Zero FIR Explained: A Comprehensive Guide

Law
11-Oct-2022
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Most of us are somehow familiar with the word 'FIR,' and at the same time, some people never even heard the term zero FIR. Filing FIR in Police stations has become a common practice these days where the action usually taken by the police is delayed, or the police don't take up the investigation properly.

Suppose a situation arises where you go to the police station to lodge an FIR. The police deny your request by telling you that the offense in question is not within their local area and offer you to go to another police station where the crime has been committed. This, consequently, leads to the delay of FIR, resulting in the loss of crucial suspicions and facts. In such cases, a concept called Zero FIR comes into the picture.

What is Zero FIR?

Zero FIR is a method of filing an FIR by the victim at any police station, irrespective of the location where the offense occurred. The Zero FIR is then forwarded to the appropriate police station having jurisdiction over the area where the offense took place, and the investigation is carried out by that station.

The sole difference between them is that FIR is the complaint that the informer files at the place where the happening happened in the area where the police station has the jurisdiction to investigate. In contrast, a Zero FIR can be lodged in any police station, irrespective of the incident happening anywhere.

Justice Verma's Committee, formed after Nirbhaya Case, introduced the vision for Zero FIR in criminal law.

In zero FIR, the action is not delayed. In the recent gangrape case of Hyderabad, an FIR was lodged by the victim's parents where police waited to take jurisdiction, and so the parents were made to run from one police station to another.

Why is it called "Zero FIR"?

Zero FIR does not carry a serial digit. Instead, it is given the number "0" (zero), hence the name. It is recorded relying on the area where the crime has been achieved. Once the police station has registered Zero FIR, it moves it to the authority police station where the crime has happened. Once the relevant police station accepts the Zero FIR, a serial number is given to it, transforming it into a standard FIR.

The reason for moving the Zero FIR to the authority police station is that they are basically and lawfully well-established to analyze the crime.

  1. To exemplify, if a person goes missing in Place A and their parents stay in City B can report Zero FIR to Police Station in Y. The Y Police Station then moves the Zero FIR to the A Police Station, where it will be assigned a serial number and transformed into a regular FIR. The police officers of A Police Station will instantly take needed actions and begin an inquiry.

Purpose of Zero FIR

According to the Hindu News, an average of 86 cases of rape are registered every day in India. However, most cases go unsolved due to a lack of proof, often resulting from wasting time finding the proper authority to deal with it. To address this issue, the concept of ZERO FIR comes into play, allowing victims to file complaints at any police station. Zero FIR is jurisdiction-free and helps victims report offenses promptly, especially in cases of crimes against women. The following are the purposes of ZERO FIR:

  • Allows filing the FIR at any police station, regardless of the location of the crime.
  • Enables victims to promptly report a crime without jurisdictional constraints.
  • Enables law enforcement to initiate the investigation without delay.
  • Ensures crucial evidence is not lost or tampered with during the initial stages.
  • Provides a mechanism for victims to seek justice without facing obstacles from local police.

Judiciary on Zero FIR

There has been strong judiciary support for Zero FIR, with courts penalizing police personnel for their reluctance to register such FIRs. Here are some noteworthy judgments:

  • The Supreme Court of India in Union of India vs Ashok Kumar Sharma and Others in 2020 clarified that the Police Station where the FIR is filed does not necessarily need to have jurisdiction. It should be transferred to the Police Station that has the authority over the matter.

  • The Delhi High Court in Bimla Rawal and Ors Vs. NCT of Delhi in 2008 emphasized that if the information given to the police indicates the commission of a cognizable offense, they must register the FIR and start the investigation immediately. If it is later discovered that the crime site falls under another jurisdiction, the case should be transferred accordingly.

  • The Justice Verma Committee, formed after the Nirbhaya case, recommended various amendments to anti-rape laws, including the provision of Zero FIR, enabling anyone to file an FIR from anywhere.

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an Advisory mandating the compulsory registration of FIRs based on information disclosing a cognizable offense. The FIR must be registered regardless of territorial jurisdiction. Failure to do so will lead to the prosecution and disciplinary action against the responsible police officer.

Validity and practicality of the Zero FIR?

The practicality and validity of a Zero FIR are similar to that of a regular FIR. Once filed, a person can check if the case has been transferred to the relevant police station and request inspection without delay. For example, in the case of godman Asaram Bapu, a Zero FIR was filed in Delhi by the family members of the victim against the accused, whose place of sexual misconduct was Asaram's Ashram in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The Zero FIR was transferred to Jodhpur for further investigation, leading to the arrest of the accused.

In the railways, the Ministry of Railways allows passengers to declare a crime on a traveling train. If the location of the incident falls outside the jurisdiction of the current police station, the case will be registered as a Zero FIR and transferred to the government railway police station with the appropriate authority.

Despite being a landmark concept in our legal history, many people in our country are unaware of the right to file a Zero FIR. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the consequences that police officers may face if they refuse to register an FIR:

  • Filing an FIR is compulsory for a police officer, as per section 154 of CrPC. Refusal to register an FIR, especially in cases of offenses against women such as rape or sexual assault, can result in penalties, including detention for one year or a fine, under Section 166A of the IPC.

  • Punishing action can be taken against police officers who fail to report an FIR, provided the information they receive reveals a cognizable offense, citing authority situations.

Overall, Zero FIR is a vital tool for asserting citizens' rights and instilling confidence within the public about the effectiveness of police inquiries, regardless of territorial limitations.

How to register a Zero FIR?

Before filing a Zero FIR, it is essential to understand whether the offense is cognizable or non-cognizable. The cognizable offense is an offense of serious nature, such as Rape, Theft, Murder, Theft, and so on. And on the other hand, the data is written to the judge via a complaint for non-cognizable crimes, including Criminal Breach of Trust, Unnatural Offences, and so on. 

If the crime is non-cognizable, the matter is reported to the magistrate, whereas in a cognizable offense, FIR is registered. Even if the crime is non-cognizable, the police will still take and keep the information in 'their journal. The steps upon which the FIR is registered are as follows:

  1. If you are a victim or witness to an offense and want to file an FIR, you can go to any police station nearest to you. It doesn't have to be the police station within the jurisdiction where the offense took place.

  2. Inform the police officer in charge that you want to register a Zero FIR. The police are obliged to accept your complaint and register it as a Zero FIR.

  3. FIR Registration: The police will register your complaint as a Zero FIR and provide you with a copy of the FIR. It will contain a unique FIR number for reference.

  4. After registering the Zero FIR, the police station where it was filed will forward the FIR to the police station that has jurisdiction over the area where the offense occurred.

  5. You should also receive an acknowledgment receipt stating that the Zero FIR has been forwarded to the appropriate police station for further investigation.

Before filing a Zero FIR, the victim must be aware of the following:

  • The crime should be cognizable.
  • If a female gives the details as per sections 326A, 326B, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 376, 376A, 376 B, 376E, or section 509 of IPC 1860, then a female officer must enlist the FIR. 
  • When the crime is beneath sections 326A, 326B, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 376, 376A, 376 B, 376E, or section 509 of the IPC 1860 issued by a person who is disabled, then the agreement has to be made by the police for recording their statement in the presence of the interpreter.
  • The information must be in the form of a video.
  • A record of a person's statement must be under the presence of a magistrate as per section 164 of sub-section 5A. 

Who can register a Zero FIR?

A Zero FIR can be registered by the victim or witness who knows the facts connecting to the happening.

Is zero FIR mandatory to be registered by the police?

FIRs are typically filed at the police station. However, there are some instances in which FIR was filed via email and by communicating the scene by phone. Due to digitalization, there are certain times when people file claims online on official sites.

Similarly to FIR, the zero FIR confirms that the police file the FIR and sidesteps any other problem while stating. The benefit of filing zero FIR is that it bypasses any doubtful time consumption and allows the police to study quickly.

The process of registering a zero FIR is somehow related to filing FIR. If the officer refuses to report a Zero FIR, the person filing the complaint can write to the higher officer. Yet, if it doesn't work, they can pass the file to the magistrate via a lawyer.

Case laws

  • As per the case of Kirti Vashisht v. state and others (2019), the data was registered in the form of an FIR when the crime occurred, which is not under the authority of that police station. However, the police can still take the information, register a zero FIR, and then transfer it to the police station. 
  • In the case State v. Satish Kumar (2018), an army man was brought in front of the duty officer in an unconscious state. He gives reason after getting normal. He stated that he felt senseless after consuming mango juice provided by a man at the railway station and that his bag was missing. Hence, FIR was filed there and then transferred to New Delhi. 
  • In the case, State v. Harnam Singh- A person named Harnam Singh, along with three men, kidnapped a schoolgirl. Delinquent upon getting the statement, they were sent to the police station in parliament lane, where a zero FIR was filed, and a medical examination was held at the police station of tilak Nagar where the duty officer was given a replica of the FIR. 
  • As per the case Lalitha kumari vs Govt of Up- it was carried out that as per section 154, enrollment of the First report is compulsory of the CrPC if the information reveals the commission of a comprehendible offense, and no initial inquiry is allowable in these situations. If the input received does not disclose a cognizable offense but indicates the necessity of an initial investigation may be conducted whether the cognizable offense is stated or not. The supreme applied the policies to be followed approaches concerning the registration of a Zero FIR:
  1. If the details obtained do not appear to be a cognizable offense but reveal essential for an inquiry, a previous search perhaps led only to confirm whether or not a cognizable crime is stated. 
  2. Suppose the query tells the council of a cognizable offense. The FIR should be reported. In cases where preliminary inquiry concludes in completing the protest. A copy of the entry of such exposure must be provided to the first informant not later than one week.
  3. If the offense is declared cognizable, the police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering a violation. If the officers do not notify the FIR, action should be taken against them.
  4. The scope of preliminary exploration is not to verify the integrity or otherwise of the report he received.
  5. While securing and defending the liberties of the charged and the plaintiff, a primary inquiry must be made time tied; in any case, it must not surpass seven days. The fact of such a hold and its reasons must be remembered in a public diary entry. 
  6. There are some cases where conducting a preliminary inquiry turns upon the facts of the case, like marital conflicts, medical failure, crime, and commercial crimes.
  7. Since the daily journal is the record of the report obtained in a police station, we direct that all details connecting to cognizable offenses, whether resulting in the registration of FIR or ruling to an investigation, must be compulsorily and meticulously recalled in the said Diary and the conclusion to run a preliminary 

Conclusion:

Zero FIR is the quickest way to file a complaint at the Police Station. If the crime has happened beyond their authority, still the officers are required to file an. Technology is rising so fast that some states also allow online FIR in which a person can file the FIR on the official site of the police station. In contrast, the FIR situation can be checked virtually.

Earlier, the officer often rejected taking FIR. Still, it has been held that any data that amount to a cognizable offense is compulsory to be reported as FIR by the Police. As such, no further search is essential.

An FIR can be rubbed by the victim or any other person having knowledge related to the facts and circumstances of the incident. Therefore, an FIR must be filed instantly after committing the offense to prevent the loss of facts and evidence.