This blog talks about Zero FIR and tries to resolve the doubts which revolve around Zero FIR. So, what is a Zero FIR?
If the term is defined anywhere?
From what provisions of the law can we infer the duty or power of the Police to register a Zero FIR?
A thorough reading of this blog along with the necessary provisions of the law shall be sufficient to understand the concept of Zero FIR with clarity.
I suggest that you keep a Criminal Manual handy while going through this blog otherwise, you can always just Google it.
Table of Contents
- What is a Zero FIR?
- The confusion regarding Justice Verma Committee report
- Construing the concept of Zero FIR using legal provisions
- Case laws which impose the duty of registering Zero FIR on the Police
- Action to be taken against Police Officers who refuse to register a Zero FIR
- Advisory Notice by the Ministry of Home Affairs
What is a Zero FIR?
‘Zero FIR’ is an exception to the general rule. A Zero FIR, as the name implies, is an FIR without a serial number.
Normally, an FIR is registered with a serial number in the police station having territorial jurisdiction to investigate the crime.
However, a zero FIR can be registered in any police station where the information about a cognizable offence is received, irrespective of whether it has territorial jurisdiction or not.
Zero FIR can only be registered but it is not numbered. With respect to zero FIR the police can take the necessary steps and start investigation of the offence.
If the officer is then of the opinion that the cause of action did not arise within his jurisdiction, it can be sent to the appropriate police station along with the investigation report and evidence, if any.
The confusion regarding Justice Verma Committee report
After the heinous December 2012 gang rape of a 23 year old girl in Delhi (also known as the Nirbhaya case), Justice Verma Committee Report recommended the provision of Zero FIR.
However, it must be noted that the concept of zero FIR existed even before the Justice Verma Commission recommended it. Many people are under the misconception that it was introduced in the Committee’s report. They only recommended an already existing concept as follows:
“In addition to every individual being able to register an FIR at any police station irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the crime was complained of in writing, every individual must also be able to register his complaint online on a designated website. After this a complaint number should be automatically generated so the complainant can track the FIR.
The same complaint would then be generated at the nearest police station and a copy would also be provided to an ombudsman office located in every district. It will still be the case that an FIR cannot be registered anonymously and the individual who has registered an FIR online will then have to go to any police station to verify his identity and the FIR.” [Justice Verma Committee Report]
Construing the concept of Zero FIR using legal provisions
Section 154(1) of CrPC, which talks about information in cognizable cases reads as follows:
“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.”
An analysis of Section 154 of the CrPC clearly shows that there is no mention of territorial limit.
Please, go and read Section 154 CrPC carefully. The provision uses the word “shall”, therefore, it is mandatory for the Police to lodge the FIR irrespective of their jurisdiction.
Therefore, it is clear that one does not need to lodge an FIR only at the police station within the limits of which the crime occurred.
Section 156 of the CrPC deals with the police officer’s power to investigate cognizable cases.
Section 156 deals with the police officer’s power to investigate cognizable cases. You might think that Section 156(1) imposes the territorial restriction by stating that:
“any officer in charge of a police station may, without the order of a Magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a Court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have power to inquire into.”
Emphasise on “a Court having jurisdiction over the local area”.
This phrase implies that a Police Officer has the authority to investigate a cognizable offence even if it is not under its territorial jurisdiction but falls under the territorial jurisdiction of a Police Officer who’s territorial jurisdiction also comes under the same Sessions Court as the previous one.
It is time to recall that one Sessions Court doesn’t only have one police station. One Sessions Court may have more than two police stations which exercises its duties in the territory of jurisdiction of that particular court. And this provision uses the word “may”, which means that nothing in this provision stops the Police from investigating.
Furthermore, Section 156(2) states that:
“No proceeding of a police officer in any such case shall at any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one which such officer was not empowered under this section to investigate.”
By a bare reading of the above provision, we can make out that no such investigation can be voided on the grounds that the said investigation was done without appropriate jurisdiction.
Hence, we can deduce that Section 156 also does not impose any constrictive territorial limitations.
When a Police Officer in charge of a Police Station has conducted investigation and he infers that there is sufficient evidence and reasonable grounds (as per the Section 170 of CrPC) then he shall send such a case to the appropriate Magistrate.
Please, read Section 170 carefully to understand the procedure.
Therefore, it is clear from a combined reading of Section 154, 156 and 170 of the CrPCthat it is the duty of a Police Officer in charge of the Station to register an FIR irrespective of the territorial jurisdiction, then investigate and send the case over to the appropriate Magistrate.
Now, lets include Section 190 CrPC as the final piece of the puzzle. Section 190 CrPC, basically, empowers a Magistrate to take cognizance of offences. What is important to note in Section 190 is that it doesn’t stop any Magistrate from taking cognizance of any offence on the grounds that the complaint or FIR was received from a Police Officer who did not have appropriate Jurisdiction.
We can now safely say that no provision of the Indian Law stops or abstains any Police Officer from registering an FIR for a cognizable offence or from investigating in the same matter or sending it over to an appropriate Magistrate.
Case laws which impose the duty of registering Zero FIR on the Police
In a recent development, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. held that if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence, then registration of FIR is compulsory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In Satvinder Kaur v. Govt. of NCT, Delhi, the Supreme Court held that:
- The Station House Officer (S.H.O.) has statutory authority under Section 156 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate any cognizable case for which an FIR is lodged.
- At the stage of investigation, there is no question of interference under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code on the ground that the investigating Officer has no territorial jurisdiction.
- After investigation is over, if the Investigating Officer arrives at the conclusion that the cause of action for lodging FIR has not arisen within his territorial jurisdiction, then he is required to submit a report accordingly under Section 170 of the Criminal Procedure Code and to forward the case to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence.
Action to be taken against Police Officers who refuse to register a Zero FIR
Section 166A(c) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 talks about public servant disobeying direction under law:
“Whoever, being a public servant, fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to cognizable offence punishable under Section 326A, Section 326B, Section 354, Section 354B, Section 370, Section 370A, section 376, section 376A, [section 376AB, section 376B, Section 376C, Section 376D, Section 376DA, Section 376DB], Section 376E or Section 509, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Section 166A(c) of the IPC covers the following offences:
- Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.
- Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid.
- Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
- Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe.
- Trafficking of person.
- Exploitation of a trafficked person.
- Punishment for rape.
- Punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim.
- Punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age.
- Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation.
- Sexual intercourse by a person in authority.
- Gang rape.
- Punishment for gang rape on woman under sixteen years of age.
- Punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age.
- Punishment for repeat offenders (with respect to rape).
- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
So, if any public servant fails to record any information given to him regarding the commission of above mentioned offences, a complaint can be filed under Sec. 166A(c) and he shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Advisory Notice by the Ministry of Home Affairs
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recommends that FIRs must be compulsorily registered irrespective of the territorial jurisdiction vide Letter No. 15011/91/2013-SC/ST-W dated 12th October, 2015.
We can argue that this letter is merely a recommendation. But the fact that this letter was sent to Chief Secretaries of every State and Union Territory asking them to make it a strict compliance in all departments of police under their respective jurisdiction after referring to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari, makes it clear that Zero FIR is law which exists by owing to the judgement of the Apex Court and the provision of the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973.
In case, you are curious, the MHA has a “Department of Internal Security” which has authority and power over the Internal Police, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law etc vide Schedule – II, Ministry of Home Affairs, Part A (I) and (II) of Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961.
All the business of the Indian Government is transacted by various Ministries. These Ministries have been created under the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 pursuant to Article 77 of the Indian Constitution.
Thus, the Ministry of Home Affairs has the necessary jurisdiction and power to give such a recommendation as discussed above.
Edited by Siddhant Pandey