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Delay In First Information Report– A Critical Analysis

The First Point of a bringing a Crime to the notice of the administrators of justice is lodging of a complaint with the police authorities. It is the duty of the police officer to record the complaint and this is formally known as First Information Report(FIR). A Prompt lodging of information of the commission of offence at the first available opportunity is essential for a just investigation of the matter. Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) deals with provision with respect to information of cognizable offence.

Statement Of Problems

FIR has its own probative value and when an FIR is refused to be registered by the police in charge or if registration is delayed it can lead to miscarriage of justice where the accused has opportunity to tamper evidence or escape. The involvement of political or high net worth individuals to delay or stop registering an FIR is an impediment in effective administration of law and order.

Research Questions

What is the remedy in law to check on failure to register FIR or delaying of recording the FIR and
What is the remedy available to the victim to get FIR registered when Police derelicts in its duty

Objective Of Study

To study and analyse the law with respect to lodging of First Information Reports, the evidentiary value of FIR, the judicial decisions on delay and refusal to lodge FIR and to suggest measures to improve the application of Section 154 of CrPc and any changes required in law and its administration to resolve the problem at its root.

Section 154 Of Criminal Procedure Code

The oral information given by an informant relating to commission of a cognizable offence to an officer in charge of a police station is reduced into writing and read over to the informant and his signature is obtained. Such a report is called First information Report. The Substance of this report should be recorded in the book kept in the station.

In case of offence against women the information has to be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer. In case where such victim is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the information shall be recorded by a police officer at the residence of the person seeking to report such offence or at such other convenient place of such person’s choice. The recording of such information shall be video graphed and police officer shall get the statement of the person recorded by a judicial magistrate
The copy of the FIR should be given to the informant free of cost.

In case the Police officer refuses to register an FIR, the informant may approach the Superintendent of Police by sending the information in writing or by post and the SP if satisfied can either investigate the matter himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him.

Objective Of Recording FIR

The FIR recorded sets the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of investigating authorities is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps for tracing and bringing to book the guilty party[1]. The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the report to the police in respect of commission of an offence is to obtain early information regarding the circumstances in which the crime was committed. Delay results in embellishment and the report gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity.. There is also danger of introduction of a coloured version exaggerated account or concoted story as a result of deliberation and consultation[2].

Evidentiary Value Of FIR

A First Information report does not serve as substantial evidence i.e., it is not an evidence to the facts which it mentions. In case if inconsistency between the statement made in FIR and evidence produced at the time of trail, it would only discredit the evidence at trial but will not make the statement made in the FIR to be considered as evidence. Thus though in general FIR does not have evidentiary value, in exception case such as dying declaration, the FIR can be considered as evidence. In the case of Macchi Singh v State of Punjab[3] dying declaration was considered as substantial evidence and good enough to support the order of conviction.

Apart from this exception FIR is said to have corroborative value i.e., it will only confirm the evidence or can also contradict what is stated by the witness if the informant is called as witness at the time of trial. The FIR need not contain all the information but containing certain details aids investigation. It only sets law in motion. However if there is delay in registering an FIR, there may be miscarriage of justice as there is delay in investigation to begin which may give the wrongdoer an opportunity to destroy evidence or to escape.

It was observed in the case of Emperor v. Khwaja[4], that FIR is very useful if recorded before there is time and opportunity to embellish or before the informant’s memory fades. Undue or unreasonable delay in lodging the FIR, therefore, inevitably gives rise to suspicion which puts the Court on guard to look for the possible motive and the explanation for the delay and consider its effect on the trustworthiness or otherwise of the prosecution version.

Delay In FIR

The delay in registering FIR can be of three types. First is delay caused by the informant in getting the FIR registered with the Police and secondly the delay on part of the police in getting the FIR registered and thirdly delay in dispatching the FIR to the magistrate

Delay In Lodging FIR By Informant

There is no duration of time which is fixed either by the legislature or the judiciary for giving information of a crime to the police. However, it has been observed that FIR has to be filed within reasonable time. The question of reasonable time being a matter is for determination of court in each case. Mere delay in lodging the FIR with the police is therefore, not necessarily, as a matter of law, fatal to prosecution. The effect of delay in doing so in the light of the plausibility of the explanation forthcoming for such delay accordingly must fall for consideration on all the facts and circumstances of a given case[5]. Even a long delay in lodging FIR in murder can be condoned if witnesses have no motive of implicating accused and have given plausible reason for delay. In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Om Prakash[6] the Supreme Court observed that there was delay of nearly 26 hours in lodging the FIR. But this did not affect the prosecution case as the case related to rape of a minor as in such case the reputation and prestige of the family and career and life of a young child was involved.

Although FIR is not substantive evidence, it cannot be denied that it has probative value. If there is unexplained delay in lodging FIR it can be fatal to the prosecution case. Although delay in filing FIR does not result in quashing the FIR but nevertheless gives rise to suspicion which puts the court on guard to look for the possible motive. Delay in giving first information can be condoned if there is satisfactory explanation.

Delay By Police In Recording FIR By Police In Charge

At the stage of registration of a crime or the case, on the basis of information disclosing a cognizable offence in compliance of the mandate of Section 154 of CrPc the concerned police officer cannot embark upon an inquiry as to whether information laid by the informant is reliable or genuine and to refuse registration of a case on that ground. It is therefore manifestly clear that if the information disclosing cognizable offence is laid before a police officer in charge of a police station satisfying the requirements of Section 154(1) of CrPC the said officer has no other option except to enter the substance thereof in prescribed form that is to register a case on basis of such information[7]

In the case of State of AP v. Punati Ramulu[8], the Supreme Court observed that investigating officer has deliberately failed to record the FIR on receipt of information of a cognizable offence of the nature, as in this case, and had prepared the FIR after reaching the spot after due deliberations, consultations and discussions, the conclusion becomes inescapable that the investigation is tainted and it would therefore, be unsafe to rely upon such a tainted investigation, as one would not know where the police officer would have stooped to fabricate evidence and create false clues.

The delay in registering FIR would make the FIR unreliable as well as bring suspicion on the police officer and put a black mark on his method of working.
In the case of Mohindro v. State of Punjab[9], the complainant approached the police for registering a case against the alleged accused but police never registered a case and never put the law in motion and therefore she approached the high court.

The counsel for state argued that there has been a enquiry. The supreme court questioned that how can there be an enquiry without registering a criminal case. The Apex court directed that a case has to be registered on the basis of the report of the appellant and then the matter has to be duly investigated

In an another case Abhay Nath Dubey v. State of Delhi where the police refused to register an FIR and the High Court held that where a cognizable offence was prima facie disclosed and he had no option but to embark on full fledged inquiry too ascertain the genuineness or reliability of such information and allegation and draw conclusions and render the investigation redundant and to refuse registration of an FIR he would be breaching the mandate of Section 154(1)[10]

The inaction of the police in non registering an FIR was condemned by the Supreme Court in the case of Lalitha Kumari v. State of UP[11]. It showed frustration by observing that inspite of law laid down by the court the police authorities concerned do not register FIRs unless some direction is given by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of High Court of Supreme Court. In a large number of cases, investigation do not commence even after registration of FIRs. The Court reteriated that directions should be issued to the police to register FIR promptly and to give a copy of the complainants. If the police do not comply with these instructions or initiate investigation, magistrate could initiate contempt proceedings.

We have witnessed in the recent Unnao rape case how the accused went pillar to post for 4 months to get the FIR registered against the accused. The victim was raped in June 2017 and she filed a complaint the very next day but an FIR was not registered. She then sent a complaint to Superintendent of Police in Rai Bareli and then to High Court which directed the police to register a complaint and it was finally registered in April 2018[12]. Instead of protection to a physical and emotional victim there was only harassment all the way. The court in this case transferred the case to CBI and this shows the inefficiency and laxity of police as well as the political influence on system of police administration. In the recent rape case of Veterianary doctor in Hyderabad where the victims family approached the police to lodge a missing complaint the police is alleged to have made objectionable remarks instead of registering an FIR and searching the victim.

In many cases where police officer refuse to register an FIR the matter does not reach the court and offender goes scot free. Refusal to register an FIR is a dereliction of duty of the officer.

Delay By Police In Forwarding FIR To Magistrate

In cases of cognisable offence it the police delay in forwarding FIR to magistrate the trial and the process is delayed and the accused may escape the claws of law. The police is cases like theft are reluctant to record the FIR, instead they lodge a non-cognizable report (NCR) which does not require them to investigate immediately. There is no time limit for sending the NCR to magistrate for order of investigation so there is laxity in this matter. After 3-4 months NCR is sent to magistrate when the traces of crime like theft, chain snatching is washed off.

Suggestions
Public Awareness

Although law is made for registering of an FIR a common man is unaware of the nitty gritties of registering an FIR when he is a victim or a witness to a cognizable crime. The administration of police department should through medium of television, internet and newspaper should publish the information of importance of registering an FIR within reasonable time of the commitment of crime. A reasonable assurance must be given by the department and law and order that a fair investigation will be conducted in prima facie case of commission of offence if FIR is registered on time and with sufficient details.

The fear of police should be removed from the minds of common man and law enforcement should be viewed by all as for the people protection and service to people. The FIR registered once and forwarded to magistrate if not investigated and crime addressed, it is alleged that the informant registering the FIR is false and to discard this view of the police the informant is required to be present at the magistrate court where he is required to narrate the incident and prove that the compliant in genuine and needs investigation. This compliance is although necessary to deter people lodging false FIR but a real victim is said to run from pillar to post and end result is not remedy but disappointment.

Punishment For Non Registration Of FIR

Section 221 of IPC provides for punishment for a public servant intentionally omitting to apprehend or keep in confinement any person charged with or liable to be apprehended for an offence or helps such person to escape. But this section do not specifically mentions that the public servant is punishable in case of refusal to register FIR. Thus it is suggested that there is specific mention about punishment for non-registration of FIR in a prima facie case of cognisable offence.

Suggestions By Mr.Abdul Kalam[13]

Late. Mr. Abdul Kalam in one of his speeches has highlighted the delay in registereing FIR and had given suggestion based on the research of Indian law institute
  1. The Station House officer is to be instructed that he is bound to register the complaint immediately
  2. There must be a computer for registration of complaint
  3. The email id of SHO should be published. In case SHO refuses to register complaint provision for sending email to SHO with copy to higher authority should be made available
  4. Procedure for registering compliant should be widely published
  5. The Police officer should compulsorily file action take report to the superior officers within 10 days of FIR
  6. The Police officer should abstain from pressuring the complainant to withdraw or comprise the complaint. If such a case is reported then higher officers should take action against erring police officer

E- FIR

E-FIR has been initiated in some states in India like Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkand, Maharastra, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Bengaluru, Patna and Kolkata[14]. The facility for online FIR should be made mandatory in all the States across the country and for this a new section has to be inserted in CrPC. The basic and standard information that is needed in FIR if recorded at the first instance will help investigation and process in court. Online FIR will also keep a check on the administrator of law and require them to do their duty diligently.

Fixation Of Time For Forwarding Report To Magistrate

The CrPC does not provide a time limit under section 154 or 156 to send the report to the magistrate. There is no doubt that the police department is flooded with cases and wants less FIR in the book maintained because it becomes an obligation to investigate. But dispatch of FIR to the magistrate on the next working day will bring the offence to the cognizance of the magistrate and police personnel will be more firm in resolving the case. The law in regard should be made more stringent where delay in sending report to magistrate should also be explained by the police personnel and penal provisions for unreasonable delay in forwarding report to magistrate must also be provided in the law.

Conclusion
The legal maxim Justice delayed is Justice denied is apt in case of delay in registering FIR. The FIR being the first step to set the law in motion there should not be any undue delay in the process which will deny the justice to the victim. Every step in the process of law is crucial as in criminal cases it may either save life or distress life. The administrator of justice should use their power in the interest of public and not loose the trust of people.

End-Notes:
  1. Hasib v State of Bihar, AIR 1972 SC 283
  2. Thulia Kali v.State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1975 SC 501
  3. AIR (1983) SC 957
  4. ILR (1945) Lah 1
  5. Ibid supra note
  6. 2002 LawSuit(SC) 575
  7. State of Haryana v Bhajan Lal 1990 LawSuit (SC) 701
  8. 1993 Lawsuit (SC) 156
  9. 2001 Law Suit (SC) 19 dated 04th January 2001
  10. 2002 Law Suit (Del) 701 case no 113 of 2000
  11. AIR 2012 SC 1515
  12. In re an unfortunate incident in Unnao of Rape and Murder Published in Various newspaper vs State of UP, 2018 LawSuit (All) 3126
  13. Delay in Administration of Criminal Justice by APJ Abdul Kalam 2007 4A SCC (Journal) available at
    www.supremecourtcases.com › index2 viewed on 18th April 2020
  14. https://www.indiatoday.in/information/story/file-a-complaint-in-police-station-online-here-is-a-step-by-step-guide-and-a-list-of-states-1463063-2019-02-23

References:
  • Text Book: The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by S.N.Mishra
Articles and Papers
  1. A study of evidentiary value of FIR in India by M.Pragadeeswaran and Arya.R available at International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics Volume 120 No 5 2018
  2. First Information Report : A Critical Study by Mr.Jamshed published in International Journal of Insitutional & Industrial Research ISSB 2456-1274 Volume 1 Issue 3, Sept-Dec 2016, pp 21-25

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