Ever since it was reported that the police refused to register a FIR citing jurisdictional issues, in the case of the veterinary doctor who was raped & killed in Hyderabad, a message about the ‘Zero FIR’ provision has gone viral on social media. But what exactly is ‘Zero FIR’?
Numerous incidents of rape were reported across the country in the previous week alone. NCRB’s 2017 Crime in India report revealed that around 32,559 cases of rape were registered in India in 2017. In other words, four rape cases were reported every hour.
On 27 November 2019, a veterinary doctor was gang raped and murdered in Hyderabad. This gruesome incident shook the entire nation. The four alleged perpetrators were arrested the next day. At the same time, three policemen were also suspended as they did not register the FIR of missing person when the victim’s family had brought it to the notice of the nearest police station. Media reports suggest that the police did not register the FIR claiming it was outside their jurisdiction. It is in this context that a viral message about ‘Zero FIR’ is floating across social media. But what is ‘Zero FIR’?
What is FIR?
FIR is the abbreviation for First Information Report which is prepared by the police based on a complaint or available information in the case of cognizable offences. The information or the complaint is provided by an informant as per Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The informant can be anyone, the victim, relatives, witness or a bystander. This helps the police take immediate steps to register & investigate the crime. Here is an explainer video on understanding FIR.
What is Zero FIR?
Following the gruesome Nirbhaya incident in Delhi in December 2012, the then government set up Justice Verma Committee to recommend amendments to the Criminal Law. Based on the committee’s report, the Home Ministry, on 10 May 2013, issued an advisory to all states and union territories asking the police to register Zero FIR if an informant comes with the details of a cognizable crime irrespective of the jurisdiction. This is to help initiate investigation at the earliest. Otherwise, a lot of time is lost in going from one police station to another, with adverse effect on victim and also gives an opportunity to the offender to escape. Cognizable crimes/offences are those which do not require an order from magistrate, and which requires the police to take immediate action on receipt of complaint or information.
Zero FIR is a FIR lodged in any police station irrespective of the location of incidence or jurisdiction. The FIR is later transferred to the jurisdictional police station. In 2007, in a writ Petition, Bimla Rawal and Ors Vs NCT of Delhi, the Delhi High Court directed the police to transfer the case immediately to the police station in-charge of the jurisdiction where the incident took place. The Delhi police had not filed ‘Zero FIR’ in spite of evidence at the time of reporting the incident that took place in Mumbai.
Refusal to file Zero FIR will result in the prosecution of the police officers. Advisories were also issued to states in 2014 and 2015.
How to file a Zero FIR?
The procedure to file a ‘Zero FIR’ is similar to that of an ordinary FIR. The variation is in the serial number. The case will be entered with the serial number ‘0’ until the FIR is transferred to the respective police station. The procedure to lodge a FIR is given in Section 154 of the CrPC. In the case of cognizable crimes, the officer in charge of the police station need not get the permission of the Magistrate to start investigation. The following are some of the other things to be kept in mind.
- If the information is given orally, the police must reduce it to writing
- The informant also has the right to read it, in order to ensure that the details entered is correct
- Upon recording the information, it is mandatory that the informant signs the FIR after verifying
- A copy of the same should be provided to the informant
- Details such as name and address of the informant is taken
- The date, time and location of incident is also recorded
- Details such as name and description of those involved in the incident can also be given
- In case of female informants, a female officer must be the one recording the details
- Orders have also been issued that prompt actions should be taken in the case of offences against women.
However, lodging a false complaint is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code.
What will happen if the police refuse to lodge the FIR?
If the police officer in charge of the station refuses to file the FIR, the informant has the right to write to the Superintendent of Police directly following which the SP either starts investigation or direct some other official to take the necessary action.
Disciplinary action will be taken against the officer who refused to lodge the FIR. Erring officers are liable to serve up to two years’ imprisonment in addition to a penalty. 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 FIRs by the police.
Zero FIR was filed in the Asaram Bapu case
The infamous Asaram Bapu case in which the self-proclaimed godman was arrested in 2013 for raping a minor girl in Jodhpur, Rajasthan is an instance where the Zero FIR was used. The parents of the victim filed Zero FIR against the perpetrator in Delhi, according to reports.