“Iustitiam iustitiam tardaret est negandum”
This Latin phrase lays down the fundamental rule of law and justice that justice delayed is justice denied. First information reports (here onwards referred as FIR), are the first step towards justice. A FIR is a to the alphabets of justice.
What is an FIR?
Any person can give information to the police relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, and Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides for the manner in which such information is to be recorded. It must be noted here that the Criminal Procedure Code does not define, as to what is an FIR. The statement of information as recorded under Section 154 is usually mentioned in practice as the first information report or popularly called as the FIR. It need not to be the encyclopaedia of the case. FIR only has to state the basic case.
What importance it holds?
A FIR is essential as it immediately binds the police to start an investigation, and most of all once a complaint gets registered as a FIR, it is an asset to both the victim as the crime or offence against him has been recorded. In fact FIRs holds immense importance in the justice system that it has been held by the court in a landmark judgment that registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of Criminal Procedure, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. The principle object of the FIR is to set the criminal law in motion. FIR is a piece of evidence which could be used for corroborating the case of the prosecution. It is not a proof of the case.
SC guidelines in filing of FIR in 24hours online:
As a result of a writ petition by the Youth Bar Association of India that was filed earlier this year seeking a direction to the states and the Union Territories in respect of online filing of FIRs, The Supreme Court on 7th of September 2016, ordered states and union territories to upload, on police or government websites, FIR (First Information Reports) within 24hours of their registration in police stations. The implementation of this remarkable step was directed by a two judge’s bench comprising of Justice Deepak Mishra and C.Nagappan.
Where liberty of a person is at stake and the criminal law is set in motion, the accused should have all the information
Publication of FIRs is however exempted in certain cases, which include cases of:
- Child abuse;
- Sexual offences &
The registration of FIRs in these categories would continue to be away from the public eye owing to issues of privacy and national interest. The decision not to post the FIRs in such cases would be taken by a police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police or the District Magistrate, either of whom would have to communicate the decision to the jurisdictional magistrate.
As per the guidelines, in case of complaints against such non-publication of FIRs, the Superintendent of Police in rural areas and Police Commissioner in metros, will form a committee of three officers, which will decide on the complaint in three weeks. In areas where internet access is limited, the Bench extended the deadline for publishing the FIR on websites to 48hours, which can still further be stretched to a maximum of 72hours. Accused persons cannot take advantage of delay in FIRs and seek anticipatory bail on that ground, the court clearly specified.
Pros and cons:
The step carries along with it three possible, foreseeable pros and cons.
- These guidelines directly increase the accessibility of the accused to the FIR, which will in a way guard his natural right to defend himself. For someone (accused), whose liberty is restricted, the guidelines are no less than an opportunity to increase the probability to correctly defend one’s case.
- This step adds to the responsibilities of the police officers. Where the Indian police is already overburdened with unseen terrorist interventions, uncontrolled crimes, and unnecessary social chaos, such a set of guidelines have added load over their shoulders.
- The guidelines also would make eyebrows raise because in a country like India where most crime goes unreported, there can never actually be a desired implementation of these guidelines.
It is virtually impossible to know the true extent of how much crime goes unreported due to police refusal to register complaints, but anecdotally, the problem appears widespread.
For a fair, just and transparent justice system the Indian courts have been active and non-ignorant in its efforts. As is evident from the Delhi High Court judgement of December 6, 16, which upheld that the right of the accused to get copies of FIRs even before the local magistrate ordered the police to do so under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the very recent guidelines in filing of FIR in 24hours online.
Now, there is an urgent need on the part of the police departments to address the long standing obstructions and violations by police in registering FIRs. Because preventing, delaying and refusing FIR registration impedes access to justice at the very beginning. Delay or refusal in registration of FIRs is an indication of delayed justice, which is actually not justice but qualified and expressed injustice.
By – Aishwarya (Banasthali Vidyapeeth)
 Late twentieth century maxim, mentioned in the 1842 issue of the Louisiana Law Journal, also used by British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone, in 1868.
 Jitendra Kumar v. State of Haryana AIR 2012 SC 2488
 Lalita Kumari v. Governmmet of U.P., [W.P.(Crl) No; 68/2008]
 S.K. Habib vs. State of Bihar
 As observed by the two judges bench who directed the guidelines on filing of FIR within 24hours online.
 Abhijit Sarkar and Dripto Mukhopadhyay, CHRI report 27th Apr, 16.