Failure to Act: The Zero FIR

Since the working of Print and Electronic Media, there is one topic who has always found itself “Indisputably” in the list of top trending and it seems that people either love or hate it so much that they never stop talking about it. More than love or hate for this topic it is the Dedicated Will of No-Work and Disciplined Inaction of its members that keep it trending. The topic is none other than Police Excesses and Inactions. The recent instances coming out in public shows the Police excesses and there is already a lot of content written on it. The issue that will be highlighted in this present article will be Police Inaction in the form of not registering FIR. The focus will be on the concept of Zero FIR which doesn’t find mention in CrPC but by virtue of Apex Court rulings, it has now become part and parcel of Indian Criminal Justice Administration. It is rightly said that the wrongs done by failure to act by those who are capable and in position is much larger than the excesses committed.

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P[1] held that registration of First Information Report is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure[2], if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence.

“Normally, an FIR is registered by a serial number in the police station having territorial jurisdiction to investigate the Crime. A Zero FIR can be registered in the Police station where the information about a Cognizable Offence is received, irrespective of fact that whether it has got territorial jurisdiction or not. Zero FIR can only be registered but not numbered. Such unnumbered FIR is then forwarded to the concerned police station where it gets numbered and then proceeded for investigation.”

Justice Verma Committee Report[3] recommended the provision of Zero FIR, after the December 2012 gang rape of a 23- year old girl in Delhi.

“In addition to every individual being able to register an FIR at any police station irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the crime was complained of in writing, every individual must also be able to register his complaint online on a designated website. After this a complaint number should be automatically generated so the complainant can track the FIR. The same complaint would then be generated at the nearest police station and a copy would also be provided to an ombudsman office located in every district. It will still be the case that an FIR cannot be registered anonymously and the individual who has registered an FIR online will then have to go to any police station to verify his identity and the FIR.”

In State of A.P. v. Punati Ramulu & Others[4], the informant went to the nearby police station from the scene of the occurrence and contacted the constable to draft the report addressed to the Circle Inspector of Police. The police constable at the police station refused to record the complaint on the ground that the police station had no territorial jurisdiction over the place of the offence. The court held that there was certainly a dereliction of duty on the part of the constable because any lack of territorial jurisdiction should not have prevented the constable from recording information about the cognizable offence and forwarding the same to the police station having jurisdiction over the area in which the crime was said to have been committed.

In Satvinder Kaur v. Govt. of NCT, Delhi[5]the Supreme Court held that:

(i) The Station House Officer (S.H.O.) has statutory authority under Section 156 of the Criminal Procedure Code[6] to investigate any cognizable case for which an FIR is lodged. (Irrespective of the fact that whether he has jurisdiction or not)

(ii) At the stage of the investigation, there is no question of interference under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code[7] on the ground that the investigating Officer has no territorial jurisdiction.

(iii) After the investigation is over, if the Investigating Officer arrives at the conclusion that the cause of action for lodging FIR has not arisen within his territorial jurisdiction, then he is required to submit a report accordingly under Section 170 of the Criminal Procedure Code[8] and to forward the case to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence.

In the case of Ramesh Kumari v. State (NCT of Delhi) And Ors[9], the Court held that, in case, an officer-in-charge of a police station refused to exercise the jurisdiction vested upon him to register a case on the information of a cognizable offence reported and thereby violates the statutory duty cast upon him, the person aggrieved by such refusal can send the substance of the information in writing and by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned who is satisfied that the information forwarded to him discloses a cognizable offence, should either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him in the manner provided by Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code[10].

Hence, it can be understood that, under the law, the police can register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence even if the offence is not committed within the jurisdiction of the police station. In another scenario, if at the time of registration of FIR, it is known that the crime was committed outside the jurisdiction of the police station, the police after the registration of FIR should transfer it to the concerned police station for investigation. In the above-mentioned circumstance, the police would normally register a ‘Zero FIR’ and then transfer it to the concerned police station.

Even though the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had issued multiple advisories since 2013 to the State Governments and Union Territories on mandatory registration of the FIRs on cognizable offences, irrespective of the territorial jurisdiction of the complaint, the police stations were given only ‘oral instructions’ regarding the same. Relying on these advisories issued by the MHA, the division bench of the Karnataka High Court, on 19 September 2019, on the basis of a PIL petition filed by Adv. S. Umapathi[11] complaining about the non-registration of FIRs on the ground of territorial jurisdiction, issued following directions in the order which may be issued by the State Government:

  1. a) Even if the alleged offence has been committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Police station, FIR shall be still registered and the same shall be transferred to the appropriate Police station.
  2. b) The Police officers should be clearly informed that the failure to comply with the direction of registration of FIR and receipt of information about cognizable offence may invite prosecution of the Police officer under section 166-A of Indian Penal Code and it may also invite departmental action against them.

Section 166A IPC

As per Section 166A(c) of Indian Penal Code[12], Whoever being a Public Servant fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (I) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to a cognizable offence punishable under section 326A, section 326B, section 354, section 354A-D, section 370, section 370A, section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376E or section 509, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Conclusion

There are two possible situations: One where after disclosing the information about the commission of cognizable offence police becomes aware that offence was committed outside their territorial jurisdiction and second where after recording information and during the course of investigation police came to know the fact that offence was committed outside their jurisdiction. In both the cases if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence, then it is mandatory for the police to register FIR. Now in the first case, the police station where information is recorded will immediately send the FIR to the concerned police station having territorial jurisdiction to investigate the offence. This is called Zero FIR and Police will not number it. In the second case, the police will do the investigation and will prepare police report and then send it along with evidence collected under Section 170 CrPC to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance (basically forwarding the case to the concerned magistrate). This is normal FIR as Police have numbered it, the only difference being that Police subsequently came to know that offence was committed outside their jurisdiction.

The power to investigate beyond territorial jurisdiction is provided by Sect. 156(1), which enables the investigative agency to investigate cognizable offence committed outside its territorial jurisdiction. The section says that it is not within the jurisdiction of an investigative agency to refrain itself from conducting proper and complete investigation merely on the basis of reaching the conclusion that offence was committed outside its jurisdiction. Moreover by virtue of case laws and Sect. 154 it is the duty of SHO or Officer in charge of Police Station to record FIR whenever they receive information regarding the commission of cognizable offence whether the crime was committed within their territorial jurisdiction or not. If they refuse to register on the basis of lack of jurisdiction to investigate then the police officials will be prosecuted for dereliction of duty.

Despite the Justice Verma Committee report and also the multiple advisories issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the registration of Zero FIR, the police are still reluctant to register a case of cognizable offence especially in cases relating to heinous crimes against women. There is a need for strict law, to take action against the police who does not adhere to the procedure of filing a Zero FIR instead of reiterating the law to the police force only after such horrific incidents take place. The public at large should also be given precautionary awareness about this provision and the procedures involved.

[1] [W.P.(Crl) No; 68/2008], (2008) 7 SCC 164.

[2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1980578/

[3] https://www.prsindia.org/report-summaries/justice-verma-committee-report summary#:~:text=Justice%20Verma%20Committee%20was%20constituted,report%20on%20January%2023%2C%202013.

[4] AIR 1993 SC 2644, 1993 CriLJ 3684.

[5] 1999 CrLJ 4566, 1999 AIR (SC) 3596.

[6] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1291024/

[7] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1679850/

[8] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1367808/

[9] (2006) 2 SCC 677.

[10] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1980578/

[11] Umapathi vs State and Others, WP No. 30666/2019

[12] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/570574/


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Harshit Sharma

Harshit

Harshit Sharma is a B.A., LL.B. (Criminal Law Hons.) graduate from National Law University, Jodhpur and an LLM (Criminal Law) from Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phoole University, Jaipur. He has qualified NTA NET (December 2019) and can be reached at harshitsharmanluj@gmail.com.

Rishav Dixit

Rishabh

Rishav Dixit is a B.A., LL.B (Business Law Hons.) graduate from National Law University, Jodhpur (Batch of 2019). Presently he is working as an Associate for Cyril Amarchand and Mangaldas.

3 thoughts on “Failure to Act: The Zero FIR

  1. Relevant of Sections describes the police officials will be prosecuted for dereliction of duty, but practically not happens, so we have become slave of our system, with one excuse or the others.

    Like

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