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Zero FIR

The information given to a police officer and reduced to in writing as per the provisions of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[1] (hereinafter, the CrPC) is known as the first information. First information report (hereinafter, FIR) has not been defined under the CrPC but must be understood in the context of the provisions under Section 154.

The principal object of the first information report from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law into motion, and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps to bring the guilty before the court.

Ingredients of FIR

  1. Anyone who has any information about the commission of a cognizable offence[2] can lodge a FIR. It is not necessary that he or she should be the victim or an eye-witness.

    It was held in Hallu and Others v. State of Madhya Pradesh[3] that Section 154 doesn't require that the FIR must be given by a person who has personal knowledge of the incident reported as the section doesn't specifically states so.
  2. The process is very simple. The informant simply has to visit a police station and furnish all the information pertaining to the commission of an offence, orally or in writing.
  3. If given orally, the police officer must reduce the information in writing or authorise his junior to do so.
  4. In non-cognizable offences, when an informant approaches the officer in charge, the officer enters such information in his book maintained as per format prescribed by the State government.
  5. An investigation for a non-cognizable offense can be made only after receiving an order from magistrate under Section 155(3) of CrPC.
  6. The investigating powers of a police officer are same in both cognizable and non- non-cognizable offences.

In State of West Bengal and Others v. Swapan Kumar Guha and Others[4], the Honourable Supreme Court of India (hereinafter, the Apex Court) held:
There is no such thing like unfettered discretion in the realm of powers defined by statutes and indeed, unlimited discretion in that sphere can become a ruthless destroyer of personal freedom. The power to investigate into cognizable offences must, therefore, be exercised strictly on the condition on which it is granted by the Code.[5]

Zero FIR

The concept of zero FIR is new. It refers to a FIR that is registered irrespective of the area where the offence is committed. The police in such a case can no longer claim that they have no jurisdiction. Such a FIR is then later transferred to the police station that has the actual jurisdiction so that investigation can begin.

It was introduced on the recommendation of the Justice Verma Comittee formed at the backdrop of the brutal Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi in 2012.[6] This puts a legal obligation on the police to begin investigation and take quick action without the excuse of absence of jurisdiction.

Landmark Judgments
The Apex court in Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P.[7] observed that it is mandatory to register a FIR under Section 154 if the complaint is related to a cognizable offence.

In State of Andhra Pradesh v. Punati Ramulu and Others[8] where the constable refused to lodge the FIR by the informant who was the nephew of the deceased and an eye witness of the crime on the grounds of jurisdictional limitations, the court observed the failure of duty of the police constable and emphasized on his legal obligation to record the information and then transfer it to the competent police station.

In Kirti v. State[9], the court directed the Commissioner of Delhi police to furnish a standing order to every police station in the National Capital Territory of Delhi to accept all and any information they receive which discloses the occurrence of a cognizable offence even if police station is incompetent on grounds of jurisdictional limitation and thereafter transfer the case to the competent police station.

Conclusion
The concept of Zero FIR is a beneficial tool for the women of the country against crimes like sexual harassment and rape. However, the fact that most of the police officials are not aware of it and still deny registration of a FIR in such a case on grounds of jurisdiction. Such officers must be educated with regard to such a law and it is the responsibility of the respective state governments.

End-Notes:
  1. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Acts of Parliament, No. 2, 1974 (India
  2. Ibid., s. 2(c).
  3. AIR 1974 SC 1936 (India).
  4. AIR 1982 SC 949 (India).
  5. Ibid.
  6. J. J. S. Verma Committee, Report of the Committee on Amendments to criminal law (January 23, 2013).
  7. (2014) 2 SCC 1 (India).
  8. AIR 1993 SC 2644 (India).
  9. Crl. M.C. 5933/2019 and Crl. M.A. 40833/2019, Delhi High Court, decided on November 29, 2019.
Written By: Syed Aatif - The author is a practicing advocate at the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India.
Email: [email protected]

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