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Statutory Recognition of Zero FIR: A Possible Solution to Non-Registration of Crime

The primary responsibility of the Police to maintain law and order within their jurisdiction. They are expected to be well acquainted with the topography of the jurisdiction assigned to them so that the investigation procedure can be conducted smoothly within their area. The FIR is the first step towards the investigation by police after receiving of information regarding the occurrence of a cognizable crime, The object of lodging FIR is to obtain information regarding any crime on time so that the police may carry out their duty without delay such as investigation, collect evidence before they become tampered and apprehend and arrest the accused.


BACKGROUND

Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P W.P.(Crl) No; 68/2008 [1]held that “registration of First Information Report is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence” However, if the information is regarding some crime committed at a place that is not covered within the jurisdiction of that particular police station, then that information is recorded, but not numbered, thus it is referred to as ‘Zero FIR’.


A ‘Zero FIR’ can be registered by any police station for commission a cognizable offence, in the same manner as like of FIR without bothering about whether the case is within the jurisdiction or not. The notion of Zero FIR was first introduced after the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 which has been submitted after the shocking Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi in 2012.


The Committee suggested that no police officer can deny registering an FIR if the crime has not occurred within its jurisdiction. The FIR is called 'zero' because unlike regular FIR it doesn't come with a serial numberBefore the Justice Verma Committee report, the Ministry of Home Affairs recommended to Chief Secretaries of all States and UTs, to direct the police department for compulsory registration of FIRs in cognizable cases, irrespective of territorial jurisdiction.

PROVISIONS REGARDING ZERO FIR

Under Section 156(2) CrPC, proceedings conducted by a police officer are protected from being challenged on grounds of territorial jurisdiction. Section 178 CrPC provides:


Place of inquiry or trial. (a) “When it is uncertain in which of several local areas an offence was committed, or

(b) where an offence is committed, partly in one local area and partly in another, or

(c) where an offence, is a continuing one and continues to be committed in more local areas than one, or

(d) where it consists of several acts done in different local areas, it may be inquired into or tried by a Court having jurisdiction over any of such local areas”[2].


JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS

In Bimla Rawal and Others v. State @ NCT of Delhi (SC 2008) [3] it has been held that, “if it is evident at the time of registration itself that the crime was committed in some other jurisdiction then they should register the information as Zero FIR and immediately transfer the same to the appropriate police station having jurisdiction over that matter .”


In Naresh Kavarchand Khatri v. State of Gujarat & Anr, SC 2008 [4] it has been held,”Police authorities exercise a statutory power under Section 156 CrPC. They may transfer investigation from one police station to another, in the event it is found that they do not have jurisdiction in that matter. The Investigating officer conducting the investigation has the power to transfer FIR to the police station having jurisdiction”.


In the case of Satvinder Kaur v. State Govt. of N.C.T. Of Delhi (1999) [5], the Supreme Court observed that "At the stage of an investigation, there is no question of interference under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code on the ground that the Investigating Officer has no territorial jurisdiction. After the investigation is over, if the Investigating Officer concludes that the cause of action for lodging the FIR 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 empowered to take cognizance of the offence."


Asaram Bapu v. State [6] is one of the famous cases in this matter where a famous religious guru was accused of raping and wrongfully confine a minor girl of 16 years. The Delhi Police, in this case, took prompt action and registered zero FIR though the crime committed in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.


In Kirti Vashisht v. State and others[7], the court by referring Nirbhaya cases, directed the Commissioner of Dehli Police to furnish a standing order to every police station in NCT Delhi to accept any information they received which discloses the occurrence of a cognizable offence even incompetent on the ground of jurisdiction and thereafter transfer the case to the police station having jurisdiction.


The Police Department of Karnataka issued a circular about registering of Zero FIR, as directed by the Karnataka High Court in the case of Umapathi v. State and others[8]. As per the Circular, all the Unit Officers are strictly instructed to communicate the said directions to their Subordinate Officers.The circular also states that disciplinary action would be initiated against Police Officers in case of non-compliance of the above. Further, senior police officers would be held liable under contempt of court proceedings if the instructions are not followed, the circular forewarned.


In spite of various guidelines, judgments, circulars victims and their families and are still struggling to register the FIR over jurisdiction.


THE ISSUE PERTAINING TO ZERO FIR

In the recent gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in the outskirts of Hyderabad, the Shamsabad police delayed the filing of an FIR on the ground of jurisdiction and making the entire family of the victim run around in severe mental trauma. After suspending three police officers for the recklessness of duty concerning the delay in filing of FIRs, the Hyderabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar said, “All the officers of Hyderabad Police have been once again instructed to register cases irrespective of jurisdiction whenever a complaint related to cognisable offence is received at the police station.”


One High court lawyer raised question over the suspension order of those cops by stating that under Section 7 of the Police Act of 1861, negligence of duty is one of such grounds for which dismissal order can pass. If the officials were negligent in their duties by not complying with the provision of filing of FIR and not informing the complainant about a zero FIR option, action can be taken against the officer under Section 166 A of the IPC for a public servant disobeying direction under law, then why not of dismissal order pass against the cops and mere suspension order which is mere discontinuation of service.In consequences of which they will just get transferred.


Recently, the concept of zero FIR again echoed in Sushant Singh Rajput death case, where the father of deceased lodged an FIR at Rajiv Nagar Police Station in Patna against his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty for allegedly abetting the late actor's suicide under section 306 IPC. In consequence of such zero FIR, Rhea Chakraborty in her written statement told to the Supreme Court that the FIR lodged in Patna on July 25, could at best be treated as a zero FIR and transferred to the Mumbai Police.


CONCLUSION

Zero FIR is an extremely useful concept that helps in stirring confidence in the mind of the public. However, it is a matter of concern to uphold against the misuse of this provision as well. It should not make available a chance for people with power in their nexus with some corrupt police officials to register an FIR in the jurisdiction of their choice to control the entire investigation process in an inequitable manner. At the same time, even 7 years after the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act was passed in 2013, the concept of zero FIR fails to serve its purpose. The recommendations of various Committee on the effectiveness, guidelines issued by different departments of the Government of India are mere executive instructions and simply advisory.


For all these reasons, it is the need of the hour to incorporate the provision relating to zero FIR under Cr.PC with proper guidelines regarding the procedural requirements like grounds of registration, the specific period for transferring to the respective police station etc. At the same time, non-compliance of such provision must be explicitly punishable under section 166 A with some additional offences such as kidnapping,abduction, robbery, dacoity, and murder.


Further, it requires a Committee to scrutinize the procedure which should consist of a member representing retired police officers, judicial member who can be a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court or District Court to mediate between the police department and the common public.Lastly,the Government and NGOs should also come forward in campaigns to make people aware of knowing their rights, especially under criminal law.


ENDNOTES

[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/10239019/ [2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1220064/ [3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/63748322/ [4] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1866451/ [5] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1841921/ [6] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/23249594/ [7] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/149764021/

[8] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/172143805/

REFERENCES

1. Criminal Manual: Cr.P.C., I.P.C. and Evidence 2018 Hardcover

2. Lectures on Criminal Procedure by K. N. Chandrasekharan R. V. Kelkar

3. Delhi high court law points for criminal practice by Ashok Kumar

4.https://www.news18.com/news/movies/patna-fir-best-be-regarded-as-zero-fir-and-transferred-to-mumbai-rhea-chakraborty-2783411.html

5.https://www.thestatesman.com/india/patna-fir-best-be-regarded-as-zero-fir-and-transferred-to-mumbai-rhea-chakraborty-to-sc-1502916653.html

6.https://safecity.in/zero-fir-assert-your right/#:~:text=A%20Zero%20FIR%20can%20be,termed%20as%20a%20Zero%20FIR.

7. https://www.lawyered.in/legal-disrupt/articles/differences-between-fir-and-zero-fir/

8. https://lawtimesjournal.in/what-is-a-zero-fir-what-is-the-procedure-to-file-a-zero-fir/

9. https://crlreview.in/zero-fir-explained-with-case-laws/

10. https://blog.ipleaders.in/registering-fir-outside-jurisdiction/

11. https://www.latestlaws.com/latest-news/this-state-comes-up-with-detailed-guidelines-on-zero-fir-read-hc-judgement/

12. https://lawyersgyan.com/blog/zero-fir-a-brief-overview/


ABOUT THE AUTHOR This blog has been authored by Ms. Golda Sahoo, who is an Assistant Professor at Tamil Nadu National Law University, Trichy.


[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_8004]

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