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Disha rape: Delay in FIR could be fatal

Disha rape: Delay in FIR could be fatal
Highlights

In Disha rape case of Hyderabad, which shook the nation, the delay in registering FIR is an important issue that may weaken the conviction of the...

In Disha rape case of Hyderabad, which shook the nation, the delay in registering FIR is an important issue that may weaken the conviction of the dreaded criminals.

The investigation into crime cannot be delayed even by a minute in the interests of law and order. Jurisdiction or lack of it cannot be a lame excuse!

Police and the people should know that a criminal complaint cannot be rejected because the appropriate police station with specific jurisdiction is not known.

When ghastly crime was committed on Nirbhaya in 2012, in a roaming bus, booking of FIR was found to be complex and caused delay in police stepping into action.

The concept of Zero FIR was first introduced as recommendation in the Justice Verma Committee Report, as a section in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Any delay in such circumstances can cause serious harm to the victim of crime, or help accused to escape or evidence to be wiped out or it may even encourage criminals to kill the victim. It may also result in failure of prosecution in courts that embolden criminals further.

Whether there is jurisdiction or not, the police station has a duty to register FIR to start the next course of action immediately. That is one of the lessons the system is supposed to learn from.

It is called Zero FIR. Sometimes we know crime is committed but do not find any material to fix the accused. On that ground, FIR cannot be refused to be rejected. It will be registered against unknown accused.

It basically means that one can file a FIR at any police station. It doesn't matter where the crime was committed. In Aasaram Bapu's rape case, the place of occurrence of offence falls under the jurisdiction of Jodhpur, Rajasthan but the Police Station Kamla Market, Delhi registered the FIR, then transferred it to Jodhpur, for further investigation.

Then Jodhpur police taken up the investigation. Sanctity of legal process remains same in this kind of FIR and it helps the people to avoid the unnecessary rounds of the police stations while allows people to jump into action.

Sec 154 of Criminal procedure Code says every Police officer is law bound to register the First Information Report of any cognizable offence committed, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the offence was committed.

The moment a citizen reports a cognizable offence, the police officer must register the case to start forthwith the investigation, if crime is committed in his jurisdiction.

If it is not committed in his jurisdiction, he registers the FIR under number 00 and sends it to the police station, where the offence was committed for further investigation. Thus such FIR gets the name as zero FIR.

The police department of Karnataka issued a circular with regard to registering of Zero FIR today, as directed by the Karnataka High Court in the case of Umapathi v. State and others, which states that:

"Even if the alleged offence has been committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the police station, FIR shall be registered and the same shall be transferred to the appropriate police station. ..

Police officers should clearly be informed that the failure to comply with the direction of registration of FIR and a receipt of information about the cognizable offence may invite prosecution of the police officer under Section 166 A of the IPC and it may also invite departmental action against them."

All the unit officers are strictly instructed to communicate the said directions to their subordinate officers. The circular also states that disciplinary action would be initiated against police officers in case of non-compliance of the above.

Further, senior police officers would be held liable under contempt of court proceedings if the instructions are not followed, the circular forewarned.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz issued the aforesaid directions on zero FIR while disposing of a PIL filed by advocate S. Umapathi.

The petition had sought directions to implement the two advisories by the Central government regarding prompt registration of FIRs. The advisories were issued by the Centre in February 6, 2014 and October 12, 2015.

The High Court held that "As it is an obligation on the Police to register FIR even if the alleged offence is committed outside the jurisdiction of the Police Station, there is a corresponding right available to the citizens to enforce the said obligation.

Therefore, not only that, it is necessary to issue specific directions in writing in terms of the advisory, the directions should be placed on the public domain, so that the citizens are aware of such directions issued which would enable them to show the said directions to the police when they visit the police station for the registration of a complaint."

In Satvinder Kaur vs. State (Government of NCT Delhi), the Supreme Court held that, Police can investigate the case, which does not fall under their jurisdiction. In Bimla Rawal and Ors. v State (NCT of Delhi) and Anr, FIR was lodged in Delhi, despite the fact that all incidents occurred in Mumbai.

Writ Petition was filed in Supreme Court regarding the mala fide intentions of police succumbing under the pressure of opposite party.

Supreme Court 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 behest of the opposite party.

The citizen should know:

a) The police station does not necessarily have to be in the area where the crime has been committed. Evenif the jurisdiction for place of offence committed is not known, a zero FIR could be registered. If FIR is not registered and police do not act, it will hamper the very objective of the police force that is 'to maintain law and order'.

b) It is reported that an app 'Indian Police at your call' to find the nearest police station, which could be checked, and proper PS may be found.

c) Go to the police station to file the FIR, you may be directed to the Duty Officer. Please tell the officer what happened or write down the details.

d) FIR is nothing but what you write or the complaint. Officer will make an entry in the General Diary or Daily Diary.

e) Or take two copies of written complaint and give them to the Duty Officer, who returns a copy with a stamp bearing a Daily Diary Number or DD No. After the officer read it and both of you found all the details are correct, complainant can sign the FIR.

f) Complainant has a right to get a copy of the FIR for free. Note the FIR number, date of FIR and the name of the police station. In case you lose your copy, you can use these details to access the FIR online for free.

g) Once registration of the FIR is completed its contents cannot be changed. However, one can give additional information to the police later on at any point.

h) You can also check up whether an FIR or complaint could be registered on line.

i) For example, in Delhi an online complaint can be filed for cases of missing persons or children, unidentified children or persons or dead bodies, senior citizen registration, stolen or unclaimed vehicle search or missing stolen mobile phones. (http://www.delhipolice.nic.in/register.html)

j) Police officer is required to submit a report and forward the case to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence and must also submit all the materials including copy of FIR, collected sample of evidence and detailed report of the inquiry done till the date the case is transferred to the concerned Police Station.

FIR for offences against women

As per amended law, the police station cannot refuse to register case about women related offence, if they do not register, it will be an offence for which the concerned officer can be punished. One can give information about any of the following offences, then such information must be registered by a woman police officer or any other woman officer:

1. Grievous hurt by use of acid

2. Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid.

3. Assault or criminal force to a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty

4. Sexual harassment

5. Disrobing

6. Voyeurism

7. Stalking

8. Rape

9. Rape causing death or persistent vegetative state

10. Rape by husband when spouses were separated

11. Gang Rape

12. Outraging the modesty of a woman by words, gestures or actions

Another important point is that for offences listed in Nos. 3 to 11 above, committed on someone who is suffering from some mental or physical disability (both temporary or permanent), then such information will be recorded by a police officer at their residence or any place that is convenient to the person reporting.

If needed they can even request for an interpreter or a special educator. All the governments should take measures to publicise these aspects, like the following poster circulated in Delhi.

(The writer is former Central Information Commissioner and Dean, Bennett University)

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