

Introduction to FIR

FIR stands for First Information Report which is given to the police after the commission of an offense. It is not defined anywhere in the code. It is the earliest of the information which is given to the police officer in-charge of a police station. The firsthand information which is being provided to the police officer can be given by the aggrieved person or any other person to the police officer. The FIR is important because it is the first document that gives evidence about the commission of a cognizable offense.

In the case of State of Harayana V. Bhajan Lal[1] it was ruled by the Supreme Court that there are certain conditions which are mandatory for recording FIR. The conditions that were listed by the Supreme Court are as follows-

  1. There should be an information that is given by either the aggrieved or any other person,
  2. The information provided should disclose the commission of a cognizable offense.

If the above conditions are fulfilled and it is clear that a cognizable offense has been committed, then the officer is bound to record the information.

However, if the information which is provided discloses that cognizable offense was not committed, then the officer is not bound to register the information and it will not be treated as FIR. This was given in the case of Manoj Kumar Sharma v. State of Chattisgarh[2].

The Essentials of FIR are as follows:

  1. FIR should be an exceptionally definite report. This was given in the case of Ashwani Kumar v. State of Punjab[3]
  2. FIR is an essential document but it does not have a substantive value. This was reiterated in the case of Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab[4]
FIR in Cognizable cases

If a cognizable offense, which is mentioned in Sec 2(c) of the Code, has been committed, then Sec 154 of the Code would invoked. The main purpose of the arrangement is to acquire early data of supposed criminal action and to record the conditions before they are forgotten.

According to the Supreme Court, the principal object of the FIR from the stand-point of the informant, is to set the criminal law into motion and from the viewpoint of the investigating authorities, is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activities, so that appropriate steps can be taken for tracing and bringing the guilty person behind the bars.[5]

Sec 154 deals with the information in cognizable cases.

  1. The first clause of the section talks about the way the information, which has been provided to the police officer, has to be recorded. If the information regarding the commission of the cognizable offense is given orally to the police, then it shallbe converted into writing, either by the police officer himself or under his directions. The information that has been recorded then has to be read over to the informant.

However, if the information is not signed by the informant, it does not mean that the document is inadmissible. The document would remain valid because the process of signing is merely a procedural aspect and does not render the document inadmissible. This was given in the case of Ratanchand v. The State[6]

The information which is converted into writing, after being read to the informant shall be signed by him.

The recorded information, after it has been signed by the informant, shall be recorded in the book kept by the police officer, according to the format prescribed by the respective State Government.

In the first clause, it has been further provided that-

  • If in certain cases wherein the offense under Section 354 (A,B,C,D),Section 376 ( A,B,C,D,E) or Section 509 of IPC have been committed against a person and which in turn has left the aggrieved temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the officer recording such information shall record the information at the residence of the person against whim the offense has been committed, or at any place which the person deems suitable, in the presence of an interpreter or a special educator[7]
  • The recording shall be video graphed.
  • The police shall get the statement of the person recorded by the Judicial Magistrate.
  • The second clause says that a free copy of the information shall be provided to the informant.
  • The third clause deals with the situation if the police officer in charge of a police station refuses to record the information. If it happens, then the aggrieved can send the substance of such information to the Superintendent either in writing or by post. If the Superintendent feels that the substance of such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense, he shall either investigate the case himself or direct the investigation to be made by a police officer.

However, these provisions have proved to be not airtight and therefore certain loopholes have been found to the FIR. Following are the instances which are not considered as FIR, they are-

  1. Delay in filing the FIR: The delay in filing the FIR is not fatal to the case. However the reasons for the delay in filing the FIR is taken into notice by the court. For instance, if the delay is so long as to create doubts and suspicions in the mind of the court, appropriate steps are taken to determine the reason for the subsequent delay. However if reasons like distance to the police station or the victims being terrorized by the accused, can be taken into consideration as a valid reason for the delay in the filing of the FIR. In the case of Joginder Singh V. State of Punjab[8], the incident had taken place at around 2PM and the report was lodged 13 miles away at about 4:15PM. The court held that there was no considerable delay in the lodging of the FIR.

In another case of Sher Singh v. State of Punjab[9], an attempt to murder a girl by her father and uncle was made. The victim and her mother were shocked that they could not take any decision. The FIR was launched 30 hours later. It was held by the court that such delay was not fatal to the proceedings.

  • The second loophole would to state that FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence. It is only used to contradict or corroborate the matters thereof.[10]

This was substantiated in the case of Shambhu Das v. State of Assam[11]

The value of FIR will vary depending on whether it is based on information given by the complainant or eye witness to the crime or a mere stranger.

  • Information received on the phone: Information which has been received on the phone and which does not give substantial information as the commission of a cognizable offense, or the identity of the accused etc, will not be treated as FIR. This is reiterated in the case of Ravishwar Manjhi v. State of Jharkhand[12]

If the phone call did not mention that a cognizable offense has taken place even when it was given by an identifiable person, will not be treated as FIR. This was given in the case of State of Harayana v. Ch. v. Bhajan Lal[13]

However certain aspects relating to FIR are considered even when certain loopholes are present. They are-

  1. If the FIR does not mention the name of the accused, it does not mean that the FIR is invalid. The absence of name does not hold any significance. This was given in the case of K.C Mangal v. State of Rajasthan[14]
  • If there are minor omissions in the FIR, it does not mean that the FIR is invalid and would not make the case of the prosecution unreliable. This was provided in the case of Radhey Shayam Narendra v. State of Orissa[15]

It has been clearly stated in the case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh[16], it was said that if the necessary steps are not taken for the registration of the FIR, complainants may move to the Magistrate concerned by filing complaint petitions for appropriate directions.

Information of the commission of crime of a non-cognizable nature.

Sec 155 of the Code talks about the information in non-cognizable cases.

  1. The first clause talks about the information which is given to a police officer in charge of a police station, which discloses that a non-cognizable case has taken place, the information shall be recorded in a book to be kept by such officer in a format prescribed by the State Government.
  • The second clause says that the police officer shall not investigate a case of non-cognizable nature without the permission of the Magistrate.
  • The third clause talks about the scenario when the police officer has received permission from the Magistrate to investigate into the case. The police officer will have the same powers to investigate the non-cognizable as in the cases of cognizable nature, except the power to arrest without warrant.
  • The fourth clause talks about the scenario when more than one offenses have been committed, which are of both, cognizable as well as non-cognizable nature, then the case shall be treated as a cognizable case.

In the case of State of Orissa v.  Sharat Chandra Sahu[17], a case was filed by a wife against her husband alleging of offense under Sec 494 and 498-A OF IPC. Sec 494 is a non-cognizable offense but the offense under sec 498-A is a cognizable offense. Therefore the court held that in this scenario, police can investigate the case even though 494 is a non-cognizable offense.

The same was also reiterated in the case of Pravin Chandra Mody v. State of Andhra Pradesh[18]. It was again said that while investigating a cognizable case, the police are not stopped from investigating a non-cognizable case which might be a result of the same facts and circumstances of the same case.

Uses of FIR

The FIR can be put in evidence when the informant is examined, if it is desirable to do so. However, FIR does not prove itself and is only used to substantiate or deny the claims.
Who can lodge FIR?

The FIR can be lodged by the victim, witness or any other person with knowledge of the incident that had taken place.

A police officer who comes to know about the commission of a cognizable offense can also file the FIR.

Where to file the FIR?

FIR can be filed at the police station having the jurisdiction of the offense. However this is not necessary.

Criminal Justice System in India

The criminal justice system is an essential part of any country because it prevents the occurrence of crimes, punishes the criminals, rehabilitates them and provides compensation to the aggrieved. Another aspect of the criminal justice system is to make sure that the prospective offenders are stopped from committing offences and to maintain law and order in society.

The process for administering the criminal justice system in India has been divided into 3 stages, i.e., investigation, inquiry and trial.

Inquiry has been defined in sec 2(g) of the Code. According to the section, “Inquiry means every inquiry, other than trial, conducted under this Code by a Magistrate or the court”[19]

Sec 2(h) defines investigation: “Investigation includes all the proceedings under this Code for the collection of evidence conducted by a police officer or by any person who is authorized by a Magistrate on his behalf.”[20]

The three stages are investigation, inquiry and trial.

Investigation is the preliminary stage conducted by the police and usually after the recording of the FIR under sec 154 of the Code. Sec 157 of the Code provides for the procedure of the investigation which is, if the officer in charge of a police station suspects the commission of an offense, from the FIR, the officer or any other officer is duty bound to proceed to the spot to investigate facts of the case, take measures for the discovery and arrest the offender. The investigation procedure ends with the submission of a police report to the Magistrate under sec 173 of the Code. This report is the conclusion which the officer draws on the basis of the evidence collected.

Second phase is the Inquiry, which consists of a Magistrate, either on receiving a police report or upon a complaint by any other person being satisfied of the facts.

The final stage is the trial, which is the judicial adjudication of a person’s guilt or innocence. Under the Code, trail has been categorized into 3 divisions- warrant case, summon case and summary trials.

The feature of the trial is as follows:
  1. Framing of charge or giving the notice: the charge is read over and explained to the guilty. If pleading guilty, the judge may record the plea and may with discretion convict him. However of the accused pleas not guilty and claims for a trial, then the trial commences.
  2. Recording of the prosecution evidence: after the framing of the charges, the prosecution is given the opportunity of examining the witness. The accused has the right of cross examination of all the witness presented by the prosecution.
  3. Statement of accused: the court has the power to investigate the accused at any stage of the inquiry or trial for the purpose of eliciting any explanation against incriminating circumstances appearing before it. However, it is mandatory for the court to question the accused after examining the evidence of the prosecution if it incriminates the accused. This examination is without oath and before the accused enters the defense.
  4. Defense evidence: the accused may produce witness who may be willing to depose in support of the defense. The accused person is also a competent witness under the law.
  5. Final arguments: this is the final stage of trial. When the examination of the witness for the defense is complete, the prosecutor shall sum up the prosecution case and the accused is entitles to reply.
  6. Judgment: after conclusion of the arguments by the prosecutor and defense, the judge pronounces his judgment in the trial. [21]

After the trial has been closed and the judgment has been delivered, the punishment or the rehabilitation of the guilty takes place.

The punishment for the offenses has been defined in the IPC, ranging from mere fine to life imprisonment or death sentence. The crime which has been committed by the guilty has the major role in determining the punishment that he would receive after the trial has ended.

Since the courts of our country has already been burdened with the numerous case that have been pending for the last so many years, some alternatives have been suggested in order to curb the burden on the courts of India.

These measures are:

  1. All the matters relating to family matters can be diverted towards Mediation instead of approaching the courts.
  2. Theft, hurt and breach of trust cases van be dealt by the Mediation.[22]
  3. ADR can also be turned to instead of approaching the court for petty reasons.

[1] AIR 1992 SC 604

[2]  2012 CrLJ 1608

[3] 1993 2 SCC

[4]  AIR 1991 SC 31

[5] Hasib, A.I.R. 1922 S.C. 283

[6] 61 BLR 345

[7] Sec 154, The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

[8] (1980) 1 S.C.C. 439

[9] (1979) 3 S.C.C. 606

[10] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

[11] AIR 2010 SC 3300

[12] AIR 2009 SC 1262

[13] 1992 CrLJ 527 SC

[14] 1983 CrLJ 1

[15] 1980 1 SCC 585

[16] 2008 11 SCALE 154

[17] 1996 6 SCC 435

[18] AIR 1965 SC 1185

[19] Sec 2(g), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

[20] Sec 2(h), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

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