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Everyday Law & Policy: What is an FIR?

An FIR is the document that has been prepared by the police after verifying the facts of the complaint. The FIR may contain details of the crime and the alleged criminal.

A cognizable offence/case is one in which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule of the CrPC, or under any other law for the time being in force, make an arrest without a warrant. (File)

The term first information report (FIR) is not defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, or in any other law, but in police regulations or rules, information recorded under Section 154 of CrPC is known as First Information Report (FIR).

Section 154 (“Information in cognizable cases”) says that “every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe”.

Also, “a copy of the information as recorded…shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant”.

In essence then, there are three important elements of an FIR: (1) the information must relate to the commission of a cognizable offence, (2) it should be given in writing or orally to the head of the police station and, (3) it must be written down and signed by the informant, and its key points should be recorded in a daily diary.

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What is a cognizable offence?

A cognizable offence/case is one in which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule of the CrPC, or under any other law for the time being in force, make an arrest without a warrant.

In the First Schedule, “the word ‘cognizable’ stands for ‘a police officer may arrest without warrant’; and the word ‘non-cognizable’ stands for ‘a police officer shall not arrest without warrant’.”

What is the difference between a complaint and an FIR?

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The CrPC defines a “complaint” as “any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this Code, that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but does not include a police report.”

However, an FIR is the document that has been prepared by the police after verifying the facts of the complaint. The FIR may contain details of the crime and the alleged criminal.

If, on the basis of a complaint, it appears that a cognizable offence has been committed, then an FIR under Section 154 CrPC will be registered, and police will open an investigation. If no offence is found, the police will close the inquiry.

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In case of non-cognizable offences, an FIR under Section 155 CrPC, commonly called “NCR”, is registered, and the complainant will be asked to approach a court for an order. The court may then direct the police to conduct an investigation on the complaint.

Section 155 (“Information as to non-cognizable cases and investigation of such cases”) says: “When information is given to an officer in charge of a police station of the commission within the limits of such station of a non-cognizable offence, he shall enter or cause to be entered the substance of the information in a book…and refer the informant to the Magistrate. No police officer shall investigate a non-cognizable case without the order of a Magistrate having power to try such case or commit the case for trial.”

What is a Zero FIR?

When a police station receives a complaint regarding an alleged offence that has been committed in the jurisdiction of another police station, it registers an FIR, and then transfers it to the concerned police station for further investigation. This is called a Zero FIR.

No regular FIR number is given. After receiving the Zero FIR, the concerned police station registers a fresh FIR and starts the investigation.

What if the police refuse to register an FIR?

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Under Section 154(3) CrPC, if any person is aggrieved by the refusal on the part of the officer in charge of a police station to register an FIR, she can send the complaint to the Superintendent of Police/DCP concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, will either investigate the case, or direct an investigation by a subordinate police officer.

If no FIR is registered, the aggrieved persons can file a complaint under Section 156(3) CrPC before a concerned court which, if satisfied that a cognizable offence is made out from the complaint, will direct the police to register an FIR and conduct an investigation.

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What happens after an FIR is filed?

The police will investigate the case and will collect evidence in the form of statements of witnesses or other scientific materials. They can arrest the alleged persons as per law.

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If there is sufficient evidence to corroborate the allegations of the complainant, then a chargesheet will be filed. Or else, a Final Report mentioning that no evidence was found will be filed in court.

If it is found that no offence has been committed, a cancellation report will be filed. If no trace of the accused persons is found, an ‘untraced’ report will be filed.

However, if the court does not agree with the investigation report, it can order further investigation.

First published on: 18-02-2022 at 08:00:25 pm
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