What is FIR?

We all have heard the term ‘FIR’. We heard it not just when we started studying law but we knew the term before even we knew any about criminal law as such. We heard the term in movies and film and knew this much that FIR is a complaint we make to the police.

Now it is time to understand in detail the concept of FIR. What are the essential of FIR? Why is FIR recorded? Who can get an information recorded as FIR? To whom is the FIR recorded? What are the various ways by which FIR can be recorded? We will discover the answer to all these questions and more.

FIR as we all know stands for first information report. The term itself is self-explanatory that it is the earliest and first information given to the police. The question arises that information about what? About commission of offence, about the manner in which crime is committed, about who the accused is, or about where the offence is committed? What detail does FIR include?

To understand the answer to all these questions, we shall see section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure, which is the section governing FIR. We will discuss section 154 part by part to get better understanding of the concept of FIR.

  • The term FIR: The heading of section 154 CrPC says ‘information in cognizable cases’. The term FIR is not at all used in the entire section 154 CrPC. However, if you see section 207 CrPC, point no (ii) says ‘FIR recorded under Section 154 CrPC’. Thus, reading section 154 along with section 207 CrPC, we get the clarity that section 154 crpc deals with the recording of FIR.
  • Information regarding what type of offence?The term ‘cognizable offence’ refers to offences in which the police has power to arrest without warrant. How do we know which cases are cognizable and which are non-cognizable is specified in Schedule I of CrPC.

FIR is always information relating to the commission of cognizable offences. Information regarding commission of non-cognizable offences are not FIR, but they are called as _______

For example, A goes to police station and says, ‘I saw B kill C with a knife in the market’. This piece of information becomes an FIR because murder is a cognizable offence and A is giving information regarding commission of murder to the police. However, if A says, ‘I saw B slapping C in the market’, this piece of information is not FIR because here A is information regarding commission of hurt (Section 323 IPC) by B which is a non-cognizable offence.

FIR is not an encyclopaedia of offence

Section 154 crpc specifies that information must be relating to commission of cognisable offence. It does not specify what all detail should such information include. This shows that  FIR is not an encyclopaediaand it is not required that it must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported. What is important is that the information given:-

  • Must disclose commission of cognizable offence and
  • The information so lodged must provide a basis for the police officer to suspect commission of cognizable offence.

It is enough that police officer on the basis of information given suspects the commission of cognizable offence and not that he must be convinced or satisfied that a cognizable offence has been committed. At this stage, it is also not necessary for the police to satisfy themselves about the truthfulness of the information. It is only after complete investigation that he may be able to report on the truthfulness or otherwise of the information.

Can cryptic information given on telephone become FIR?

We have studied that the only important requirement for FIR is that it must contain information regarding commission of cognizable offence. The question which arises is that if a person makes telephonic call to police station informing them about an incident, does that amount to FIR? To understand this, we shall look at the following cases.

Superintendent of Police, CBI and Others vs. Tapan Kumar Singh, (2003) 6 SCC 175. In the said case, detailed information was given on telephone including the offence and the whereabouts of the accused. However, the police recorded the information in general diary. It was after two days of receiving this information that CBI formally recorded FIR. The question was whether the telephonic call was the FIR or the one recorded two later.

The court held that it is well settled that a First Information Report is not an encyclopedia, which must disclose all facts and details relating to the offence reported. An informant may lodge a report about the commission of an offence though he may not know the name of the victim or his assailant, he need not necessarily be an eye witness so as to be able to disclose in great details all aspects of the offence committed. What is of significance is that the information given must disclose the commission of a cognizable offence and the information so lodged must provide a basis for the police officer to suspect the commission of a cognizable offence.

The true test is whether the information furnished provides a reason to suspect the commission of an offence, which the concerned police officer is empowered under Section 156 of the Code to investigate. If it does, he has no option but to record the information and proceed to investigate the case either himself or depute any other competent officer to conduct the investigation. Thus, in this case the court treated the information received on telephone as FIR.

Tapinder Singh vs State Of Punjab on 7 May, 1970

In this case the person conveying the information on telephonic call did not disclose his identity, nor did he give any other particulars and – all that is said to have been conveyed was that firing had taken place at the taxi stand Ludhiana. This was, of course, recorded in the daily diary of the police station by the police officer responding to the telephone call. But prima facie this cryptic and annoymous oral message which did not in terms clearly specify a cognizable offence cannot be treated as first information report. The mere fact that this information was the first in point of time does not by itself clothe it with the character of first information report.

So, the position of law is clear that a cryptic telephonic call can not become FIR merely because it is the first information in point of time. What is required that the information must specifically and clearly disclose the commission of a cognizable offence and provide some information for the police to suspect commission of such offence. Thus, the information should not be vague and cryptic.

Any information given on phone by a known person who discloses his identity and it contains all necessary facts which constitute a cognizable offence to a police officer-in-charge of a police station will be treated as F.I.R.: provided the said information received through the phone is reduced into writing by the police-in-charge of the police station and signed by him.

If the telephonic message is cryptic in nature and the officer-in-charge, proceeds to the place of occurrence on the basis of that information to find out the details of the nature of the offence if any, then it cannot be said that the information which had been received by him on telephone shall be deemed to be a FIR. The object and purpose of giving such telephonic message is not to lodge the First Information Report but to make the officer-in-charge of the Police Station to reach the place of occurrence.

Information submitted to whom? FIR must be made to the officer in charge of a police station. If the informant is the victim (woman) of acid attack, the outrage of modesty, rape or word uttered to insult outrage the modesty then such information shall be recorded, by a woman police officer or any woman officer. If the victim is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then such information shall be recorded by a police officer, at the residence of the person seeking to report such offence or at a convenient place of such person’s choice, in the presence of an interpreter or a special educator, as the case may be. The recording of such information shall be video graphed.

  • Information in what form?– The information regarding cognizable offence may be given either orally or in written form. However, if it is given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, it shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction and be read over to the informant. So, the law requires the FIR to be reduced into writing only. However, it is not the requirement that the informant should have written the FIR from home only and simply submit it to the officer incharge of police station. Informant can make oral FIR which it is the duty of officer incharge to record in writing.
  • Signature of informant– Every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing (oral information) as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it (informant).

FIR without signature: It is the requirement of law that FIR must be signed by the informant. If the informant refuses to sign the FIR, he shall be liable for punishment under Section 180 of Indian Penal Code.

  • Entering of substance in book – The substance of the information shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

All these points are the essentials of FIR.

Object of recording FIR: What purpose does recording of FIR serve? The obvious answer is that it is only when police is informed about commission of an offence, then the police can take further steps in accordance with the criminal law. They can then investigate the case, find out who is the accused, collect evidence before it is removed, examine the witness before they start forgetting the details of the incident and present the case before the magistrate for trial. Therefore, in short the object of FIR is to set the criminal law in motion and it marks the commencement of investigation which ends up with formation of opinion under Section 169 or 170 CrPC and forwarding of police report under Section 173 CrPC.

Can there be TWO FIRS in one case only?

For example, A and B get into a fight in public and both parties start beating each other severally with lathis. Now, both A and B go to lodge the FIR regarding this incident giving their version of the case. What happens in such cases? This question was answered by SC in the case of T.T. Antony Vs. State of Kerala (2001) SC.

The Court dealt with a case wherein in respect of the same cognizable offence and same occurrence two FIRs had been lodged. The Court held that there can be no second FIR and no fresh investigation on receipt of every subsequent information in respect of the same cognizable offence or same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences. The investigating agency has to proceed only on the information about commission of a cognizable offence which is first entered in the Police Station diary by the Officer In-charge under Section 154 of the Cr.P.C. and all other subsequent information would be covered by Section 162 Cr.P.C.

In case the FIRs are not in respect of the same cognizable offence or the same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences nor are they alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction or the same occurrence as the one alleged in the First FIR, there is no prohibition in accepting the second FIR. In such a case the court has to examine the facts and circumstances giving rise to both the FIRs and the test of sameness is to be applied to find out whether both the FIRs relate to the same incident in respect of the same occurrence or are in regard to the incidents which are two or more parts of the same transaction. If the answer is affirmative, the second FIR is liable to be quashed. However, in case, the contrary is proved, where the version in the second FIR is different and they are in respect of the two different incidents/crimes, the second FIR is permissible. In case in respect of the same incident the accused in the first FIR comes forward with a different version or counter claim, investigation on both the FIRs has to be conducted.

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