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The Meaning Of FIR Under Criminal Procedure Code And Procedure After Recording It | Overview
First Information Report or the FIR is the most vital document in any criminal investigation. It sets the criminal law into motion because it is only after the FIR is recorded, the police commence its investigation. This article specifically deals with the meaning and purpose of FIR and the procedure followed subsequent to recording the FIR by the police.
Meaning of FIR
The information given by any person to the police of an offence which the police is empowered to investigate under the Code (Cognizable Offence), is called ‘first information’. Under Section 154, this information must be reduced to writing and the police officer must make a note of the receipt of this information in a diary maintained by him every day. This written information is called the “First Information Report” (FIR).
For common understanding, it is believed that FIR is recorded to set the criminal law into motion. Precisely, the police cannot investigate unless any information on criminal activity or conduct is received by it. As soon as the police receive the information, the process of arrest, search and trial start. Thus, it is said that FIR is needed to set the criminal law into motion.
However, in State of Maharashtra v. Ahmed Shaikh Babajan, the apex court observed that “FIR is not a condition precedent to the setting of criminal law into motion”. It means that the police can take action even before the FIR is recorded, for e.g., if the police witnesses an offence or when the information is given on the road to a circle inspector instead of a police station. Another essential purpose of FIR is to record the information of the offence and the accused before the memory of the informant fails or before s/he gets time to fabricate or embellish the information.
FIR can be given by any person who has been a victim of the offence or one of the victims of the offence. Further, it can be given by any person who witnessed the commission of an offence by eyes or ears or who has knowledge or suspicion of commission of any offence. FIR can be given by the accused himself. An FIR given by the accused can be either in nature of a confessional statement and non-confessional statement.
For instance, (i) ‘A’ is accused of the murder of ‘B’. He goes to the police and informs that he murdered ‘B’ by stabbing him and throwing his body into the river. (ii) ‘A’ murders ‘B’ and apprehends that he will be caught. To keep himself out of suspicion, ‘A’ informs the police that he saw an unknown person killing ‘B’.
The first instance is where the FIR given by accused ‘A’ is confessional in nature and the second one is non-confessional.
Purpose of FIR
The primary objective of recording an FIR is to allow the police officer to investigate. Further, FIR also forms a part of the final charge sheet prepared by the police under Section 173 and is produced before the court during the trial. FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence and cannot be relied on by the prosecuting agency for conviction of the accused. FIR is not recorded on oath and is a mere statement made to the police without any swearing. Further, its veracity is not tested by cross-examination.
In Dharma Rama Bhagare v. The State of Maharashtra, the court observed that the purposes of the FIR are as follows:
- FIR cannot be admissible as evidence before a court of law in a trial.
- It can be used to discredit the maker of the FIR by contradicting him.
- It can be used for corroborating any statement made by the maker of the FIR in a court during the trial.
In certain circumstances, the FIR itself becomes a substantive piece of evidence. Under Section 32 of the Evidence Act, if the person making the FIR is dead or cannot be found or if his attendance cannot be procured without unnecessary delay in the trial, the FIR becomes a substantial piece of evidence. If the FIR mentions the details of the accused, it can be used to convict him though it cannot be the sole reason to convict him.
Moreover, if the FIR is a part of a transaction which is admissible in court, the FIR becomes admissible. For instance, ‘A’ lodged an FIR with the police stating that he saw ‘B’ throwing the body of an old woman into the river and then running towards the railway station. If on an investigation, the police recover a body of an old woman from the same river and recover the phone of ‘B’ from the railway station, the FIR given by ‘A’ is admissible as evidence as it forms part of the transaction.
Procedure after Recording FIR
After the FIR recorded, the police are empowered to investigate the case without any written order or warrant by the Magistrate under Section 156 of the Code. Section 157 lays down the procedure that has to be followed by the police after the information is received. The provision provides that when a police officer receives any information with respect to the commission of any cognizable offence, the police shall send a report to the Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the offence. The purpose of the report is to keep the Magistrate aware of the action taken by the police. Further, the report assists the Magistrates to keep a track of the time spent by the police in each case.
In Om Prakash v. State of New Delhi, the court held that “a police officer, as soon as he receives information or has reasons to suspect the commission of any cognizable offence, is required to report the Magistrate who has the jurisdiction to try such cases”.
The Magistrate is empowered to take the cognizance of such offence and order to any subordinate officer to investigate the spot, facts and circumstances of the case and take necessary measures for the discovery and the arrest of the accused. Section 157 requires a police officer to ‘forthwith a report’ which signifies that the report has to be sent without any unreasonable delay. “Delay does not render the case doubtful but would put the Court on guard”.
After the report under Section 157(1) is sent to the Magistrate, the police officer shall proceed to the scene of offence in person or shall depute a subordinate officer to proceed to the spot of the incident. The sub-ordinate, however, should not be below the specific rank as required by the State Government. The officer shall endeavour to scrutinise the facts and circumstances of the facts and collect evidence from the crime spot.
The police are empowered to take necessary steps for discovering and arresting the suspects on the basis of the FIR. Moreover, the power of the police officers such as the power to arrest, search and seize all arise only after the FIR is recorded and the investigation has begun.
Procedure for not recording FIR
Section 157 not only bestows a duty upon the police officers to record the FIR and proceed with the investigation, but it also gives discretion to them to decide whether the investigation is necessary or not. Clauses ‘a’ and ‘b’ of Section 157(1) provides for two situations when the officer receiving any information regarding the commission of an offence, can refuse to investigate.
Firstly, when the information received is about an offence which is not serious in nature and is more in the nature of a private wrong, the police officer may not proceed with the investigation. Secondly, when the police officer believes that there are not sufficient grounds for entering on an investigation, he shall not investigate the case.
Now, these clauses show a very wide discretion in the hands of the police officers. This prima facie looks threatening and carelessness on the part of the legislators. It is owing to these clauses that police officers deny to record FIR in every situation. However, the lawmakers tried to keep an eye on the exercise of this discretion by providing Section 157 (2). The provision makes it obligatory for the police to record the reasons for not investigating the case even on the receipt of the information by the police in the report to be sent to the Magistrate.
- N. Chandrasekharan Pillai, R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure (6th ed. 2014).
- Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Commentary on the Code of Criminal Procedure (18th 2006).
- V. Kelkar, Lectures on Criminal Procedure (6th ed. 2017).
 State of Maharashtra v. Ahmed Shaikh Babajan, 2009 (1) RCR (Criminal) 224.
 Dharma Rama Bhagare vs The State of Maharashtra, AIR 1973 SC 476.
 Om Prakash v. State of New Delhi, AIR 1974 SC 1983.
 Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Commentary on the Code of Criminal Procedure 393 (18th ed. 2006).