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Indian Police Department Goes Digital – Directed To Upload FIR Online

FIR which stands for First Information Report seems like a simple process, but in reality is a lot trickier. There is a lot more which meets the eye. I’ve already written an articles regarding the basics of FIR.

Now the law says that the Police must register a FIR for a cognizable offence. I’m sure you must have heard of situations where one person threatens to file a FIR against another person. As a result, that other person literally loses his appetite and sleep thinking whether a FIR has in fact been registered against him or not, and if that is the case, then what are the allegations against him. He needs to know this so that he can take suitable action before he is [possibly] arrested by the Police.

Up till now, finding out whether there is a FIR against you or not was a very tricky affair. In all honesty, it required knowing somebody in the concerned Police Station who may give you a tip regarding the same. But what about an average citizen with no connections, but is afraid that he may be implicated into a false case. Those who do not have high profile connections with police or lawyers, were simply living in fear and wondering whether there is a FIR against them or not.

Well obviously, the law cannot stop anybody from filing a complaint against you, and the Police has to register a FIR and proceed accordingly. Whether the complaint was genuine or false is something to be discovered during investigation.

Now the real concern over here was how do you ascertain whether a FIR has been registered against you or not, and if yes, then what are the contents of that FIR.

Today there is an online solution to most [if not all] of your everyday requirements, which really begs the question, why the Police department too can’t go online so that an average citizen is able to interact with the Police online and even track the status of his complaint online.

What Is FIR?

Before we venture into finding an answer to this, it is imperative to take a look at Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 [“Cr.P.C.”], which reads as:

154. Information in cognizable cases-

(1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub-section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.

On a plain reading of the above provision, it is clear that certain conditions are to be satisfied before recording/registering the FIR. Assuming that a FIR has been registered by the Police, now we need to take a look at Section 207 of the Cr.P.C. which deals with the supply of FIR and other documents to the accused. Section 207 reads as under:

207. Supply to the accused of copy of police report and other documents-In any case where the proceeding has been instituted on a police report, the Magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following:-

(i) the police report;

(ii) the first information report recorded under section 154;

(iii) the statements recorded under sub- section (3) of section 161 of all persons whom the prosecution proposes to examine as its witnesses, excluding therefrom any part in regard to which a request for such exclusion has been made by the police officer under sub- section (6) of section 173;

(iv) the confessions and statements, if any, recorded under section 164;

(v) any other document or relevant extract thereof forwarded to the Magistrate with the police report under sub- section (5) of section 173;

Provided that the Magistrate may, after perusing any such part of a statement as is referred to in clause (iii) and considering the reasons given by the police officer for the request, direct that a copy of that part of the statement or of such portion thereof as the Magistrate thinks proper, shall be furnished to the accused;

Provided further that if the Magistrate is satisfied that any document referred to in clause (v) is voluminous, he shall, instead of furnishing the accused with a copy thereof, direct that he will only be allowed to inspect it either personally or through pleader in Court.

According to the above provision, a Police Officer is under a duty to provide copies of FIR, Police Report and other documents to the accused after forwarding the report and before the commencement of the enquiry or trial. Section 207 of the Cr.P.C. also confers power on the Magistrate to supply copies of the documents specified in the section to the accused free of cost.

Is FIR – Public Document?

In order to enable the Accused or his relative to obtain a copy of the FIR, it is necessary that a FIR must technically be a public document and must not be a confidential or private document. Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 [“Evidence Act”] defines what are public documents, which reads as under:

74. Public documents-

The following documents are public documents :—

(1) Documents forming the acts, or records of the acts—

(i) of the sovereign authority,

(ii) of official bodies and tribunals, and

(iii) of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, of any part of India or of the Commonwealth, or of a foreign country; of any part of India or of the Commonwealth, or of a foreign country;

(2) Public records kept in any State of private documents.

Now, Section 76 of the Evidence Act, enables a public officer the provide a copy of the public document to any person. Sectio 76 reads a under:

76. Certified copies of public documents-

Every public officer having the custody of a public document, which any person has a right to inspect, shall give that person on demand a copy of it on payment of the legal fees therefor, together with a certificate written at the foot of such copy that it is a true copy of such document or part thereof, as the case may be, and such certificate shall be dated and subscribed by such officer with his name and his official title, and shall be sealed, whenever such officer is authorized by law to make use of a seal; and such copies so certified shall be called certified copies.

Explanation.—Any officer who, by the ordinary course of official duty, is authorized to deliver such copies, shall be deemed to have the custody of such documents within the meaning of this section.

After reading the above provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, the question arises as to whether a FIR is a public document or not?

The Allahabad High Court in the case of “Shyam Lal vs. State of U.P. & Ors” 1 had ruled that a FIR is a public document.

The Karnataka High Court in the case of “Chnnappa Andanappa Siddareddy & Ors. vs. State” 2, held that:

“The FIR being a record of the acts of the public officers prepared in discharge of the official duty is such a public document as defined under Section 74 of the Evidence Act. Under Section 76 of the Evidence Act, every public officer having the custody of a public document, which any person has a right to inspect is bound to give such person on demand a copy of it on payment of the legal fees therefor.”

Even the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of “Munna Singh vs. State of M.P.” 3 had held that a FIR is not a privileged document under the Evidence Act.

Can FIR Be Made Available Online?

Interestingly, the Delhi High Court in the year 2010, instituted a Writ Petition on its own entitled “Court On Its Own Motion vs. State” 4, on the issue as to whether an accused is entitled to a copy of the FIR after it is lodged and if so, then what steps are required to be taken to facilitate its availability as the liberty of an individual is linked with his right to be aware as to how he has been booked under law and on what allegations.

While dealing with the said issue, the Delhi High Court went in-depth while relying upon provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Evidence Act and the Constitution of India along with numerous decisions of the Supreme Court of India and other High Courts, some of which have already been mentioned above.

Keeping in view the law in the field, the entitlement of the accused, and the mechanism suggested by the Additional Solicitor General as well as the Lawyer for the Petitioner in that case, the Delhi High Court, amongst other things, directed the Delhi Police upload all the FIRs on its website with effect from 1st February 2011. In compliance of the directions from the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Police did a great job and most of the FIRs were available on its website, much to the relief of the accused as well as the Complainant, barring those FIRs in which the offence committed was sensitive in nature.

FIRs registered by the Delhi Police can be viewed at: http://www.delhipolice.nic.in/view-fir.html

Now what about the rest of India? While the FIRs in crimes committed within the jurisdiction of Delhi and Delhi Police could easily be traced on the website of Delhi Police, there was no such mechanism for the other States in India.

In an effort to cure this defect, the Youth Bar Association of India, in the year 2016, filed a Writ Petition before the Supreme Court of India entitled “Youth Bar Association of India vs. Union of India & Ors.” 5, for directions to the Union of India and all the States to upload each and every FIR registered in all the police stations within the territory of India on the official website of the Police department of all states, as early as possible, preferably within 24 hours from the time of registration.

The Supreme Court of India, in view of several decisions on the right to liberty and also in consideration of the directions already passed by the Delhi High Court in respect of Delhi Police, was pleased to issue the following directions:

  • An accused is entitled to get a copy of the First Information Report at an earlier stage than as prescribed under Section 207 of the Cr.P.C.
  • An accused who has reasons to suspect that he has been roped in a criminal case and his name may be finding place in a First Information Report can submit an application through his representative/agent/parokar for grant of a certified copy before the concerned police officer or to the Superintendent of Police on payment of such fee which is payable for obtaining such a copy from the Court. On such application being made, the copy shall be supplied within twenty-four hours.
  • Once the First Information Report is forwarded by the police station to the concerned Magistrate or any Special Judge, on an application being filed for certified copy on behalf of the accused, the same shall be given by the Court concerned within two working days. The aforesaid direction has nothing to do with the statutory mandate inherited under Section 207 of the Cr.P.C.
  • The copies of the FIRs, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism and of that category, offences under POCSO Act and such other offences, should be uploaded on the police website, and if there is no such website, on the official website of the State Government, within twenty-four hours of the registration of the First Information Report so that the accused or any person connected with the same can download the FIR and file appropriate application before the Court as per law for redressal of his grievances. It may be clarified here that in case there is connectivity problems due to geographical location or there is some other unavoidable difficulty, the time can be extended up to forty-eight hours. The said 48 hours can be extended maximum up to 72 hours and it is only relatable to connectivity problems due to geographical location.
  • The decision not to upload the copy of the FIR on the website shall not be taken by an officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or any person holding equivalent post. In case, the States where District Magistrate has a role, he may also assume the said authority. A decision taken by the concerned police officer or the District Magistrate shall be duly communicated to the concerned jurisdictional Magistrate.
  • The word ‘sensitive’ apart from the other aspects which may be thought of being sensitive by the competent authority as stated hereinbefore would also include concept of privacy regard being had to the nature of the FIR. The examples given with regard to the sensitive cases are absolutely illustrative and are not exhaustive.
  • If an FIR is not uploaded, needless to say, it shall not enure per se a ground to obtain the benefit under Section 438 of the Cr.P.C.
  • In case a copy of the FIR is not provided on the ground of sensitive nature of the case, a person grieved by the said action, after disclosing his identity, can submit a representation to the Superintendent of Police or any person holding the equivalent post in the State. The Superintendent of Police shall constitute a committee of three officers which shall deal with the said grievance. As far as the Metropolitan cities are concerned, where Commissioner is there, if a representation is submitted to the Commissioner of Police who shall constitute a committee of three officers. The committee so constituted shall deal with the grievance within three days from the date of receipt of the representation and communicate it to the grieved person.
  • In cases wherein decisions have been taken not to give copies of the FIR regard being had to the sensitive nature of the case, it will be open to the accused/his authorized representative/parokar to file an application for grant of certified copy before the Court to which the FIR has been sent and the same shall be provided in quite promptitude by the concerned Court not beyond three days of the submission of the application.
  • The directions for uploading of FIR in the website of all the States shall be given effect from 15th November, 2016.

The above mentioned decision of the Supreme Court of India, which has to be effected from 15th November 2016 onwards, is a much needed and highly welcomed decision, and is a great relief to the Accused or his/her relative, irrespective of registration of FIR in India. Now they can easily find a copy of the FIR online or obtain a copy of the FIR from the concerned Police Station on filing an Application for the same, and take suitable actions as early as possible so as to enable them to prepare an appropriate defence, which is an essential part of Criminal jurisprudence.

  • Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice.

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