There is a concept of “Zero-FIR”. It means that a FIR can be filed in any police station (i.e.: irrespective of place of incident/jurisdiction) and the same can be later transferred to the appropriate Police Station. However, policemen usually deny knowing about “Zero FIR” and direct the complainant to concerned Police Station.
Jurisdiction, not a bar anymore:
Zero First Information Reports (FIR) can be registered at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction. This is a landmark move made by the Government. S.154 of Code of Criminal Procedure governs F.I.R. It is the first information in point of time regarding the commission of a cognizable offense that is given to the police and is recorded as the provisions of S.154. The entire territory is divided into various police stations that exercise jurisdiction over a particular country. Initially, F.I.R can be registered in the police station that has jurisdiction over the place where the offence has allegedly been committed. The jurisdiction of courts and alternative venues of the trial that have already been discussed are also relevant here because the jurisdiction of police stations is determined accordingly. Various police stations may fall within the territorial jurisdiction of a particular Magistrate’s Court. The officer-in-charge of a police station can investigate a cognizable case if the Court within whose local jurisdiction that police station lies has the jurisdiction to try that case. But the filing of F.I.R in the police station or the court with proper jurisdiction is not necessary because of the introduction of the concept of Zero F.I.R. If you are not sure about the police station for some reason, you can register the F.I.R. at the nearest police station. Such police station can forward the F.I.R. to the police station which has the jurisdiction to inspect the case… Similarly, further amendments has been made to S.154 of Cr.P.C, If a woman victim of an acid attack, assaulted with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, disrobing, voyeurism, stalking, rape, or so-called “eve-teasing” reports such offence, the F.I.R has to be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer. If a victim of any of the above-mentioned offences i.e., except acid attack, is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the F.I.R. has to be recorded at her residence or a place of her choice, in the presence of an interpreter or special educator and the recording has to be video-graphed.
Legality of Zero F.I.R.:
The provision of Zero FIR was introduced in the recommendation in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, devised after the December 2012 Delhi gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in the territory.
However, policemen by and large deny knowing about provisions of “Zero FIR” and direct the complainant to Police Station having jurisdiction but Clause (e) of Section 460 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) says that if any Magistrate not empowered by laws to call for cognizance of an offence positioned in section 190 (a) or (b) erroneously but in good faith does take cognizance, the proceeding minutes will not be set aside merely on the grounds of not being empowered for same. If at the time of initiation of FIR, it looks evident that the crime was committed outside the jurisdiction of the concerned police station, then the police must be appropriately ordered to register a Zero FIR, and ensure that the FIR is transferred to the jurisdictional police station. If there is a failure in compiling with the instruction of FIR registration on the acknowledgement of information about the offence, it will invite prosecution of the police officer under section 166A which provides a rigorous imprisonment of six months is extended to two years. This evasion of responsibility may invite the departmental action for the police officer.
The Centre has asked all the states to make amendments in the state laws with respect to the registration of the Zero FIR on receipt of complaint or information about a crime without getting into argument related to the jurisdiction. Central Government, keeping in mind, the influence of the Zero FIR has warned by invoking the amendment in the criminal law that if there is any refusal with regards to the registering of the Zero FIR, it will lead to imprisonment. This ordered amendment empowers the police to register the complaint acknowledged in police station other than the jurisdictional police station where crime has been committed. The concept of Zero FIR is a free jurisdiction FIR, brought up in order to avoid the delay in filing the crime and to avoid wastage of time that adversely impacts the victim and gives a free way to offenders getting an opportunity to escape from the clutches of the law.
Can Police refuse to register an F.I.R.?
Prior to the introduction of the concept of zero F.I.R., the police cannot refuse to register an F.I.R. on the ground that, if the information conveyed to the police related to a cognizable offence on the face of it and if it is ‘information’, that is, something in the nature of a complaint or an accusation or at least information about a crime. In the same way, a police officer cannot refuse to register an F.I.R. on the ground that he is not convinced about the reasonableness or credibility of the information. At present, after the introduction of zero F.I.R, Police cannot refuse the registration of such F.I.R. on the ground that the offense was not committed within their jurisdiction. A Police officer who refuses to register an F.I.R relating to certain offences is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. A police officer who does not register an F.I.R relating to an acid attack, assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, disrobing of a woman, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of a trafficked person, rape, or so-called “eve-teasing” can be punished with imprisonment ranging from six months up to two years and fine. If a person, deliberately, lodge a false F.I.R, a person shall be punished. Likewise, if a police officer refuses to register the F.I.R. or deliberately registers a different or false version of what the informant states may also be punished.
The need of Zero F.I.R.
Incidents like accident, murder, and rape require immediate action from the concerned authorities and rush to take samples, getting information from eye witnesses and getting circumstantial details. A zero F.I.R. helps to take immediate actions regardless of the territory where the crime or offence has taken place.
- As per the static report, there is a crime committed against women in every 1.7 minutes, and rape is committed within every 16 minutes recorded in this country and domestic violence done in every 4.4 minutes against every girl. Zero FIR is provided as a right to women which she can exercise as required. Zero FIR in cases of any such heinous crime done against her in any place or at any moment acts as a remedy in the hands of the women.
- Zero FIR is also a great power to the passengers on rail journey for a direction in making the travel safe and hassles free for the millions of passengers on the frequent journey. So, as per the requirement, the victim can file the case against theft in the place that is nearest to their approach while traveling.
- Certain grave crimes like an accident, murder, and rape that require immediate action from the concerned authorities and to collect evidentiary proof from the party and place like samples, deposition from the eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence. A Zero FIR helps take into account of this prelim action regardless of deciding the territorial limits of the crime.
As is the well-settled rule when there is certainly good there is always something bad attached to it. And the biggest drawback is the basic concept of the Zero FIR provision i.e., for say a crime occur in a place and reported in other jurisdiction and if there is certain collusion between the police staff of the station where the FIR instituted and the offender then the whole root of the provision collapses.
Exploitation of Zero F.I.R.:
Provisions of Zero F.I.R can be exploited by many ways. The main reason that can lead to the undue advantage in case of Zero FIR is that outcome of criminal case mainly depends on the preliminary investigation carried out at the beginning of the case. Transferring the FIR at the later stage may adversely affect the case as the opposite party may file a FIR at the Police Station of its choice and by getting the investigation report made in their favor. A further drawback of filing a Zero FIR is that Police Station not having territorial jurisdiction over the case, may lodge the FIR for the satisfaction of the complainant, but may immediately transfer the FIR to the concerned Police Station without making any preliminary inquiry in the case.
The Zero F.I.R. looks like a great concept in seeking a way to ameliorate criminal justice in a preliminary stage and deciding on the gulp of truth. But s requires the third eye to monitor the procedure. For such purpose, a better option is if a committee simultaneously supervising the process that will include at least an ordinary citizen and scrutinizing the whole FIR instituting process is instituted. It is believed if you have to control a system you have to be inside the system because if you are outside, the concept of privity comes into the scene.