Online Registration Of FIRs- Need Of The Hour
FIR or first information report, means the information, by whomsoever given to the officer in charge of police station in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence and which is first in point of time, on the strength of which the investigation into that offence is commenced. It is the earliest report made to the police officer with a view to taking action in the matter, and its principal object from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law in motion. Such is the importance of FIR, that neither the police can refuse to register it, nor can the power be usurped by the Magistrate. Since the word “information” in S.154 CrPC, is not qualified by any word like ‘reasonable’ or ‘credible’, so it is the duty of the police officer to register the information regarding any cognizable offence as FIR.
The principal object of the first information report from the point of view of the informant is to set the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity so as to be able to take suitable steps to trace and bring to book the guilty.
It is universally accepted that the society is always in a state of flux and is always changing, sometimes forward and sometimes backward. Law, therefore, has to keep pace with the changing mores of society. Once the society is on the march, law will have to be reformed, modified or amended with a view to bringing it in conformity with the need of the society. However, there exists a controversy as to whether social change influences law or law influences social change. While Savigny holds that it is the law which follows the social change, Bentham holds the opposite view. But in ultimate analysis one must agree that they do influence each other. Sometimes it is the law which brings forth the required and desired social change and sometimes it is the social change that brings in the expected change of law. Therefore, change of law is a must either way — that is either to bring about the desired change of society or to reflect the change of society. If law remains static and hinders the march of society, it will be rejected.
In view of the technological advancements in this era of ‘nanotechnology’ and ‘RTI’, when almost every Indian is using a smartphone, and transparency and accountability have become the order of the day, the online registration of FIRs is a welcome change, which will ensure transparency, and accuracy of information as to the commission of cognizable offences reported to the police.
The Hon’ble Apex Court on Registration of FIR
It is a mandate for the officer in charge of the police station to register an FIR on receipt information of the commission for cognizable offence, and even if he considers the offences not to be serious or there is no sufficient ground for starting an investigation, he has to register the first information report and send a report to the Magistrate, who can direct the police to investigate. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has in a plethora of cases held that on respect of information of the commission for cognizable offence, there is no option under the criminal procedure code for the police officer but to register it in the general diary and proceed with the investigation. A police officer cannot refuse to record the FII merely on the ground that he has no territorial jurisdiction; on the ground that an enquiry by the authorities it has been found that no cognizable offence has been committed. An officer in charge of a police station must record the FIR in accordance with the section and the inordinate delay renders the prosecution case suspicious.
Recently the Hon’ble Apex Court in Lalita Kumari V. State of UP (2014) held as under:
(1) Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation
(2) If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether the cognizable offence is disclosed or not
(3) If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.
(4) The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if the cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if the information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.
(5) The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.
(6) As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. The categories of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:
- Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
- Commercial offences
- Medical negligence cases
- Corruption cases
- Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.
(7) While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case, it should not exceed 7 days. The fact of such delay and the causes of it must be reflected in the General Diary entry.
(8) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, we direct that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry, must be mandatorily and meticulously reflected in the said Diary and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected, as mentioned above.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Online Registration of FIRs: ‘A Comparative Analysis’
The advantages of online registration of FIRs are as under:
- Since registration of FIR is mandatory and no discretion lies with the police, the citizens should be empowered to register FIR online, without going to the police station;
- It would ensure that every offence is registered, and even people hesitant to go the police stations can register FIRs online;
- It would lead to the emergence of actual crime figures and ensure that the criminal law is set in motion in case of every crime committed (as in the present scenario sometimes police dissuades the registration of FIRs just to control the crime figures of their area);
- It would reduce the pendency of already overburdened Courts as the applications under S. 156 (3) CrPC would reduce;
- It would make the FIRs tamper-proof, as there would be no scope of modification in the FIR after online registration;
- Copy of FIRs can be sent directly to the Courts digitally (from system to system);
- FIRs can be directly uploaded on the internet without any delay, after online registration;
- FIRs, when registered online, would be digitally signed, and the evidence of FIR writer might not be required in Court, and the delays in the trial would be reduced to a great extent.
- There would be no risk of damage of FIRs once registered online (unlike the present practice of maintaining FIRs in FIR ledgers);
- It would lead to better policing and would enhance administrative efficiency of the police, as the Dy. SPs and SPs, and even the Magistrates can directly view the FIRs online.
Considering the above advantages of online registration of FIRs, it is time that S. 154 CrPC should be amended to enable online registration of FIRs, which would lead to further transparency and accountability in criminal justice system and would lead to better policing.
However, the demerits of online registration of FIRs must not be lost sight of, which are as under:
- It would lead to a flood of FIRs and further burden the already overburdened police;
- Even trivial matters which can be settled amicably after some deliberation and afterthought would be registered as FIRs by a click of a mouse;
- There can be frivolous FIRs against honest officers and Government functionaries to deter them from discharging their duties fearlessly and impartially;
Be that as it may, as a matter of caution, there must be an inherent check in the provision for online registration of FIRs, which can be imposing a minimum fine and imprisonment in case the FIR is found to be false, to deter frivolous FIRs. Apart from this, there must be no online FIRs in heinous offences like murder, rape, dowry death to avoid misuse. Since this move would have wide ramifications, it should be implemented in a phased manner gradually in some parts of the country and should be implemented universally only after analyzing the pros and cons.
Aishwarya Pratap Singh, is a Metropolitan Magistrate at Kanpur Nagar, Uttar Pradesh.
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]
 Satvinder Kaur V. NCT of Delhi AIR 1999 SC 3596; State of AP V. Punati Ramulu AIR 1993 SC 2644
 2014 SCC 1