Edited by – Shivangi Singh
This article is written by Hera Madni, a law student at Surendranath Law College (Calcutta University).
Crime is a genus of an offence and once an offence has been committed the information of such must be given to the law enforcement agencies. Thus, the information given to a police officer relating to a cognizable offence which is then reduced to writing is called First Information Report or commonly known as F.I.R. The word F.I.R is not mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure but the report recorded under section 154(1) of Cr.P.C.is called first information report. F.I.R is considered as the first step of criminal procedure which leads to trial and punishment of criminals. It was held in State of U.P. v. Mukesh[i] that F.I.R is intimation about the occurrence of the incident. The person who gives the information is called informant who can be anyone, the victim, relative, witness or even bystander.
While lodging F.I.R the question of territorial jurisdiction is often raised as a result of which the police officer denies to register the complaint under the ground that the offence was not committed in their area of jurisdiction, which mostly leads to serious consequences where delay in lodging complaint give rise to horrifying end especially in crime related to woman.
ZERO F.I.R is a type of F.I.R which was first introduced as a recommendation in the Justice Verma Committee Report as a section in the Criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the heinous Nirbhaya Case of Delhi in 2010. As a result of which Ministry of Home Affairs released Advisories since 2013 on registration of Zero FIR on the commission of the cognizable offence. Under this advisory, it is mandatory for the police officer to register FIR irrespective of its territorial jurisdiction and where the incident took place and if the police officer fails to do this he will be subjected to departmental action.
But this entire concept of Zero F.I.R came under the microscope in 2019, when a gruesome rape and murder of Hyderabad veterinarian Priyanka Reddy left the entire nation in grief and more into shock that how a police station of Shamsabad denied lodging missing woman report on grounds of “beyond territorial jurisdiction”. Since then a lot of debate and guidelines have been issued on Zero F.I.R which is not a very new concept as it was already introduced in 2013 but it gained momentum in 2019 as a result of which many F.I.R has been filed by the police officer irrespective of its territorial jurisdiction.
WHAT IS ZERO FIR?
FIR which can be lodged in any police station irrespective of territorial jurisdiction and then transferred to the police station having jurisdiction is called Zero F.I.R. Whenever an F.I.R is lodged it is given a serial number but when a police officer registers a complaint of an offence not falling under his jurisdiction he numbers it “0” and then transfer the details to the concerned police station where it is given a particular serial number. Thus F.I.R of this nature bearing a serial number zero is referred to as Zero F.I.R.
There are Supreme Court verdicts, where this policy of the law has been reiterated in the public interest. In State of AP Vs Punati Ramulu and others, the court held that “Any lack of territorial jurisdiction should not have prevented the constable from recording information about the cognizable offence and forwarding the same to the police station having jurisdiction over the area in which the crime was said to have been committed.” In another progressive verdict, in Satvinder Kaur Vs Government of NCT, Delhi, the Supreme Court held that “even after investigation is over, if the Investigating Officer arrives at the conclusion that the cause of action for lodging F.I.R 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 is empowered to take cognizance of the offence.”[ii]
While disposing of a PIL filed by Advocate S. Umapthi, the division board of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz in 2019 issued the aforesaid direction on Zero F.I.R. The petitioner has sought a direction to implement the two advisories by the Central Government regarding prompt registration of F.I.R. The advisories were issued by the Centre on 2014 and 2015.
The Karnataka 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.”
As a result of this, the Police Department of Karnataka issued a circular with regard to registering of Zero FIR.[iii]
AIM: The main aim of Zero F.I.R is to provide speedy justice and to stop people in distress running from pillar to post in registering an offence which is cognizable in nature. The key idea behind introducing this concept was to abate the rising concern regarding rape, abduction, kidnapping against woman, as delay in registering a case result in embellishment and exaggeration which is a creature of an afterthought.
Zero F.I.R can be seen as a revolutionary step in the legal history where F.I.R can be lodged in any police station and thus, the investigation can begin in cases of grave offence with 2x speed.
PROVISION: Though there has not been any separate provision contemplated by the legislature with respect to Zero F.I.R but section 154 of CrPC. deals with the information to be recorded by the police officer regarding cognizable offence and Zero FIR is read in the light of this. In the Writ Petition in 2008, Lalita Kumar Vs. state of Uttar Pradesh and others, the Supreme Court had addressed the issue of mandatory registration of F.I.Rs by the police.
Once zero F.I.R is lodged it has to be transferred to the concerned police station and if any police officer denies lodging zero F.I.R then he will be prosecuted and punished under section 166A of IPC under which a police officer will be subjected to rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than 6months and which may extent till 2years and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 460 of CrPC. enumerates circumstances where the legal proceeding will not stand vitiated. Section 460(e) of CrPC provides that a magistrate may not be authorized to take cognizance of an offence outside his jurisdictional limitation, yet by virtue of Section 190(a) or (b) it will not end being frivolous.
GUIDELINES FOR REGISTERING ZERO F.I.R
- If the statement is given orally then it should be reduced to writing.
- Date, time and place where the offence has taken place should be recorded.
- The signature of the informant should be taken to make it official.
- In case of female informants, a female officer must be the one recording the details.
- Duplicate of complaint to be given to the informant.
- The police officer should transfer the details to the concerned police station without any delay
- In the concerned police station, a serial number should be given to the F.I.R.
In Kirti Vashist v. State and Ors [iv]
Expressing the inaction of the police station to register the information against the respondent Babita Sharma, the court held that It is not in dispute that the provision of, Zero F.I.R came up as a recommendation in the Justice Verma Committee Report, in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the heinous ‘Nirbhaya Case’ of December 2012. The provision says: A Zero F.I.R can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or the place of occurrence of crime. The court thereby directed the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to issue circular/Standing order to all the Police Stations in NCT of Delhi and all concerned that if complaint of the cognizable offence is received in a Police Station, and the offence occurred in the jurisdiction of other Police Station, in that case, the Zero F.I.R’ shall be lodged by the Police Station which has received the complaint and thereafter shall be transferred to the concerned Police Station.
In Asaram Bapu v. State
The Delhi police took the prompt action and registered a Zero FIR against infamous Indian guru accused of raping and wrongfully confining a 16year old girl of Uttar Pradesh. Even though the crime was committed in Jodhpur but Delhi police filed the FIR and immediately transferred the case to Jodhpur Police Station.
Since at the police station where the FIR is registered which does not come within the territorial jurisdiction of the concerned police station, no preliminary inquiry is conducted before sending it to the other police station.
Sometimes there is also delay in sending the information to the concerned police station which hampers the speed of investigation.
Another limitation is that the cantankerous complaint can initiate a criminal proceeding in a place suitable to him/her just to cause problems and social humiliation to the person against whom he/she has a personal enmity.
From the above study, it can be concluded that the concept of Zero FIR which is a “Free Jurisdictional FIR” is a stepping stone in the legal history, it is an extremely useful instrument in inculcating confidence in the heart of a common man who seeks recourse to police of his grievances. Thus, in the time, when the number of cases of rape, kidnapping, murder, abduction, etc., are surging it plays an important role in the speedy investigation, as people instead of looking for a particular police station can file a complaint in any nearby police station.
This policy of Law is very useful in dealing with grave offences and is handy in case of a crime committed during travel, as it does away with territorial restriction of the police which in return facilitate the pace of needful actions to be done.
Even though the provision of Zero F.I.R has been introduced in 2013 and government from time to time issue circulars but still many police stations are reluctant to file an F.I.R on the ground of territorial restriction, this is mainly because of lack of awareness of people towards the changes made in the law system and thus they are easily manipulated. Therefore, it is not only important to make amendment in the law system but it is equally important to make people aware of it and thus legal awareness program should be held to make people acquainted with their rights.
[i] (2013) I Cri. L. J. 527(S.C).
[ii] S Jyotiranjan, ‘Zero FIR’ to help victim of out-of-jurisdiction crime, THE PIONEER
[iii] Rintu Mariam Biju, Zero FIR guidelines issued by state police as per Karnataka HC order, BAR AND BENCH
[iv] (2019) SCC Online Del 11713.
Written by –
Author Name – Hera Madni
Published on – 06/08/2020