Provision of Zero-FIR, E-FIR under BNSS

30 Jun 2024  Read 1919 Views

Encountering the police or needing to report a crime is a situation we all hope to avoid, but it is super important to know the rights if such a situation arises. With the introduction of the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 (BNSS), and newly added provisions of Zero-FIR and E-FIR can make reporting crimes easier and more accessible.

These provisions ensure that justice is within reach for everyone, no matter where the crime happened or how it was reported. In this blog, you will understand Zero-FIR, E-FIR and preliminary enquiry in the easiest way, so let's get started!

What is Zero-FIR?

A zero-FIR is an important provision that allows anyone to report a crime at any police station, irrespective of where the incident occurred. Here's how it works:

Report Anywhere: A Zero-FIR can be lodged at any police station, and they must then transfer the documents to the police station with jurisdiction over the crime scene.

Investigation Begins: Once transferred, the jurisdictional police station will number the FIR and start the investigation.

Legal Provision for Zero-FIR

In BNSS, Section 173 replaces the old Section 154 of the CrPC. It says that:-

Reporting a Crime Anywhere: Information about a cognizable offence (a serious crime that police can arrest without a warrant) can be reported regardless of where it happened.

Ways to Report:

1. Orally:

  • If the crime is reported orally, the police officer must write it down.
  • The officer must then read the information back.
  • The written information must be signed to confirm it.

 2. Electronically:

  • If the crime is reported through electronic communication, it must be recorded by the police.
  • The electronic report needs to be signed within 3 days for it to be officially recorded.

Historical Context:

  • The concept of Zero-FIR is not new and was recommended by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2015 for crimes against women.

  • The Courts have also supported the registration of Zero-FIR in several cases, emphasising the duty to record information about cognizable offences and forward it to the appropriate police station.

  • Now, BNSS makes it a legal provision to allow zero-FIR.

Do you know how the new CrPC is different from the old CrPC? Read the full article to know in-depth.

What is E-FIR?

Section 173 of BNSS allows for the registration of FIRs electronically. Here’s a brief overview of how e-FIR works:

Step 1: Initiation: A complainant can submit a complaint electronically through the official police e-FIR portal, police website, or any electronic communication. This includes providing personal details, incident specifics, and supporting documents.

Step 2: Verification and Preliminary Enquiry: The submitted e-FIR is forwarded to the investigation officer for initial verification. If the offence is punishable with imprisonment for three to seven years, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted within 14 days with permission from a higher-ranking officer.

Step 3: Registration within 3 days: If the complaint is sent electronically, it must be signed by the complainant within three days for it to be officially registered as an FIR. This ensures timely action by the police.

Step 4: Copy of FIR: A free copy of the FIR must be provided to the informant or victim immediately after it’s recorded, as per BNSS Section 173(2).

Step 5: Assignment and Investigation: The Station House Officer (SHO) reviews the FIR and assigns it to an investigating officer, who then conducts the investigation following standard procedures.

Parliamentary Review:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recognized the positive impact of online FIR registration but suggested regulating it through specified modes to avoid technical and logistical challenges. Despite this, the BNSS was passed without including the recommended regulatory clause.

Do you know the difference between FIR & Complaint? Read here!

Preliminary Enquiry Under Section 173(3) of BNSS

Section 173(3) of BNSS introduces a statutory recognition to the preliminary enquiry for specific cases. This applies to offences punishable with imprisonment for 3 to 7 years.

Such an enquiry must be conducted with prior permission from an officer, not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

A. Timeframe for Preliminary Enquiry:

  • The preliminary enquiry must be completed within 14 days if a prima facie case is identified.
  • If a prima facie case already exists, the officer must proceed directly with the investigation.

B. Section 173(3) says:

     - Upon receiving information about the commission of a cognizable offence punishable by 3 to 7 years:

       - With permission from a Deputy Superintendent of Police, considering the offence's nature and gravity:

         (i) Conduct a preliminary enquiry within 14 days to ascertain a prima facie case.

         (ii) Proceed with the investigation if a prima facie case is already established.

C. Supreme Court Ruling in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh:

  • The Supreme Court mandated that registering an FIR is obligatory if it discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.
  • No preliminary enquiry is permissible if a cognizable offence is evident.
  • If the information doesn't clearly disclose a cognizable offence but suggests the need for an enquiry, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is revealed.

D. Scope of Preliminary Enquiry:

  • According to Lalita Kumari, the purpose of a preliminary enquiry is to determine if the information indicates the commission of a cognizable offence.
  • The new provision sets the threshold for conducting a preliminary enquiry to establish a prima facie case.

E. Categories for Preliminary Enquiry (Lalita Kumari): Preliminary enquiry can be conducted in specific categories of cases, including:

(a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes.

(b) Commercial offences.

(c) Medical negligence cases.

(d) Corruption cases.

(e) Cases with abnormal delays in initiating criminal prosecution (e.g., delays over 3 months without satisfactory explanation).

Do you know how the new IPC is Different from the Old IPC? Read here!

Conclusion

In wrapping up, knowing about Zero-FIR, E-FIR, and preliminary enquiries under the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 (BNSS) is really important for everyone. These are new rules that make it easier to report crimes and get help from the police quickly, no matter where something happened or how you tell them about it.

Zero-FIR makes sure that every complaint about serious crimes gets recorded and looked into, no matter where it happened. E-FIR is a faster and less stressful way to get help.

So, understanding these new provisions helps us all be safer and know our rights better. By knowing how to use them, we can make sure justice is fair and accessible for everyone.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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