Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with what is commonly known as a First Information Report. It provides that every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an Officer-in-charge of a Police Station, must be reduced in writing by him, and read over to the informant.
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The information should also be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof must be entered in the book which is to be kept by such Officer in the prescribed form. A copy of the information recorded, as above, is also to be given free of cost to the informant.
It may, however, be noted that the condition that such information must be signed by the person giving it, is merely a procedural matter, and failure to observe this procedure does not make the information, which is reduced into writing, inadmissible. (Ratanchand v. The State, 61 BLR 345)
If the Officer-in-charge of the Police Station refuses to record such information, the aggrieved person may send the same by post to the Superintendent of Police. If the latter is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of any cognizable offence, he must either investigate the case himself, or direct investigation of the case by any subordinate Police Officer.
It will be seen that S. 154 enables a Station House Officer to receive and record the information of the commission of a cognizable offence even outside his station limit, although he may have no power, under S. 157, to conduct an investigation in respect of that offence.
The object of the provision is to obtain early information of alleged criminal activity and to record the circumstances, before there is time for them to be forgotten or embellished. As observed by the Supreme Court, the principal object of the F.I.R., from the stand-point of the informant, is to set the criminal law in motion, and from the viewpoint of the investigation authorities, is to obtain information about the alleged criminal activity, so as to be able to take the appropriate steps for tracing and bringing the guilty person behind the bars. (Hasib, — A.I.R. 1922 S.C. 283)
The term F.I.R. (First Information Report) is thus a technical description of the report made out under S. 154, giving the first information of a cognizable crime to the Police. This report is usually made by the complainant or some other persons on his behalf.
The Calcutta High Court has held that first information is that information which is given to the Police first in point of time (on the basis of which the investigation has been commenced), and not that which the Police may select and record as first information. (Bhutnath,-7 C.W.N. 345)
In a case decided by the Supreme Court, the incident in question had taken place around 2 p.m. and the Report was lodged at a Police Station 13 miles away at about 4-15 p.m. on the same day. Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court held that there was no appreciable delay in lodging the F.I.R. [Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 1 S.C.C. 439]
In another case decided by the Supreme Court, there was an attempt to murder a girl by her father and her uncle. The victim and her mother were so shocked that they could not take any intelligent decision, and the F.I.R. was lodged about 30 hours after the incident. Taking the circumstances of the case into account, the Court held that such a delay was not fatal to the proceedings. (Sher Singh v. State of Punjab, — (1979) 3 S.C.C. 606)
It may be noted that S. 154 does not necessarily contemplate that only one information of a crime should be recorded as a F.I.R., but all information given to the Police before investigation is started may amount to first information within the scope of this section. Therefore, information lodged at two different Police Stations regarding the same offence would both be admissible in evidence.
In one case, when a person reported to the Police Officer that he had seen a certain woman with her throat cut, and the Officer had not made a record of that fact, but subsequently treated an information lodged by the woman’s father as first information in the case, it was held that the unrecorded information was in fact the first information, and not that given by the woman’s father. (Patil Subba Reddy, —37 Cr. L.J. 357) At the same time, it may be noted that any sort of information given first in point of time is not necessarily first information within Section 154.
It is necessary that such information must relate to a cognizable offence on the face of it, and not merely in the light of subsequent events. In one case, a person first made a statement to the Police that “a certain woman named S had left her house last night with ornaments
on her person”. The next day he made another statement that “S was sought to be located, but could not be found”. Investigations were then begun by the Sub-Inspector.
The day after, the informant made another statement to the Police “as S has not yet returned, I suspect that M and L had taken her somewhere, and she might have been killed by them for the sake of her ornaments.” The Court held that it was really this third statement which amounted to “first information” under S. 154, because it was this statement, and not the two previous ones, which related to the commission of a cognizable offence. (Moni Mohan, — 35 C.W.N. 623)
It is to be remembered that the first information is the basis of the case, and whether it is true or false, it usually represents what was intended by the informant to be the case set up by him at that time. All Criminal Courts should, therefore, bear in mind the importance of examining such first information very carefully.
In view of the notorious tendency (especially in India) to improve upon the original statement of facts to strengthen the case as it proceeds, and sometimes, to add to the persons originally named as the alleged offenders, it is of great importance to know what exactly the first information was.
The following four points may be noted about a First Information Report:
(i) It should be information of fact disclosing the commission of a cognizable offence.
(ii) It should not be vague or indefinite.
(iii) It may be given by anybody.
(iv) It is not necessary that the offender or the witnesses should be named.
Thus, it had been held that the following do not come within the purview of a F.I.R., namely:
(a) A statement given to the Police after investigation has commenced.
(b) A statement made by a witness during investigation.
(c) A statement recorded by an Officer-in-charge on the basis of his personal knowledge after the original information was received.
(d) A Report by a Police Officer informing his superior that he had been told of the possible commission of a dacoity at some time in the future.
The Supreme Court has held that when the F.I.R. is lodged with great promptitude, minor omissions or variations in the F.I.R., which do not distort the substratum of the prosecution story, would not make the prosecution case unreliable. (Radhey Shyam Narendra v. State of Orissa— (1980) 1 S.C.C. 585)
The Delhi High Court has observed that it is not expected that each and every minor detail must be given by the witness at the time of recording the F.I.R. (Ashok Kumars v. The State, 1984 Cr. L.J. NOC 77)
The Supreme Court has opined that the non-mention of the name of the accused in the F.I.R does not invalidate the F.I.R. When the F.I.R. described the accused as a “Factory Inspector”, the absence of the name is of no significance. (K.C. Mangal v. State of Rajasthan, 1983 Cr. L.J.1)
Use of the F.I.R.:
The F.I.R. can be put in evidence when the informant is examined, if it is desirable to do so. The F.I.R. is usually put in by the prosecution, and ordinarily, it is the prosecution’s duty to do so. Nevertheless, however important First Information Reports may be, they do not prove themselves, and have to be tendered under the appropriate provisions of the Evidence Act.
Evidentiary Value of the F.I.R.:
The F.I.R. is not a piece of substantive evidence, and can be used only for limited purposes, like corroborating or contradicting the maker thereof, or to show that the implication of the accused was not an after-thought. As the object of the F.I.R. is to obtain the earliest information of an offence and to record the circumstances before there is time for them to be forgotten or embellished, it can be used for the purpose of testing the truth of the prosecution story. The value of a F.I.R. will vary, depending on whether it is based on information given by the complainant or eye-witness to the crime or a mere stranger.
Punishments for Giving False F.I.R.:
Punishment for giving false information to the Police is dealt with by Sections 182, 203 and 211 of the I.P.C. Even if such information is not reduced to writing under S. 154, the person giving the false information may nevertheless be punished for preferring a false charge under S. 211 of the I.P.C.
A Police Officer refusing to enter in the Diary a report made to him about the commission of an offence, and instead making an entry which is totally different from the information given, would be guilty under S. 177 of the I.P.C.