How to file an FIR
What is an FIR? Ask yourselves – we have all heard this term being thrown around quite often, we all know that it one must file an FIR in case of a police matter – be it losing important documents that could be misappropriated by criminals such as passports etc, to fighting against actual, physical crimes committed.
But how many of us know what an FIR actually entails, or rather – how does one go about filing one, if you have never had to? In the case of any criminal activity that you might face, it is always better to be aware.
FIR stands for First Information Report , which is given to the police by the victim of a crime. This report, once filed, is the first step to initiating an inquiry and due investigation into the crime.
However, do be aware that you cannot file an FIR for all things considered to be a crime – and there are two categories of criminal offences – cognizable and non cognizable. FIRs can be filed for only the former.
Offences are thus categorised depending on how serious the crime is. Don’t be put off by the jargon; it is very simple to understand. Cognizable offences pertain to, literally, what can be recognized as a crime, of a serious nature. Be very careful about filing an FIR because in India, once it is filed, the contents cannot be changed by anyone except for a ruling by the High Court or Supreme Court of India.
Cognizable (which means literally, to take note of) crimes include murder, robbery, theft, assault and kidnapping. Cognizable crimes are listed under the 1st Schedule of Code of Criminal Procedure.
The report can be filed orally as well – the police officer is bound to write down the complaint and the victim can ask for it to be read to him or her after the narration. Once this has been done, the complainant signs the report as verification (a thumbprint will also do) and this starts the investigative process. A copy is also given to the complainant, free of cost by the police.
There might be times when the police refuse to file the complaint, for whatever reason and then the complainant can approach the higher authorities – namely the Superintendent of Police, who will then either start the investigation on his own accord or delegate a junior officer to do so. In the case of filing an FIR for a cognizable offence, the police are authorized to arrest the persons named in the report without a warrant or an order from the court.
Non-cognizable offences, on the other hand, such as defamation, intimidation, dishonest appropriation of movable property, threatening, unlawful engagement in trade etc, are minor offences and an FIR cannot be lodged against someone for them. When such crimes are reported, the police will register them under a DDR or a Daily Diary Report. Again, a signed and stamped copy of this Diary will be given to you.
In the case of such crimes, the victim or anyone else who is aware of the offence, either as an eye witness or by dint of having heard an account of the crime, can file an FIR. One must file an FIR at a police station in the locality where the crime has been committed. As stated before, the complaint may be written or oral and please do make sure that the officer you are speaking to is not lower in rank than a head constable. If the police are satisfied that it is a cognizable offence that you are reporting then they are duty bound to lodge it.
An FIR is always filed in first person – and it should be filed as soon as the crime is committed. Any delay will render your complaint invalid and it will not be filed as an FIR, barring special cases. Once the report is lodged you cannot change it at a later date. If, for any reason, you cannot file the FIR on time, then explain the reason behind the delay clearly for your report to be taken seriously. Give clear, precise and simple details, and do not leave anything out. Ensure that your report includes all relevant information and is not ambiguous in anyway. Definitely do not lie about any detail or tweak it to suit your convenience as lying while filing an FIR is a punishable offence. You must include your contact details, details of any people involved, exact details of location and time and witnesses, if there are any. Also remember, failing to sign or refusing to sign an FIR after it has been lodged is also a criminal offence.
Women have a slight advantage when filing an FIR. In January 2013, the concept of Zero FIR was launched which announced that police stations are duty bound to register a woman’s complaint, irrespective of area and locality of jurisdiction. A woman, therefore, can file an FIR at any police station and her statement has to be taken into consideration and an investigation begun. Once the FIR is lodged, later, the case can be handed over to the relevant police station in the relevant area of jurisdiction to facilitate smooth investigation.
Of course, the state of the Indian legal system is fraught with a lot of obstacles and there will be many a loophole presented, especially if you have the misfortune of interacting with corrupt officials. However, it is always important to know your laws and procedures, so that you have a slight edge, in the face of any adversity.