Evidentiary Value of FIR?

TOPIC 2: EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF FIR

We know that the purpose of recording FIR is that it marks the beginning of investigation and sets the criminal law in motion. But what is the value of a copy FIR? What purpose can such FIR serve at the time of trial? We know that in any case, evidence can be given of fact in issue or relevant fact (see section 5 Indian Evidence Act). Is FIR a relevant fact? If yes, then under which sections of Indian Evidence Act is a relevant fact?

FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence: Substantive evidence is an evidence which in itself is sufficient to support conviction of the accused. FIR is not a substantive evidence. Merely because an informant says in the FIR that B killed C, the court cannot convict B for the murder of C only on the basis of such FIR only.

However, FIR does become a substantive evidence in the following cases:

  • If the maker of FIR dies, the FIR can be used as dying declaration under Section 32(1) of Indian Evidence Act.
  • FIR forming part of the transaction is relevant as res gestae under Section 6 of Indian Evidence Act.

FIR can be used for corroboration and contradiction of the informant: As per section 157 of Indian Evidence Act, a witness can be corroborated by his previous statements made at the time when the incident took place or to a person who was legally competent to investigate the fact. Since FIR is always made to an officer incharge of police station, it is a previous statement made to a person who is legally competent to investigate a fact and thus, FIR can be used to corroborate the informant.

As per section 145 of Indian Evidence Act, a witness can be contradicted by his previous statements in writing. Thus, FIR can be used to contradict the informant under this section.

FIR by the accused: FIR by the accused will be relevant under different sections of Indian Evidence Act depending upon the nature of such FIR.

Confessional FIR: If FIR is lodged by the accused himself making a confession that he committed the crime, the FIR is known as a confessional FIR. Such FIR is hit by Section 25 and Section 26 of Indian Evidence Act and cannot be used as evidence against the accused.

However, such FIR can be used to prove discovery of fact as per Section 27 of Indian Evidence Act.

Non-Confessional FIR: Such FIR is relevant under Section 21 of Indian Evidence Act as admission of the accused.

Relevant as conduct: FIR is relevant under Section 8 of Indian Evidence Act to show the conduct of the maker.

DELAY IN LODGING FIR: Section 154 crpc does not prescribe any time period within which FIR must be lodged. No time period for lodging FIR is provided anywhere in any law. However, this does not mean that a person can lodge FIR at any time he wants to.

FIR must be lodged at the earliest possible opportunity after the occurrence of the cognizable offence. The reasons for this is as follows:

  • Prompt lodging means early obtaining of information regarding commission of offence and the police can proceed with the investigation without any time lapse.
  • Human memory is subject to embellishment and with time it is natural that the informant will start forgetting important details. This will cause problem in the investigation. Thus, prompt lodging of FIR ensures that the information is not a concocted story.
  • The larger the delay in lodging FIR, more is the possibility that the information is mixed with imaginary version, that it is a fabricated story and is not entirely true. This creates suspicion in the mind of court and affects the evidentiary value of FIR.

Therefore, the law emphasises on prompt lodging of FIR.

Sudarshan & Anr vs State Of Maharashtra on 23 May, 2014

FIR in a criminal case and particularly in a murder case is a vital and valuable piece of evidence for the purpose of appreciating the evidence led at the trial. The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the FIR is to obtain the earliest information regarding the circumstance in which the crime was committed, including the names of the actual culprits and the parts played by them, the weapons, if any, used, as also the names of the eyewitnesses, if any. Delay in lodging the FIR often results in embellishment, which is a creature of an afterthought. On account of delay, the FIR not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity, danger also creeps in of the introduction of a coloured version or exaggerated story. With a view to determine whether the FIR was lodged at the time it is alleged to have been recorded, the courts generally look for certain external checks. One of the checks is the receipt of the copy of the FIR, called a special report in a murder case, by the local Magistrate. If this report is received by the Magistrate late it can give rise to an inference that the FIR was not lodged at the time it is alleged to have been recorded, unless, of course the prosecution can offer a satisfactory explanation for the delay in despatching or receipt of the copy of the FIR by the local Magistrate. 

However, it is not always possible for the informant to lodge FIR soon after the offence has taken place. This can be due to a number of factors some of which are:

  • The informant might be in urgent need of medical emergency in which case it becomes impossible to narrate the story to anyone including the family members and the police.
  • In India, many people tend to think in detail before entering into litigation and therefore, might refrain from lodging FIR because of social pressure, because criminal litigation might mean frequent rounds to police station or because they think they can solve the matter without involving the police only.
  • In offences against woman, the family is often scared of the stigma which attaches to the victim which can have lifelong repercussions.  

Law is not ruthless and understands and makes space for human beings to act as human beings. Therefore, where at one place the law emphasises and appreciates prompt lodging of FIR, at the same time if there is delay in lodging FIR, the delay needs to be satisfactorily explained. If the delay is not explained, the court becomes suspicious regarding the credibility of information mentioned in the FIR.

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