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Know Your Rights: Filing an FIR
Under the Indian legal system, a First Information Report (FIR) plays a pivotal role in the initiation and recording of a criminal matter. It is pertinent to note that an FIR can only be lodged when the crime is ‘cognizable’ in nature. A cognizable crime is one where the Police may arrest the accused without a warrant, and can initiate an investigation without the prior sanction of the court. Consequently, cognizable offences are the ones that are deemed serious and include crimes like – rape, dowry death, murder, unnatural acts, kidnapping, extortion, etc. It is incumbent upon the Police to start the investigation once an FIR is entered in the diary at the police station. As laypersons, we need to be aware of the fact, that a person does not require the services of a lawyer while lodging an FIR.
Nov 22, 2018 at 00:00

The Process of Registering an FIR

 

A common misconception amongst the general public emanates from the notion that only the victim can lodge an FIR. However, under the law anyone, right from a witness to a relative of the victim, or any individual who is aware of the crime may get the FIR registered. The complaint can be presented either in written form or orally (to make it easier for the ones who are not literate). In instances, where the complainant narrates the facts of the crime orally, the Police is duty bound to read out the contents of the FIR to the complainant in order to prevent inaccuracies between the oral version and the written one. In fact, an FIR can be registered even by informing the Police regarding the commission of a crime through the telephone, if the identity of the informer can be established. After registering the complaint, a complainant is entitled to a free copy of the FIR.

‘Zero FIR’: A provision under which an FIR may be lodged anywhere within the country, and can subsequently be transferred to the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime had taken place.

 

FIR is not the same as an ordinary Police Complaint

An ordinary police complaint can be filed for both cognizable as well as non-cognizable offences. In matters pertaining to non-cognizable offences, the police can start an investigation only after the orders of a magistrate; and no arrests can be made without a warrant. Offences perceived as less brutal or threatening in nature have been placed under the category of non-cognizable offence such as forgery, defamation, cheating, etc.

While dealing with FIRs, we should all be aware of the concept of ‘Zero FIR’ a provision under which an FIR may be lodged anywhere within the country, and can subsequently be transferred to the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime had taken place. Such a provision makes it easy for the victim/complainant to lodge the FIR at the nearest police station that is physically accessible for him/her.

 


 

Important points to bear in Mind

An FIR plays a crucial role in setting the whole process of law in motion during a criminal trial. It is for this reason that the general public should be made aware of its importance. A well-drafted FIR will go on to play a pivotal role in strengthening the case of the prosecution. Further, we must note that once an FIR is lodged, it becomes a public document. And the writer of the FIR does not enjoy immunity for whatever is mentioned within the document. Thus, if the accused or any other individual mentioned in the FIR wishes to challenge the authenticity of the assertions, then he/she is free to do so.

Once a trial begins in court then the provisions of the FIR can be used to either corroborate or contradict the stance of the person who had lodged the FIR. There are instances when the accused in a matter himself decides to inform the police about the crime committed, and that too can be recorded in the form of an FIR. When the FIR is lodged by the accused however, it is not considered an act of confession under the law, but it does play a role in helping to establish the motive as well as the nature of preparation involved while committing the crime.

When an individual seeks to understand the workings of the Indian legal system, it would be advisable to study books on the following provisions namely – the Indian Penal Code (defines the offence); the Indian Evidence Act (explains the procedures adopted while gathering evidence); and the Criminal Procedure Code (explains every aspect of the procedure to be followed in criminal matters including FIRs).

In recent years, technology has made it easier for us to record evidence through devices like cell phones, CCTV cameras, messages exchanged on social media, online transactions, and such like. Further, we are also in an era when forensic sciences have made tremendous advancements. So it is helpful to remember that when a crime is committed, the crime scene should not be tampered with in any manner, till evidence is gathered by the police. Crucial details like fingerprints, blood or other body fluids, instruments used during the offence – play a pivotal role in strengthening the case of the prosecution.

In recent years, the internet has played a major role in democratizing information about every facet of knowledge, including the legal system. Recently, a website called ‘Nyaaya’ was launched that seeks to simplify legal jargons, and make it easier for people to grasp the provisions of the legal system. For a robust democracy, we need an involved and aware citizenry. It is the asymmetry in information amongst the general public that makes them vulnerable at the hands of their fellow citizens as well as the state officials.

 

Naina Sharma is a lawyer at the Delhi High Court. She has previously worked with TERI and the National Commission for Women.

 
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