FIR:At a glance from the view point of Indian Evidence Act, 1872
(Author: Debaditya Roy)
What is FIR?
The expression ‘FIR’ is the abbreviated form of First Information Report. “First Information” or “First Information Report” is not defined in Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, but these words are always understood to mean an information recorded U/s-154 (1) of Cr.P.C.
It is the information given to a police officer in the form of a complaint or accusation regarding the commission of or suspected commission of a cognizable offence. FIR is the information which is given to the police first in point of time on the basis of which the police may select ad record as First Information [AIR 1975 SC 1453].
FIR is the first step of Criminal Procedure that leads to the trial and punishment of a criminal. It is also the most important supportive evidence on which the entire structure of the prosecution of the case is built up.
The object of FIR is to set the criminal law in motion. It enables the police Officer-in-Charge of the police station to initiate the investigation on the crime and to collect evidence as soon as possible. This report forms the foundation of the case.
Object of FIR :-
The objects of FIR can be summarized as follows –
a) To set the criminal law in motion.
b) To inform the magistrate of the district and the District Superintendent of the Police who are responsible for peace and safety of the district about the offence reported at the station.
c) To inform the judicial officers before whom the case is ultimately tried about the facts given out immediately after the occurrence and the materials on the basis of which the investigation was initiated.
d) To safeguard the accused against subsequent variations or additions.
e) To obtain information about the alleged criminal activity in order to take suitable action for tracing and bringing the guilty party.
Sec.154(1) of Cr.P.C.:-
(1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an Officer-in-Charge of a police station—–
i) shall be reduced to writing by him or
ii) shall be reduced to writing under his direction
iii) shall be read over to the informant
(2) Every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it and
(3) the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Govt. may prescribe in this behalf.
Conditions required for recording FIR u/s-154 Cr.P.C. :-
The following conditions should be satisfied to constitute an information as First Information Report within the meaning of Sec.154 (1) of Cr.P.C.:-
1) It must be the information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence.
2) It must be given to an Officer-in-Charge of a police station.
3) It must be put into writing. If it is already written, it has to be signed by the person giving it.
4) If it is orally made, it must be taken down in writing and read over to the informant.
5) The substance of the information shall be entered in the prescribed register (General Diary or Station Diary).
This article emphatically contains the significance of FIR from the view point of Indian Evidence Act.
Evidentiary value of FIR
FIR is a public document prepared u/s-154 of Cr.P.C. A certified copy of an FIR can be given in evidence. A copy of the FIR can be given to the accused only under the order of the court after the court has taken cognizance of the case and not before. But the accused can get a copy of the FIR on payment of adequate fees from the court. The Officer-in-Charge of the police station is not authorized to give the copy of FIR to the accused. If he does so, he will be liable U/s-29 of the Police Act, 1961.
- Statements made in FIR are not privileged:-
The statements made in the FIR are not privileged. They do not enjoy immunity. If the statements made in the FIR is found to be defamatory in nature, the maker of the FIR is liable to be prosecuted. The privilege can be claimed if the informant can bring such statement under the purview of the Exception-8 of Sec.499 of I.P.C. to show that he made the statement in good faith.
- Use of FIR for corroboration or contradiction:-
FIR is not a substantive evidence. It can be used to corroborate the informant U/s-157 of Indian Evidence Act or to contradict him U/s- 145 of Indian Evidence Act, if the informant is called as a witness at the time of trial.
Sec.157 of I.E.Act:-Former statements of witness may be proved to corroborate later testimony as to same fact:-
In order to corroborate the testimony of a witness, any former statement made by such witness relating to the same fact at or about the time when the fact took place, or before any authority legally competent to investigate the fact, may be proved.
Sec.145 of I.E. Act:-Cross-examination as to previous statements in writing:-
A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him in writing or reduced into writing and relevant to matters in question, without such writing being shown to him or being proved; but if it is intended to contradict him by the writing, his attention must, before the writing can be proved, be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.
FIR can’t be used for corroborating or contradicting any witness other than the person who has lodged the FIR [Hasib v. State of Bihar (1972) 4 SCC 773; Damodar Prasad v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1972 SC 622]
FIR can be used by the defence to impeach the credit of the person who lodged the FIR U/s-155(3) of I.E.Act.[Shanker v. State of U.P. AIR 1975 SC 757]
Sec.155 of I.E.Act:- Impeaching credit of witness:-
The credit of a witness may be impeached in the following ways by the adverse party or with the consent of the court by the party who calls him:-
1) By the evidence of persons who testify that they, from their knowledge of the witness, believe him to be unworthy of credit;
2) By proof that the witness has been bribed or has baacpeted the offer of a bribe or has received any other corrupt inducement to give his evidence;
3) By proof of former statements inconsistent with any part of his evidence which is liable to be contradicted;
Explanation— A witness declaring another witness to be unworthy of credit may not, upon his examination-in-chief, give reasons for his belief, but he may be asked his reasons in cross-examination, and the answers which he gives can’t be contradicted, though, if they are false, he may be afterwards be charged with giving false evidence.
FIR can be used to contradict only the maker of informant who lodged the FIR under sections-145 and 155 of I.E.Act, but not the other witnesses ——– [Nisar Ali v. State of U.P. 1957 CrLJ 550 SC; Aghnoo Nagesia v. State of Bihar 1956 CrLJ Pg 100 SC]
- Value of FIR lodged by the accused:-
If the FIR is given to the police by the accused himself, it can’t be used wither for corroboration or contradiction because the accused can’t be used as a prosecution witness and he would very rarely offer himself to be a defence witness U/s-315 of Cr.P.C.
If the FIR is of a confessional nature, it can’t be proved against the accused-informant, because according to Sec.25 of I.E.Act, no confession made to a police officer can be proved as against the accused person.
But the FIR made by the accused becomes relevant under the following cases:-
(1) The FIR lodged by the accused may be relevant U/s-8 of I.E.Act as his conduct.
Sec.8:- Motive, preparation and previous or subsequent conduct:-
Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact.
The conduct of any party, or of any agent to any party, to anysuit or proceeding, in reference to such suit or proceeding, or inreference to any fact in issue therein or relevant thereto, and the
conduct of any person an offence against whom is the subject of anyproceeding, is relevant, if such conduct influences or is influencedby any fact in issue or relevant fact, and whether it was previous orsubsequent thereto.
Explanation 1.—The word “conduct” in this section does notinclude statements, unless those statements accompany and explain actsother than statements; but this explanation is not to affect therelevancy of statements under any other section of this Act.
Explanation 2.—When the conduct of any person is relevant, anystatement made to him or in his presence and hearing, which affectssuch conduct, is relevant.
(2) If the FIR lodged by the accused is non-confessional, it may be admissible in evidence against the accused as an admission U/s-21 of I.E.Act regarding certain facts.[Nisar Ali v. State of U.P. 1957 550 SC]
Sec.21:-Proof of admissions against persons making them, and by or on their behalf.-
Admissions are relevant and may be proved as against the person who makes them, or his representative in interest; but they cannot be proved by or on behalf of the person who makes them or by his representative in interest, except in the following cases:-
(1) An admission may be proved by or on behalf of the person making it, when it is of such a nature that, if the person making it were dead, it would be relevant as between third persons under section 32.
(2) An admission may be proved by or on behalf of the person making it, when it consists of a statement of the existence of any state of mind or body, relevant or in issue, made at or about the time when such state of mind or body existed, and is accompanied by conduct rendering its falsehood improbable.
(3) An admission may be proved by or on behalf of the person making it, if it is relevant otherwise than as an admission.
(3) If the FIR is confessional in nature, certain portion of such FIR lodged by the accused can be used against him if it leads to the discovery of a fact within the meaning of Sec.27 of I.E.Act.[Agnou Naagesia v. State of Bihar 1966 CrLJ 100 SC]
Sec.27:- How much of information received from accused may be proved.-
Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered inconsequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police-officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.
- FIR and Dying Declaration:-
In case of death of the informant, FIR can be used as substantive evidence if it relates to the cause of death of the informant or the circumstances of the transaction resulting in the informant’s death within the meaning of Sec.32 (1) of I.E.Act. [Damodar Prasad v. State of U.P. AIR 1975 SC 757]
Sec.32(1) :- Cases in which statement of relevant fact by person who is dead or cannot be found, etc., is relevant.–
When it relates to cause of death.-
(1) When the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in cases in
which the cause of that person’s death comes into question,
Such statements are relevant whether the person who made them was or was not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death, and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes into question.
In no other case FIR can be used as a substantive evidence. FIR lodged by the deceased is admissible U/s-32(1) as the statement of a person since deceased relating to the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death.
Kapoor Singh v. Emperor (AIR 1930 Lahore 450)
A FIR can be treated as a dying declaration if the informant dies of his injuries after lodging the report to the police
Munna Raja v. State of M.P. (AIR 1976 SC 2199)
In the case of Munna Raja v. State of M.P. (AIR 1976 SC 2199) Munna Raja and Chottan were tried by the Sessions Judge, Chattarpur on the charge that at about 10 a.m. on April 30th 1969 they committed murder of one Bahadur Singh. Two eye witnesses were turned hostile and learned Sessions Judge thought that it was unsafe to rely on their testimony. In this case there were three dying declarations made by the deceased Bahadur Singh and the prosecution placed great reliance on them. The Sessions Court was also impressed by three dying declarations given by the deceased Bahadur Singh, but finally the accused persons were acquitted by the Sessions Court.
The Supreme Court held that the judgment of the Sessions Court suffers from a patent infirmity because it wholly overlooks the earliest dying declaration which was made by the deceased soon after the incident. The Second dying declaration is the FIR lodged by the deceased at the police station. Probably the Sessions Court assumed that since the statement was recorded as an FIR, it could not be treated as a dying declaration. On the basis of such assumption the Sessions Court committed an error.
The Supreme Court also observed that after making the statement before the police the deceased Bahadur Singh succumbed to his injuries and therefore the statement can be treated as a dying declaration and is admissible U/s-32(1) of Indian Evidence Act.
It was also held that the statement was made by Bahadur Singh at the police station by way of FIR. After recording the information the investigation was commenced and therefore it is wrong to say that the statement was made to an investigation officer. The Station House Officer who recorded the statement did not possess the capacity of an investigation officer at the time of recording the statement.
If the complainant who had been belaboured died a natural death and not because of the injuries caused to him, Sec.32(1) is not applicable. [Umrao v. State of M.P. AIR 1961 MP 45]
When an FIR is lodged by the deceased clearly implicating the accused and containing the details of the incident, the same could be used as a dying declaration. [Pancham Yadawa v. State of U.P. 1994 CrLJ 848 (All)]
If the informant disappears after filling an FIR and there is no proof of his death, it is not admissible.
The injured died during the trial. The FIR lodged by him was treated as a dying declaration but the prosecution made no effort to establish the cause of his death or the connection between the death and injuries in question. The time of his death was unknown. The statement in FIR was held to be not admissible as dying declaration.
[Sukhar v. State of U.P. (1999) 9 SCC 507]
A dying declaration was recorded by a sub-inspector in the nature of an FIR but it was not attested by the doctor to the effect whether the injured was conscious or not. The signature or thumb impression of the deceased was also not taken. The dying declaration in the FIR was held to be highly doubtful. [Maniram v. State of M.P. AIR 1994 SC 840]
- Death of the Informant and Value of FIR:-
There is no law which provides that the FIR can’t be taken into consideration on the death of the informant. FIR can’t be thrown out on the death of the informant. The case needs to be proved on the basis of evidence collected by the prosecution during the course of investigation. FIR is not an evidence in a case, it is only a piece of informant with the police records with which the system comes into motion.
FIR is only used for corroboration or contradiction if the complainant is examined. In a case where the first informant died before he could depose in the court, the purpose of corroborating or contradicting its contents by the person, would not be possible. In view of this, the accused could not cross examine the first informant and the other pieces of evidence which are produced in the court can be looked into. As the FIR is not a substantial piece of evidence, it should not have any effect on the prosecution case it its contents are not proved by the person who gave it due to his death. [E.J.Goud & others v. State of A.P. 2004 (2) ALD (CRL)241 (AP)]
In the case of Hakirat Singh v. State of Punjab [AIR 1997 SC 323], the Supreme Court held that non-examination of the complainant on account of his death could not be factual on its own to the prosecution case and it will depend on the facts of each case. If the prosecution story as revealed by the witnesses in the court is directly contradictory to the contents of FIR, it mayhave one effectand on the other hand if the contents of FIR are in conformity with the evidence during the trial, it may have all together a different effect.
- Difference between FIR & Actual Evidence tendered in the Court:-
If there is a difference between FIR and the version narrated in the court, it is always a matter of grave suspicion to the court. If certain important facts are not mentioned in the FIR and they are brought to the court subsequently as substantial evidence, the court would be right in disbelieving that part of evidence.
There is no consequence on account of minor discrepancies between the statement mentioned in FIR and the statements appearing in the evidence of eye-witnesses.
If the facts stated in the FIR are based on hearsay, much importance can’t be attached to the discrepancies found therein. The statements mentioned in the FIR which are given in many cases under the circumstances of haste and without proper knowledge of true facts, ought not to be reviewed too narrowly.
- Defence and Cross-examination of FIR:-
Before conducting the cross-examination the original complaint and FIR has to be studied carefully. The following points of FIR must be examined thoroughly for the purpose of cross-examination —-
i) The date and time of lodging the FIR to the police officer
ii) Name of the complainant
iii) Name of the police officer who recorded the complaint
iv) Date and time of dispatching the FIR from the police station to the Magistrate
v) Date and time of receiving the FIR by the Magistrate
vi) Time when the copy of FIR was given to the informant
During the cross-examination the defence may vary the nature and facts of the case according to the circumstances. The following points have to be examined carefully by the defence during cross-examination :-
1) Delay in lodging the complaint
2) Delay in recording the FIR
3) Delay in dispatching the FIR by the police officer to the Magistrate
4) Recording the FIR by an incompetent police officer
5) FIR whether signed by the informant
6) FIR recorded on the basis of telephone or telegram messages
7) The substance of an FIR whether entered in the General Diary
8) The original information given to the police officer whether suppressed or not
9) Whether the police officer recorded the FIR after commencement of investigation
10) Omission of the names of the accused persons and witnesses, place of occurrence etc.
11) Whether FIR was vague
12) Any serious discrepancy between FIR and the evidence produced by the witnesses in the court
13) Contradiction in the statement of the informant in the FIR and the statement made in the court
a) FIR is a document and it has to be proved like any other document.
b) The informant must be produced in the court during the trial and must be examined by the prosecution and cross-examined by the defence.
c) FIR should be marked as an exhibit.
d) When the maker of the FIR is examined in the court, but such FIR is not tendered by the prosecution in accordance with the Indian Evidence Act, the court is debarred from relying on the FIR.
——- [Damodar Prasad Chandrika Prasad & others v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1972 SC 622]
- FIR admitted in evidence by the consent of defence becomes part of prosecution evidence:-
It is a settled law that FIR is not a substantive evidence. It can be used only to contradict the maker or for corroborating his evidence and also to show that the implication of the accused was not an afterthought.
In the case of Malkiat Singh Vs State of Punjab[1991 SCC (Criminal)976],the examination of the first informant was dispensed with by the consent of the defence and the FIR became part of the prosecution evidence u/s 11 of the Indian Evidence Act read with Sec.6. The facts stated in such FIR that P.W.4 was not in speaking condition, would be used only as a relevant fact of prior existing state of facts in issue as res-gestae of the earliest information.
It may be submitted that from the view points of law of Evidence, FIR has a great significant role in each criminal litigation. FIR, being an information first in point of time, is a valuable piece of evidence in any criminal trial either for corroborating evidence or for contradicting witnesses. Therefore, it is necessary that FIR must be recorded in all circumstances especially where the person has arrived in the police station to lodge an FIR against a particular crime. If a FIR is duly recorded,it may provide a valuable evidence in a criminal case. Suchinformation should be lodged with the police as soon as a person comes to know as to the commission of an offence. Apart from prevention of crimes andmaintenance of law and order in the society, FIRmay also lead to successful conclusion of a criminal trial.