Sec. 154 of the CRPC deals with the First Information Report (FIR) i.e. first information of a cognizable crime to the police. FIR is not defined in the Code, but it means information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence given to the police first in point of time. The reason for documenting an FIR is to set criminal law into motion and not to express all the small details therein.
In the case of T.T.Antony vs State of Kerala & Ors, it was held that “ Information given under sub-section (1) of Section 154 of Cr.P.C., is commonly known as the First Information Report (FIR), though this term is not used in the Code….And as its nickname suggests, it is the earliest and the first information of a cognizable offence recorded by an officer in charge of a police station”.
Importance of FIR
The principal object of the F.I.R is to set the criminal law in motion and 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. Hence, Sec. 154 has a three-fold object, which is:
1. To inform the Magistrate and the District S. P., who are responsible for the peace and safety of the district, of the offences reported at the police station;
2. To make known to the judicial officers before whom the case is ultimately tried what the facts were given out immediately after the occurrence and the materials on the basis of which the investigation commenced,
3. To safeguard the accused against subsequent variations or additions.
In order to qualify as an FIR under Section 154, the following essentials need to be fulfilled:
1. It is an information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence;
2. It is given by the informant either orally or in writing;
3. If given orally, it should be reduced to writing by the officer in charge of a police station or under his direction and if given in writing or reduced to writing shall be signed by the person giving it;
4. The substance of the information shall be entered in a book in such form as the State Government may prescribe on this behalf. This book is called 'General Diary'.
5. In order for the information to be qualified as an FIR, there must be something in the nature of the complaint or accusation regarding the commission of a cognizable offence.
Concept of Zero FIR
In the case of the State of Andhra Pradesh v. Punati Ramulu, it was held that refusal to record an FIR on the ground that the place of crime doesn't fall within the territorial jurisdiction of the police station amounts to dereliction of duty. Information about cognizable offences would have to be recorded and forwarded to the police station having jurisdiction, and such FIR is called Zero F.IR. The police officers who fail to comply with the registration of Zero FIR may invite prosecution under Section 166A of IPC and also departmental action.
Effect of Delay
FIR relies on spontaneity, deliberation, and consultation. The prompt FIR goes a long way in establishing that the prosecution story was an authentic & truthful one, and it also reflects the part played by the accused, the nature of the incident, and the name of witnesses. However, a mere delay in the registration of FIR cannot be a ground for throwing away the prosecution case. Long Aid's unexplainable delay may create doubt or raise suspicion as to how the incident happened.
In the case of Ramdas v State of Maharashtra, it was held that it depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. But the fact that the report was lodged belatedly is a relevant factor of which the court must take notice. Further, in the case of Vidyadharan v State of Kerala, it was observed that delay in lodging of FIR in rape cases is quite natural in traditional bound society to avoid embracement and hence should not be suspected. Only unexplained delay can be ground to arouse suspicion.
Evidentiary Value of FIR
Although FIR is an important document, it sets criminal law in motion. It is not a substantive piece of evidence, i.e. evidence of the facts recorded in it. A First Information Report can be used to corroborate the information under Section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act or to contradict under Section 145 of the Evidence Act if the informant is called a witness at the time of trial.
Although FIR may be merely hearsay and need not necessarily be given by a person who has first-hand knowledge of the facts of the case, it provides the fundamentals on the basis of which the entire investigation and prosecution will be carried out. The evidentiary value of FIR is considered to be greater than any other statement recorded by the police during the course of an investigation. If the FIR is given by the accused himself, then it can be either:
I. Confessional FIR: If the FIR is confessional in nature, it cannot be proved against the accused-informant as it would be hit by Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act.
II. Non-confessional FIR: If the FIR is non-confessional in nature, it can be admissible in evidence uncle Section 21 of the Indian Evidence Act or showing his conduct under Section 8 of the Evidence Act.
In the case of Aghno Nagesia v. State of Bihar, it was held that in view of Section 145 of Evidence Act First Information Report can be used for cross-examination of the informant and for contradicting him. Considering Sections 157 and 145 of the Evidence Act, it can be deduced that the FIR cannot be used for the purpose of corroborating or contradicting any witness other than the one registering the FIR.