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Why do FIRs Fail?

People often go to the police station hoping for swift action after witnessing or experiencing a crime. However, they are sometimes asked to return with a written complaint instead of receiving immediate assistance. This can be disheartening, as they expected quick help but are told to leave and write things down.

Imagine being in their shoes. If asked for a written complaint, they must go back home, find paper, and perhaps seek help to write it down. This can be difficult. Amid this, crucial details about the crime might be forgotten. Even if they remember everything, the person writing the complaint might omit important details, thinking they're not significant. Sometimes, the person writing the complaint might not include their own name and address, and the informant might not think to ask for it. Later, this person might not be found or able to testify in court, leading to vital information disappearing.

Even senior police officers might neglect to accurately record what an informant says, despite knowing the importance of the FIR (First Information Report). This could be to avoid immediately going to the crime scene. In certain cases, these officers might pretend to be busy and assign a lower-ranking officer to write the complaint, register the case, and investigate the scene. However, these lower-ranking officers might not have the same experience and could miss crucial details, affecting both the FIR and the investigation.

Moreover, when the informant shares information with the police, officers might not read it back to them, nor do they mention in the FIR that they discussed it with the informant.

Delays in delivering the FIR to the Magistrate or the court can raise suspicions, even though it's not the informant's fault. This delay could inadvertently benefit the accused. The law requires the police station's officer in charge to promptly send a report about the crime to the relevant Magistrate. Copies of the FIR should be sent to the Magistrate and other officers without delay, with the delivery method, date, and time duly noted. This should be confirmed if sent with a messenger, or proof of posting obtained if sent by mail.

Due to the significance of the FIR, some police officers might become overly eager. They might not accurately transcribe the informant's words, aiming to include everything in the FIR, whether or not the informant directly witnessed the crime. This can be problematic, as the informant might provide speculative or inaccurate information not corroborated by other witnesses. This misalignment can disrupt the investigation.

In certain cases, officers visit the crime scene, ask someone present to write a complaint or statement, and base the FIR on that. However, this approach can lead to delays and raise suspicions. During court trials, a witness might inadvertently reveal that the police were informed immediately after the crime, and the statement was recorded after police visited the scene. This could cast doubts on the FIR.

Shortcomings in FIR
Shortcomings in FIRs can lead to problems in investigations and legal proceedings. Here are some common shortcomings:
  • Missing Details: If important details about the crime or the people involved are left out, it can weaken the case.
  • Inaccuracies: If the information in the FIR is not accurate, it can lead to misunderstandings and confusion later on.
  • Incorrect Narratives: If the account of the incident is not presented clearly or if it contradicts other evidence, it can affect the case's credibility.
  • Bias or Incomplete Information: If the FIR is written in a biased manner or if certain facts are ignored, it can impact the objectivity of the investigation.
  • Lack of Witnesses: If potential witnesses' names and contact details are not included, it can hinder the investigation process.
  • Vague Language: If the language used in the FIR is vague or unclear, it can make it difficult to understand the exact nature of the crime.
  • Delay in Reporting: Delays in reporting the crime/FIR to the police can raise suspicions and affect the case's strength.
  • Inconsistencies: If there are inconsistencies between the FIR and later statements, it can be used to challenge the FIR's reliability.
  • Third-Party Information: Relying solely on secondhand or third-party information without verifying can weaken the FIR's credibility.
  • Overloading with Details: Including unnecessary or excessive details in the FIR can dilute its focus and impact.
  • Ignoring Legal Requirements: Not following legal procedures, such as obtaining the complainant's signature or recording statements accurately while drafting the FIR, can have legal implications.
  • Language Barriers: If the complainant's statement is not recorded accurately as FIR due to language barriers, it can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Pressure or Coercion: If the FIR is filed under pressure or coercion, it might not represent the true account of events.
  • Omission of Offences: If certain offences are not included in the FIR, it can limit the scope of the investigation.
  • Manipulation: If the FIR is altered after it's filed, it can raise suspicions for tampering with evidence.
  • False Information: Including false or fabricated information in FIR can lead to legal consequences for the person providing the information.
  • Overemphasis on Suspects: Focusing solely on a particular suspect without considering other possibilities can hinder a thorough investigation.

Addressing these shortcomings is important to ensure that FIRs accurately reflect the events and circumstances of a crime, enabling effective investigation and fair legal proceedings.

Here are some important things to remember when reporting a crime:

  1. Write down the First Information Report (FIR) right away. Include all the details you have. Also, put this information in the General Diary. Write down who reported the crime (their name, age, job, and where they live), when they reported it, and a short description of what happened. Also, mention the crime number and the law section it falls under. Say what action you took.
  2. If the person tells you about the crime, and you're writing it down, try to use their exact words in the FIR. Read it back to them and add a note at the end to say you did that.
  3. Get the person who reported the crime to sign the FIR. If they can't write, they can put their thumbprint on every page.
  4. Write down all the facts of the case clearly. Don't leave out any important points.
  5. Make copies using carbon paper/xerox machine.
  6. Don't make changes, cross things out, or write over things. If you need to fix something, cross out the words and put your initials next to them.
  7. If you get a written report from the village headman or someone else, write down when you got it and who gave it to you on the original report.
  8. Find out and write down why there was a delay in getting the report or in making the complaint at the police station.
  9. Even if the information comes from the person accused of the crime, still register a case.
  10. If you're registering the case yourself, make sure the FIR has all the correct information about the crime, the people involved, and the witnesses' names, if there are any.
  11. Write down who gets copies of the FIR. For example:
    • Magistrate-Designation and Place,
    • Superintendent of Police,
    • Sub-divisional Police Officer /Zonal DySP / ACP
    • Circle Inspector of Police
    • Station File
    • Zonal Additional Superintendent of Police
    • Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police
  12. Put the original written complaint or the village headman's report together with the main FIR copy. This is the one that goes to the Magistrate.
  13. Send copies of the FIR to the Magistrate and the other officers right away. Write down how you sent them (like by messenger or post), and note the date and time you sent them in the records.
  14. Make sure the copies of the FIR reach the right people. If you use a messenger, get proof that they received it. If you send it by mail, get a certificate that says you sent it.
  15. In really serious cases, use Express Messengers to send the FIR. And if it's a really, really serious case, use police radio or telegram. First, send a radio message, and then send the FIR with a special messenger.
  16. Fill out these parts of the FIR correctly:
    1. Date and time of occurrence (If the correct time is not known, give the approximate time and, if the exact date of occurrence is not known, place it between two dates).
    2. Date and time when reported.
    3. Place of occurrence, distance, and direction from the police station.
    4. Date and time of dispatch from the police station.
    5. Name and residence of informant or complainant (the complainant's or informant's full name with aliases, if any, address and father's name).
    6. Provide a concise account of the crime, including its section under the law and particulars about any stolen items. Include information about the mode of operation and classify it accordingly. Additionally, detail the stolen property's specifics and value. If the list of stolen items is extensive, it should be written on a separate page, attached to the First Information Report (FIR). Both the complainant and the Station House Officer (S.H.O.) or Officer-in-Charge (O.C.) should sign this list in such cases.
    7. Steps taken in regard to the case with an explanation for any delay in recording information.
    8. Signature and designation should be noted on all the pages.

It's better to document events as they occur. Police officers should be receptive to oral complaints and not hesitate to accurately record statements. If a crime is reported by an eyewitness, it's crucial to gather as many details as possible from them. Asking them to speak for others should be avoided. In cases where detailed information is hard to obtain, it's still preferable to have a simple FIR focused on the crime rather than trying to include excessive details. Authenticity is key in maintaining the integrity of reports and cases.

Written By: Md. Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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