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THE CONCEPT OF ZERO FIR

Author : Mili Kanoujiya

Introduction

Registering FIR is mandatory for an officer on receiving information relating to the commission of an offence. Despite that the victim has to struggle a lot to get the FIR registered. The police authority denies to register FIR saying it is not under their jurisdiction. For the ease of victim the concept of Zero FIR has been introduced back in 2013. There is lack of awareness in citizens regarding the same and police authorities still try to escape from registering an FIR.

FIR

First Information Report also known as FIR, is not defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, as the name suggests it is the information given to the police regarding the commission of any cognizable offence. It is the earliest report of the commission of an offence made to set the criminal law machinery in motion. Anyone can give such information to police. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the manner of recording FIR. 

Zero FIR

Zero FIR is a revolutionary step in the Criminal Justice System. It is independent of jurisdiction. It mandates the police officer to register the FIR and begin the investigation, even though the offence has not been committed in his jurisdiction. The Zero FIR is given the serial number as ‘0’. After registering the Zero Fir, the police officer transfers it to the police station with competent jurisdiction. If any police officer fails to comply with the direction to register zero FIR action will be taken against him.

This was introduced by the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 on the recommendation of Justice Verma Committee. The ministry of Home Affairs has issued innumerable guidelines to the States directing them to register Zero FIR and the High Court of Karnataka adjudicating for a public interest litigation petition initiated by advocate S Umapathi on September 19, 2019 had observed that “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”.

Purpose

The notion of Zero FIR is very essential to set the criminal law in motion in an efficient manner. As the Zero FIR, mandates immediate investigation, the evidence will not be tampered corrupted or lost. Also, the offences like murder, rape, other sexual offences, accidents, abduction etc. requires immediate steps from the police authorities so that appropriate circumstantial evidences, eye-witnesses etc. can be recorded before it fades away from memory.

Procedure

The procedure for registering Zero FIR is almost same as for regular FIR which are as follows:

  1. If the information is given orally, the police must reduce it in writing.
  2. It shall then be read over to the informant, to ensure the accuracy.
  3. The information shall be signed by the informant.
  4. A copy of the same shall be given to the informant, free of cost.
  5. The information shall be recorded by the female police officer in case of female informant.
  6.  Transfer to the competent police station, all the documents to proceed with the investigation.

Legal provision and Case Laws

There is no express provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure relating to Zero FIR. However, Section 460 of the Code talks about ‘Irregularities which do not vitiate proceedings’, Clause (e) of the section states that If any Magistrate is not empowered by law to take cognizance of an offence under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub- section (1) of section 190 and takes a cognizance of the offence irrespective of this, such a proceeding shall not be set aside merely on the ground that the Magistrate did not have jurisdiction to entertain the same.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 added Clause (c) of Section 166A in the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes punishment of rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than six months and can be extended upto two years, and also fine, to any public servant who fails to record any information relating to the commission of cognizable offence.

The Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari v. govt. of U.P. & ors., held that, “The registration of FIR under Section 154 of the Code and arrest of an accused person under Section 41 are two entirely different things. It is not correct to say that just because FIR is registered, the accused person can be arrested immediately. It is the imaginary fear that “merely because FIR has been registered, it would require arrest of the accused and thereby leading to loss of his reputation” and it should not be allowed by this Court to hold that registration of FIR is not mandatory to avoid such inconvenience to some persons. The remedy lies in strictly enforcing the safeguards available against arbitrary arrests made by the police and not in allowing the police to avoid mandatory registration of FIR when the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence.”

In case of Kirti Vashisht v. State & Ors,[4]the Delhi High Court said that it is not in dispute that in provision of ‘zero FIR’ came up as a recommendation in the Justice Verma Committee Report, in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the heinous “Nirbhaya Case” of December, 2012. The provision says: “A Zero FIR can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or the place of occurrence of crime.”

Conclusion

The concept of Zero Fir is very useful. It ensures that justice is not delayed to the victim with a mere excuse of ‘lack of jurisdiction’. It reduces the delaying tactics used by Police officers in registering the FIR. It is one step ahead for the protection of women and to make the criminal justice system more accessible to everyone.

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