DailyPost 2004

Known by its popular abbreviated name, FIR, in legalese is the First Information Report, which puts the criminal law in action. On the commission of a criminal offence, the first information pertaining to it, once received by the police station is translated into this template, which provides the wherewithal to investigate the case /offence. With the onset of the digital age, some online avatars have appeared but it has not reached the full glory and coverage of this hoary document created in the Police Station. Every element of it has been under legal, judicial and public scrutiny for times immemorial, but nothing much has changed in its creation, usage and impact at least in the last three / four decades.

First things first, how easy it is to get FIR registered. The second being contents of it, which in operational terms means sections of laws being invoked, the penal provisions thereof. Delay is divine as they say. Even in the case of a very major security lapse case recently, there was a considerable delay in the registration of the case, no one was named in the FIR; “unknown persons” for obstruction of a public road. This is one side of the spectre of the FIR and other being that all senior police officers are always contacted by the needy and the victims to get the cases registered. From CCTVs to humongous IT systems as the back end, the same sordid saga of FIRs continues unabated.

Waiting for hours together before the FIR is registered can be the least of the ills. The sections, content and other columns of the document can do some other tricks, these are discussed in trials and in the public domain. Have we been able to use this tool, as a tool of responsive administration is an open ended question. All heinous / major cases FIRs reach the judicial officers by the quickest mode, digital these days, but the ills of FIR persists. Register or not to register is the ultimate power. A criminal case against you can debar you from a variety of opportunities / facilities. False FIRs have regularly been discussed in the public domain. Case and counter cases are another important facet of so many of our political battles.

The expertise gained in writing this document should have been failsafe by now, but it seems we are light years away from it. There have been rape and other cases, where deciding the jurisdiction of the PS where the case can be registered, have created havoc. This is when law is crystal clear about it. FIRs should be made available on the Police Website within 24 hours, but there have been instances of tech glitches stalling it. It leads to a variety of hardships to all concerned. Another fascinating fact is that some cases cannot be registered in one dispensation; cases registered depending on the political party in power. In the suicide case of an actor in 2020, we have seen the FIR story playing to the jam-packed Indian gallery; Mumbai / Bihar. A document which is each citizen’s democratic right has been used as a tool in a variety of cases, depending on which-on-which side of the power structure you are. The reckless use of different Acts and sections too starts from here.

Sanjay Sahay

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