EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF F.I.R & DELAY IN FILING FIR
F.I.R or First Information Report is the basic tool to set-off criminal justice administration in motion. An F.I.R is the starting point of any criminal investigation. An F.I.R is registered when credible information is received regarding committing a cognizable crime. Cognizable crimes are grave and serious offenses usually carrying a sentence of imprisonment of three years or more and where the Police can make an arrest without a warrant.
An F.I.R is used in different ways at various stages of criminal investigation and trial. This post will help you learn how and where your F.I.R can be used.
What is the Evidentiary value of an FIR?
An F.I.R can be used as a piece of evidence by either party, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case at hand. The law explicitly provides the following in this regard:
1. As a standard rule, F.I.R is used only to corroborate or contradict other evidence presented by the parties. It is not a substantive piece of evidence because it not given on oath and under the supervision of a judicial officer.
2. If the first informant is called as a witness in the trial, then the information given by him in the F.I.R can be used for supporting or corroborating his testimony and statements in the court.
3. Similarly, any later statement made by the informant during the the course of the investigation to the Police can be matched against the information given by him during the recording of F.I.R.
4. Such corroboration and contradiction as mentioned above can only be with respect to the Informant, that is, the person who registered the F.I.R.
5. It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that no person can be compelled to give evidence against his/her own self. This is the rule against self-incrimination and is contained as a fundamental right under Article 21 and Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India. Therefore, any F.I.R registered by the offender (also called as a confessional F.I.R) cannot be used as a piece of evidence against the accused.
6. F.I.R can also be used to refresh the informant's memory and ascertaining important facts related to the case such as the identity of the accuses, witnesses, time of offenses etc.
7. If the victim dies after the recording of F.I.R, then his/her statement can be used as 'dying declaration' and become admissible as factual evidence (the phrase "marta hua insaan jhoot nhi bol skta" is literally enshrined in the law!). However, such dying declaration should relate to the apparent cause of his/her death in order to become a substantive piece of evidence.
Delay in Filing FIR by the victim
Any delay in filing of F.I.R can seriously impact the outcome of the case. Therefore, it is advisable that no such delay should be asked. Sensitive cases such as Rape, sexual assault, etc. are generally filed late by the victim, especially in cases where the woman victim was not able to approach the Police due to fear of social and community ridicule. In such cases, the trial court condones the delay. Similarly, in cases where the court feels that the delay was reasonable and well-explained, the court can condone such a delay in filing of F.I.R.
Delay in Filing FIR by the Police
It is not uncommon for Police to cause unnecessary delay in the filing of FIR. In such a case, the onus of proving that there was an inordinate delay in filing of F.I.R falls on the lawyer. However, it is a slippery slope and although the Court is very vigilant of such delays in filing of F.I.R, it is highly advisable that the Informant himself take reasonable precautions in event of delay in filing of F.I.R.
You can take other routes to register an F.I.R (read another post by Truelawyer to learn how) and ensure that inordinate delay in filing of F.I.R doesn’t jeopardize your case. You can approach a social worker or a trusted friend to become a witness to the delay caused by Police so that the same can be proved in the Court of Law.
There are some circumstances where the Police are allowed to conduct a preliminary investigation before registering an F.I.R based on the information received. A preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offense is disclosed or not. In such a case, the preliminary investigation must be concluded within 7 days as per judgment of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P and Ors. in 2013. The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offense.
A preliminary inquiry may be necessary in the following cases:
(a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
(b) Commercial offenses
(c) Medical negligence cases
(d) Corruption cases
(e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over three months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.
The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.
False F.I.R and rights of the named offender:
A false F.I.R can be filed by anyone claiming to hold credible information of a cognizable offense. Such a person may also fabricate facts and circumstances in order to make the information appear legible. For example, false FIRs are registered under section 498A by wives seeking revenge on their husbands and parents-in-law. A rising number of false FIRs are also registered in sexual assault cases.
In such cases, the named offender has some remedies to avail. He can directly approach the High Court for quashing of the FIR. Further, after the acquittal or discharge of the defendant/named offender(s) in the FIR, he can file a case of malicious prosecution and defamation as well. He can lodge a private complaint to the Magistrate alleging false F.I.R. Under section 250 of CrPC, the accused can also claim compensation from the person who registered a false F.I.R.