Sunday, February 21, 2010

Citizen power to get FIR registered


The law called Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) gives us the right to get an FIR registered when we witness a serious offence being committed. Such offences include encroachment of public spaces etc. which are happening unchecked all around us. Registering FIR -- First Information Report -- sets in motion the police and legal machinery against a crime, even if the name of the perpetrator is not known. It is the duty of the police to investigate and find further evidence, and file a charge-sheet before a magistrate (or alternatively, and to close the case citing insufficient evidence etc.)

While registering FIR, the police officer must only see whether a cognizable offence is made out by the evidence offered by the citizen. The citizen making the complaint does not have to prove that the evidence is true, or that the accused person has committed the offence. That will be for courts to decide during the trial. Therefore, the police cannot refuse to take the citizen’s complaint on the plea that the evidence may be false; he must only see the whether there is enough prima facie evidence of the crime.

Our right to get an FIR registered is at least as important as our right to information. But this is a neglected area. Without this, we are powerless to seek remedies to the wrongs happening all around us.

How right of complaint is diluted and taken away
Currently, the police and administration throughout the country have an unwritten policy that even when our complaint clearly reveals a cognizable offence, an NC (non-cognizable offence) is registered, which cannot be investigated without specific directions from the court. Alternatively, our complaint is taken as an entry in the Police Diary, which has zero value. Thus, the police assume discretionary powers that are not theirs by law.

FIRs are usually registered to favour influential people such as Municipal Councillors, MLAs, MPs and IAS officers. Also, FIRs are freely registered whenever police or civic authorities want to curb citizens who are asking inconvenient questions. With this, they abuse their powers of arrest to terrorize citizens and occasionally extort bribes.

Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) makes it clear that registering FIR is a key power of the common citizen, and it makes it mandatory for police to register FIR. Please read and understand:

All this means that in order to get an FIR registered, you must approach the following authorities in the order given below:
  1. Approach the officer in charge of the concerned police station u/s 154 (1) of CrPC with a report of an offence and register a complaint. You may show any evidence of wrongdoing, including photographs and videos on mobile phone etc. The concerned police officer must accordingly put these into writing, and use these details to fill up the FIR form. You may also try to convince the cop to register an FIR, with reasoning based on legal provisions of IPC etc. The cops cannot shout or threaten you for doing so. You must insist on a copy of the FIR, which must be registered immediately, or at most within 48 hours in exceptional cases. This is mandatory as per Judgment of full bench of the Mumbai High Court in Sandeep Rammilan Shukla vs State of Maharashtra 2009: . Please note that as Maharashtra has not gone in appeal against this order, it may be accepted as the final legal position in Maharashtra. As for the rest of India, this issue is under the active consideration of a 3-member bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari vs Govt of UP & Others. But in the meantime, the Supreme Court has already taken as strong position against Superintendents of Police in July 2008:

  2. Approach Superintendent of Police u/s 154(3) of CrPC, in case the concerned police station refuses to register the complaint within the stipulated period.

  3. Approach any Magistrate of the First Class u/s 190(1) of CrPC, or any Magistrate of the Second Class if empowered u/s 190(1) or 190(2). They have the power to order the police to register an FIR and to investigate.

To exert moral pressure on the police stations to promptly register FIR, Mumbai activists may cite the recent circular dated 18th January 2010 issued by the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai:

Which offences are cognizable and therefore suitable for registering an FIR? Generally speaking, any offence which attracts seven years of imprisonment is cognizable and requires an FIR to be filed, as against a mere NC or diary-entry. However, for more specific details, refer to this table:

For filing complaints, you may cite the relevant sections of:
Indian Penal Code:
Criminal Procedure Code:
Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act:
Other bare Acts may be found here:

Column by:
Krishnaraj Rao

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ground Report India publishes articles as they are given. Ground Report India is not responsible for views of writers, critics and reporters. For any contradiction, please contact to the author.

Please give your Name, Email, Postal Address and Introduction with comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.