ZERO FIR- AN EFFECTIVE MEASURE FOR SWIFT AND EASY ACCESS TO JUSTICE

CONCEPT OF FIR

FIR stands for First Information Report. It is basically a written document prepared by the police when they receive any information of cognizable offences. Cognizable offences are serious types of offences/crimes where a police officer has the right to arrest the accused without a warrant. These offences can be both- bailable or non-bailable.

The FIR can be lodged by the victim himself/herself, by any representative of the victim on his/her behalf, any eyewitness or by the SHO on his own knowledge when a cognizable offence is committed. On the basis of the statement, police files the FIR. Police do not have the authority to refuse filing a FIR.

Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 defines as to what amounts to first information. An FIR should be filed in the police station of the concerned area in whose jurisdiction the offence took place. An information given under sub-section (1) of sec 154 of CrPC is commonly known as FIR.

ZERO FIR: CONCEPT

The concept of Zero FIR came from the recommendations in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which was devised after the December 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in the territory (well known as Nirbhaya gang-rape case). This incident shaken the entire nation. After 8 years of long trial, justice is been served to Nirbhaya’s soul.

There had been many changes in Indian Justice system after the brutal Nirbhaya rape case. Later, a judicial committee headed by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S. Verma was constituted to propose rigorous reforms in the management of crimes against women. The scope of sexual offences was widened by criminalizing various acts. The then Delhi Commissioner of Police, Neeraj Kumar announced that Zero First Information Reports (FIR) may be registered on the basis of a woman’s statement at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction. The police were ordered to consider the victim’s statement as the ‘gospel truth’ at the time of preparing an FIR. Hence, the symbolic concept of ‘Zero FIR’ came into existence.

WHAT IS ZERO FIR?

ZERO FIR is a type of FIR that can be files in any police station irrespective of the area of jurisdiction.

The right to file a zero FIR extends to any person who has information pertaining to the commission of a cognizable offence. While reporting about a particular crime, the informant may not know under which jurisdiction (police station) the place of commission of the crime lies. Even the circumstances may not allow that person to approach the proper police station immediately after the commission of the crime. Due to these hardships, concept of ZERO FIR came into effect.

In such cases, the informant may approach an officer of any police station. The report is filed with the number ‘0’ unlike ordinary FIRs. So, it is known as ‘ZERO FIR.’ Later, it is transferred to the police station of competent jurisdiction for conducting further investigation. The establishment of this special type of FIR reduces the burden to find the right police station. It also helps the victim and her family assert their rights with greater ease. The police station where the ZERO FIR is originally registered is supposed to make a basic investigation into the case before passing it to other police station of competent jurisdiction.

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For illustration- An offence of Rape and murder is being committed by some individuals within the area of jurisdiction of police station ‘A.’ FIR is been lodged by some eyewitnesses in police station ‘B.’ that means the offence has been committed within another jurisdiction. As per procedure, the police station B will file the FIR and number it as ‘0.’ Later, after conducting some preliminary investigation on the case, it will transfer the FIR to police station A. 

ESSENTIALS OF A ZERO FIR:

The essentials for filing a ZERO FIR is quite similar as that of a regular FIR. The essentials of ZERO FIR are as follows-

  • The police officer should follow the statements in writing.
  • He should take the informant’s signature to make the statement legally evident and official.
  • A copy of the FIR document (complaint) must be given to the informant.
  • After conducting preliminary investigation on the case, all the relevant documents should be transferred to the competent police station for further proceedings.

BENEFITS OF ZERO FIR

Cognizable crimes/offences like murder, rape and accidents require immediate action from the concerned police authorities. Protection of evidence from manipulation and corruption is extremely vital in such situations. ZERO FIR plays an essential role in such cases. The police cannot claim ‘lack of jurisdiction’ to register an FIR and they are also urged to conduct a preliminary investigation despite lack of jurisdiction.

ZERO FIR provides the authorities a scope to pen down the initial action taken rather than trying to figure out what had happened at the crime scene initially. ZERO FIR is also a great power for the railway passengers for a safe and hassle-free travel. If any theft or other crime is committed, then as per the requirement the victim can file the case in the place that is nearest to their approach while travelling. This in turn prevents the accused to escape from the clutches of law.

LEGALITY OF ZERO FIR

There is no explicit provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 to lodge ZERO FIR. However, there are certain sections which constitutes the legal basis of ZERO FIR.

  • Section 460 of CrPC talks about ‘Irregularities which do not vitiate proceedings.’ Clause (e) of the section states that even though the Magistrate may not be empowered by the law to take cognizance of an offence but he still does so under Section 190 (a) or (b), it would not prove to be frolicsome.  These sections essentially provide the legal basis of ZERO FIR.
  • Under clause (c) of section 166A of Indian Penal Code, if any public servant fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, on matters related to cognizable offence, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which is not less than six months and may be extended up to two years, and shall even be legally responsible to fine.

The Centre has asked all the states to make amendments in the state laws with respect to the registration of the ZERO FIR on receiving of complaint or information about a crime. If any police authority refuses to file the FIR, this would lead to imprisonment. Government also suggested for conducting various training sessions to make all aware of ZERO FIR. It will cover various aspects of policing, including maintenance of law and order and eradication of social evils like child marriages and child labour.

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RELEVANT CASE LAWS

State of Andhra Pradesh v. Punati Ramulu and Ors.

 The informant, nephew of the deceased and an eyewitness of the crime approached the nearest police station to lodge an FIR. But his request to lodge the FIR was denied by the police constable due to jurisdictional limitations. The court observed that it was a failure of duty by the police constable by not registering the complaint on the cognizable offence. He should have filed a ZERO FIR and later transfer the complaint to competent jurisdiction. Definite measures were thus taken against the police.

Kamlesh Verma @Kiran Mummy v. State of Punjab

As per the allegations the victims had voluntary left their house on 31/07/2018 and reached at Amritsar where they came in contact with two persons namely Gagan and Viki. They both promised a job for them and took them to the House of Viki where they raped the victims repeatedly. Later on, the victims were sent to other persons as well and they were forced to do illegal sexual activities. They were also sent to Delhi to continue the flesh trade. Those two boys confined the girls at their house for 6-7 months. An FIR was initially registered in police station Padampur, district-Ganganagar as ZERO Fir which was later forwarded to Amritsar for further proceedings.

Asharam Bapu v. State

This case is one of the most infamous cases wherein Asharam Bapu, an Indian Guru was accused of raping a 16-year old girl, a student of his Jodhpur Ashram. The crime had allegedly taken place at his ashram in Mani village near Jodhpur. The parents of the victim girl filed a ZERO FIR against the self-styled godman in Delhi. Later on, the case was transferred to Jodhpur police station for further inquiry.

Bimla Rawal and Others v. State @ NCT of Delhi

The present case is a writ petition filed under section 226 of the constitution for quashing of an FIR. The FIR got registered at Delhi by the complainant, widow of Lt. Ajay Rawal after more than 2 years of the death of her husband. The FIR was against her in-laws living in Mumbai. A reading of the FIR also shows that the marriage too had taken place in Mumbai. All her allegations were in respect to her stay in Mumbai. The FIR was filed as a ZERO FIR in Delhi. Thus, according to rules, the said ZERO FIR should have been transferred over Mumbai police. But it was not done. Later the Supreme Court in its decision quashed the FIR filed at Delhi and ordered to file a fresh FIR in Mumbai. In this case the police misused the power of filing a ZERO FIR at the request of the opposite party.

Manjeet v. State of Haryana

A girl named Kiran had called a boy named Narender, a brother of the complainant Vivek requested to have friendship with her. But he didn’t agree to do so. A week later, another girl Priya Dixit called Narender on mobile phone stating that she was married and wanted to talk to him. She then asked him to meet her for a job. Narender met her and thereafter dropped her at MHPC. Later that Priya Dixit submitted a complaint to the police in the police station Sarita Vihar against him U/S 376 IPC. The said FIR was registered as a ZERO FIR and was subsequently transferred to Faridabad police station.

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Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of UP & Others

The case was before the Supreme Court of India on the basis of a writ petition filed by the appellant Lalita Kumari under Article 32 of Indian Constitution.

The complaint of the petitioner was that on 11.05.2008, a written report was submitted by the petitioner to the OC of the police station, but the said officials did not take any action. When they approached to the Superintendent of Police, FIR was registered. Still no action had been taken by the police to arrest the accused and rescue their daughter. In this case, the Supreme Court held that a police officer cannot evade his duty of registering a ZERO FIR; if information about a cognizable offence is disclosed and if an officer refuses to record such information, disciplinary action would be taken against him. The right to file a ZERO FIR extends to any person who has information pertaining to the commission of a cognizable offence

CONS OF FILING ZERO FIR

A party can exploit the provisions of Zero FIR as well. The outcome of criminal case mainly depends on the preliminary investigation and inquiry carried out at the beginning of the case. Transferring the FIR at the later stage may adversely affect the case. The opposite party may file an FIR at the Police Station according to choice and may also get the investigation report made in their favour.

Other drawback of filing a ZERO FIR is that Police Station not having territorial jurisdiction over the case, may lodge the FIR just for gratification of the complainant, but may immediately transfer the FIR to the concerned Police Station without making any preliminary investigation in the case. And the biggest drawback is within the basic concept of the ZERO FIR provision i.e., for say a criminal offence occur in a place and reported in other jurisdiction and if there is certain collusion between the police staff of the station where the FIR instituted  and the offender then the whole root of the provision will collapse.

CONCLUSION

Zero FIR is therefore a free jurisdictional FIR. It ensures that persons with information regarding commission of a cognizable offence are sufficiently heard and no one is turned down with the excuse of ‘lack of jurisdiction.’ This is a beneficial tool mainly for the women of our country where sexual crimes are probably the most against women.

But often the police officials don’t have knowledge on ZERO FIR; even if they have, they just refuse to file one. Looking back to the brutal incident of December 2019- ‘rape of veterinarian Priyanka Reddy’, in the outskirts of Hyderabad, the Shamsabad police delayed the filing of an FIR citing jurisdiction and making the family of the victim run around at a tough time. The provision for ZERO FIR was not followed. After the incident, the Andhra Pradesh Government has formulated the AP DISHA Act so as to ensure time-bound investigation of sexual offence against women and children. It was ensured that this Act will be implemented in every district hospital to provide social aid, legal aid to the victims as well as providing assistance for filing a ZERO FIR.

 

Author: SHINJINEE NAMHATA,
IFIM LAW SCHOOL, BENGALURU, 1st Year BBA-LLB

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