Shreya lives with her parents and she is only 15. Both her parents work for a big MNC and usually they come home only after Shreya. One day when her parents got back from work, they saw Shreya injured and frightened. Two men, introducing themselves as representatives of a famous online shopping company, had stormed into the house, threatened Shreya, and robbed her of her gold chain and earrings. They had also taken the money which had been kept in the drawer nearby. Then, the men had escaped on a scooter. On hearing Shreya’s screams, one of the neighbours had managed to click a photo of the scooter on which the two thieves had managed to escape. When Shreya’s parents came home, the neighbours suggested that they go to the police station and file a complaint. But, the parents were hesitant as they were unfamiliar with the procedure. A majority of us, like Shreya’s parents, are ignorant of even the basic legal procedures. However, with rising crimes, especially against children today, it is essential to be informed and educated about these procedures.
The First Information Report (FIR) is the first and the most important document to initiate criminal proceedings. Here are a few points you should know about the FIR.
What is an FIR?
An FIR is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence. It is also one of the most important supportive evidences on which the entire structure of the prosecution case is built-up.
Who can file an FIR?
An FIR can be filed by the victim, a witness to the incident or any person with knowledge of the incident.
Why file an FIR?
An FIR is the document which initiates criminal proceedings against the wrongdoer. In instances where there is damage to property, it is very much necessary to claim insurance and to protect yourself from any liability that could arise from the misuse of your property. The purpose of an FIR is -
a. To inform the Magistrate of the District and the District Superintendent of Police, who are responsible for the peace and safety of the District, of the offence reported at the Police Station
b. To make known to the Judicial Officers before whom the case will be ultimately tried, about facts that have been shared at the time of registering an FIR and the evidence, based on which the investigation commenced
c. To set the criminal law in motion (this is from the point of view of the informant)
d. To obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps for tracing and bringing the guilty party to light (this is from the point of view of the investigating officer)
What instances can prompt the filing of an FIR?
FIR can be registered by the police only for cognizable offences or those offences where the police have the power to arrest the accused without a court warrant. Cognizable offences include, murder, child sexual abuse, rape, theft, attack, etc.
When should you file an FIR?
Generally, the FIR has to be registered at the earliest point of time after the incident and if some delay occurs in filing of the same then it has to be explained. A delay in registration has the chances of reducing the credibility of the same because it may give rise to a suspicion as to whether it was an after-thought or a fabricated version.
Where should you register an FIR?
Ideally, the FIR should be registered at the police station under whose geographical limits or jurisdiction the crime has taken place. But this rule is not concrete. In emergency cases, you can register the file at any police station and then transfer the investigation to the appropriate station. Also, in emergency situations where one can’t go in person and register an FIR, police can register an FIR based on a phone call or e-mail. Even if you are away from the place of incident or are unaware of the right jurisdiction, you can successfully file an FIR in any police station. This type of FIR is termed as a Zero FIR.
How does the procedure work?
The procedure for filing an FIR is prescribed in Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
a. When the information about the commission of a cognizable offence is given orally, the police must write it down.
b. It is your right as a person giving the information or making a complaint to demand that the information recorded by the police is read over to you.
c. Once the information has been recorded by the police, it must be signed by the person giving the information.
d. You should sign the report only after verifying that the information recorded by the police is as per the details given by you.
e. People who cannot read or write must put their left thumb impression on the document after being satisfied that it is a correct record.
f. Always ask for a copy of the FIR, if the officials do not give it to you. It is your right to get it free of cost.
What can you do if your FIR is not registered?
a. You can directly meet the Superintendent of Police or any other official concerned and bring your complaint to their notice.
b. You can send your complaint in writing through post to the Superintendent of Police concerned. If the officer is satisfied with your complaint, he shall either investigate the case himself or order an investigation to be made.
c. You can file a private complaint before the court having jurisdiction.
d. If the police do nothing to enforce the law or if they act in a biased or corrupt manner, then you can always approach the State Human Rights Commission or National Human Rights Commission.
Filing of an FIR is the first and foremost step towards making sure that the victim gets justice by setting the process of criminal justice in motion. In case of incidents related to child sexual abuse, the procedure is very child-friendly keeping the best interests of the child in mind. Let’s try to remove the ignorance that many parents have when it comes to law. Having an awareness of the law and its basic procedures will put you and your child in a better position.
The author, a part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, is a student at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.
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