All you need to know about filing an FIR
It's always scary interacting with the police. Knowing your rights helps. This article explains the situations in which the police is required to register an FIR.
FIR is an acronym for ‘First Information Report’. An FIR is a report of a crime filed with the police to initiate the investigation process. However, an FIR cannot be registered for all crimes, and so it is important for one to know the crimes and circumstances in relation to which an FIR may be registered.
Criminal offences are classified into two categories depending on the degree of seriousness: cognizable; and non cognizable.
Cognizable literally means to take note of. A crime is classified as cognizable if it is of a serious nature, e.g. murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, etc. In cases of cognizable offences, the police can arrest an accused or suspect without a warrant (i.e. without an order from a court).
Non cognizable offences are minor offences, e.g. defamation, intimidation, theft etc. In case of non cognizable offences, the police can neither investigate nor arrest the suspect for a crime without an order/ warrant from the court.
An FIR is filed only in cases of cognizable offences, i.e. crimes of a serious nature.Non cognizable offences may also be reported to police but the police will not file an FIR for these offences. Instead, they will register the complaint in the Daily Diary Report (DDR).
Whether an offence is cognizable or not can be found out from the 1st Schedule of Code of Criminal Procedure. As per the schedule, theft is a cognizable offence without any qualification.
When a crime of a serious nature occurs, it is natural that one would want to inform the police so that the matter can be investigated. In order to do so, it is necessary to file an FIR. How does one do this?
It is not necessary that only a victim of a crime can file an FIR in relation to it. The following persons may file an FIR:
1. the victim or any person on behalf of victim;
2. any person who has witnessed the crime or has heard of the crime. In case the person has only heard of the crime and wants to file an FIR, then he must mention the source from where he/she has heard of the crime; and
3. an officer in-charge of a police station.
So, if you are any of 1, 2 or 3 above, then go to the police station closest to the area where the crime has occurred and ask for the person-in-charge of the police station. When you have finished narrating the events surrounding the crime, if the person in- charge of the police station (not lower than the rank of head constable) is satisfied that the crime which took place is a cognizable offence and he is duty bound to register an FIR.
You may either give a written statement or make an oral statement to the officer in charge who will then write it down in FIR register. The officer in- charge is under an obligation to read over the statement written in the FIR register to you and then you must put your thumb impression or sign the FIR register.
Three carbon copies of an FIR are made, one copy each is sent to the Magistrate and the Superintendent of police and the third will be handed over to you. The original is retained, for record, in the police station.
There are a few things you should keep in mind if you are filing an FIR:
1. An FIR is recorded in first person, e.g. I was present on the scene of crime, I saw him taking out his gun.
2.The FIR should be registered immediately after the happening of crime. If there is any delay in registering an FIR, the reasons for the delay must be explained. Try to give a detailed description of the accused and other witnesses so that they can be easily identified.
3. Try to give as much information as possible about the scene of crime, e.g. the kind of weapon used, any physical damage caused to property, the date, time and place of the incident the question.
4. Ensure that you use simple language and not ambiguous, i.e., the meaning should be clear and obvious. Also make sure that you have not left out any relevant facts as FIR once registered cannot be modified again. Do not lie regarding any fact as it is a punishable offence under section 177 and 182 of Indian Penal Code.
In the FIR itself, make sure you mention:
1. the date and time of reporting of the FIR by you.
2. the date and time of the occurrence of the crime.
3. that a signed and stamped copy of the FIR is given to you.
The police makes three copies of an FIR. The original is always kept as record in the police station and one carbon copy of original FIR is handed over to the informant. This carbon copy is also stamped and signed by the officer who has registered the FIR. The person filing the FIR must sign on the original and the 3 copies of the FIR.
The person in- charge of a police station cannot refuse to register an FIR. It does not matter whether or not the information given is genuine. It is the statutory duty of a police officer to register an FIR whenever any information pertains to ant cognizable offence is reported to him/her.
In case the person in charge of a police station fails to register your FIR, you can approach superintendent of police who will either himself or through any other officer get the FIR registered.
You may inform the Superintendent of such non registration via a written complaint which may be sent to the Superintendent of Police through post. Note: This is an effective method of ensuring that your plea is heard – do mention in your letter the name of the police officer who refused to file an FIR.
As mentioned above, a non cognizable offence can also be reported to the police. This is registered in the DDR (daily diary register). After the crime has been so recorded, a signed and stamped copy of the DDR will be handed over to you.
However, the police will not take any action on the matter without the direction of a magistrate. In case you would like the police to investigate a matter, you must obtain an order from the magistrate directing the police to investigate in the matter. Generally you will have to go to the appropriate court in whose jurisdiction the matter falls and obtain the permission from the appropriate magistrate (who is competent to hear the matter) and ask him to pass an order for police to investigate the matter.