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FIR: First Step to Pre-Trial Investigation

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Introduction

Criminal cases follow the same broad structure as civil cases, but with significant differences. For one thing, depending on the nature of the offence, the process is likely to be very different. In general, the more serious the crime, the more complicated the procedure.

The most serious offences are felonies, which include robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon, and sexual assault, and are punishable by at least a year in jail, usually in a state or federal prison. Misdemeanours are less serious offences such as simple assault, driving while intoxicated, and trespassing, for which a sentence of less than a year in a local jail could be imposed if convicted.

What is an FIR?

When a police organisation receives information concerning the commission of a cognisable offence, it creates a First Information Report (FIR). It usually starts with a police report filed by the victim of a criminal offence, or someone acting on his or her behalf. Anyone can report the commission of a cognizable offence to the police, either verbally or in writing. Telephonic communication might also be considered an FIR. As a result, it is vital to be aware of cognizable offences. They have the authority to initiate an inquiry into a cognizable case on their own, without the need for judicial instructions.

Who can File an FIR?

An FIR can be filed by anyone who has information concerning the commission of a cognizable offence.

  1. An aggrieved party or someone acting on his behalf.
  2. Anyone who is aware of the offence because they are either:
  3. A first-hand account and/or a hearsay account
  4. By the defendant himself
  5. Even when a cognizable offence is committed in the presence of an officer in charge, the SHO can register a case on his own knowledge or information; however, he is not obligated to take down any information in writing, and even if the information is only a medical certificate upon arrival of the injured, the (SHO) should enter it in his daily diary and go to the hospital for recording detailed stats.

F.I.R. on Telephone?

A case should not be registered legally because (a) there is always a question about its validity, and (b) it does not meet the criteria of Sec. 154 Cr. P.C. in that it is not an oral statement reduced to writing: read over, admitted correct, and signed by the informer. The police received a message on the phone that an injured individual was lying, which resulted in the filing of an FIR. 

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Sukharam Vs. The state of Maharashtra, in this case, the court noted the registration of an FIR on a telephone

When should it be filed?

An FIR should be filed with the police station in charge of the area where the offence occurred. It is filed in order to acquire information about the alleged illegal behaviour so that appropriate procedures can be taken to track down and bring the guilty individual to justice. The golden rule of law, as stated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, is that the FIR must always be submitted immediately and without delay. Such a report has the highest level of credibility and is always welcomed and appreciated by courts in order to avoid the possibility of suspicion.

Objectives of FIR

To start the criminal justice system in action.

  • To report the offence to the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, who are responsible for the district’s peace and safety.
  • To inform the judicial authorities who will hear the case about the facts that were released immediately after the incident and the materials that the investigation would be based on.
  • To safeguard the accused against subsequent variations or additions.
  • Obtaining information regarding alleged illegal conduct in order to take appropriate action in locating and apprehending the perpetrator.

Contents of FIR

  • Whether the informant is an eyewitness or evidence obtained through hearsay.
  • The definition of a cognizable offence.
  • The accused person’s name and thorough description (colour, height, approximate age, features, clothing, characteristic marks on his face, etc.)
  • The identity and name of the crime victim.
  • The occurrence’s date and time.
  • The location where the crime took place.
  • The cause for doing the crime. The manner in which the crime was perpetrated (description of the actual occurrence of the crime the part played by the each accused and the weapon used by him)
  • The name and the address of the witness of the crime.
  • Any article belonging to the accused, such as footwear, footprints, and finguer points, as well as any traces left behind by the accused. Etc
  • If the F.I.R. is registered on the eyewitness testimony, the description of the perpetrator should be supplied in as much detail as feasible.
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Reports or Statements which do not amount to be an FIR

  1. If the information presented at the police station, while accurate at the time, did not reveal the commission of a cognizable offence, it was determined that the information could not be used as the case’s F.I.R. 
  1. It was held that the mere fact that an anonymous caller called the police station and claimed that a fire had broken out at the Ludhiana taxi stand did not clothe it with the character of an F.I.R because the information did not in terms clearly indicate a cognizable offence. 
  2. It is not F.I.R. if the first cryptic and anonymous telephonic conversation did not describe the commission of a cognizable offence.
  3. An informant’s casual statement to a sub-inspector is not an F.I.R.
  4. It is not an F.I.R. if the police acquire confidential information that some bad characters have gathered at a specific location.
  5. Information given to a police officer in charge of a police station cannot be considered an FIR if it is very vague and indefinite, necessitating the police officer to gather more information before beginning the investigation. In such a situation, additional information given to him would be more appropriately treated as F.I.R.
  6. Inadequate secret data submitted by a doctor to the police station’s officer-in-charge without disclosing the informer’s name cannot be used as the basis of the F.I.R.

STEPS TO BE TAKEN WHEN THE POLICE REFUSES TO LODGE THE FIR

On some occasions, the police refuse to file the FIR, which might be legal or criminal depending on the circumstances.

  • It will be deemed legal if the authority does not have the jurisdiction to try the matter, does not have the legal ability to take cognizance, or the offence is of a non-cognizable type. However, it is against the law when police decline to register a report for a specific cause that has no legal basis. When a police officer declines to register an FIR because it contains information on a non-cognizable offence, the informant must be informed and directed to make a complaint with the magistrate. If the crime is committed outside of a police station’s territorial authority, information should be recorded and transmitted to the appropriate police station with jurisdiction; otherwise, the refusal should be made.
  • If the officer in charge refuses to record an FIR about the commission of a cognizable offence within his territorial authority, the informant may file a written complaint with the Superintendent of Police or the Commissioner of Police. If the S.P. of the Commissioner determines that the complaint discloses a cognizable offence after reviewing it, he may either investigate the case himself or direct his subordinate to file an FIR and begin an inquiry.
  • If the above-mentioned options don’t work, then the informant has the legal right to make a complaint with the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate u/s 156(3) read with Sec. 190 of the criminal procedure, requesting the police to file an FIR and conduct an investigation.
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Landmark Cases

In the case of Bhagwat Singh vs Commissioner of Police and Anr, the Supreme Court ruled that if the magistrate decides to dismiss the case based on the investigating authority’s report because there is no evidence or grounds to proceed against the accused based on the F.I.R, the informant should be given a chance to be heard at the time. This opportunity to be heard, however, is purely discretionary, and the magistrate is not compelled to do so.

In the cases of V.C. Shukla vs. C.B. I., and Jarnail Singh vs State of Punjab, We can see that the court understands the value of a charge sheet. It is essentially the final notice delivered to the accused during the pre-trial stage, notifying him of the charges against him and the punishments that would follow if he were convicted after the trial, thereby advising the accused that there is no hope of being released at this point.

Conclusion

As a result, the FIR is a written record of a cognizable offence (for which police can arrest without a warrant) made by a victim, an eyewitness, or even the offender himself if he confesses his crime. It is usually carried out by the police station in whose jurisdiction the crime was committed, but it can also be carried out at other locations in certain circumstances. It has a one-of-a-kind number.

A criminal complaint is a written complaint presented to a judicial magistrate for a non-cognizable offence for which an FIR cannot be written technically. For example, criminal defamation under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. The proper process is to file a criminal complaint. Only the court has the authority to take cognizance and, if necessary, issue arrest warrants.

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