Any person who has knowledge regarding the commission of an offence may give such information to the police. This communication is referred to as an FIR (First Information Report) that is the information regarding commission of a cognizable offence communicated to the police officer and the person giving the information is known as the Informant. The evidentiary value of an FIR is far greater than that of any other statement recorded by the police during the course of the investigation.[i] The provision for recording FIR is provided under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In the case of Lalitha Kumari vs. State of UP[ii] the Court laid down certain guidelines with respect to registering an FIR. It is established that if the offence in the First Information is known to be cognizable, then the Police cannot refuse to register the FIR, registration of such an FIR is mandatory.
Origin of the concept of Zero FIR:
The notion of Zero FIR is to institute a jurisdiction free FIR. It was introduced by the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 after the ghastly Delhi rape case.The Amendment was passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March, 2013 and by the Rajya Sabha on 21 March, 2013 and received the President’s assent on 2 April, 2013 and is deemed to have come into force from the 3rd day of February, 2013.The 2012 Rape case led to several legal consequences through the Criminal Law Amendment, one of which was the concept of Zero FIR.
Registering an FIR was made mandatory for the police after the Amendment. ‘No police officer can refuse to register an FIR, if the offence being reported occurred outside their police station’s jurisdiction. He/ She is bound to register the FIR (this is called a zero FIR) and forward it to the concerned police station.’[iii]
Generally when a police station registers an FIR, the police officer awards each FIR a serial number and registers it. But, in case of a Zero FIR, the FIR doesn’t get numbered or gets numbered as ‘0’. Upon registering it in a police station other than the jurisdictional police station, it gets transferred to the station with competent jurisdiction after conducting a preface investigation.[iv] This is how it gets the name ‘Zero’ FIR.
Definition of Zero FIR:
An FIR that can be filed at any police station irrespective of the place of crime and area of jurisdiction is referred to as a Zero FIR. The FIR that is registered at the police station regardless of place of incidence or jurisdiction will later be transferred to the police station that has competent jurisdiction upon conducting preliminary investigation.
The police cannot claim ‘lack of jurisdiction’ to register an FIR and they are also urged to conduct a prelude investigation despite lack of jurisdiction. This is done in order to ensure that the evidence in certain cases involving offences of Sexual abuse or Road accidents is collected at the right time and isn’t lost. Protection of evidence from manipulation and corruption is extremely vital in such situations, therefore the concept of Zero FIR becomes beneficial. Crimes like murder, rape and accidents require immediate action from the concerned police authorities so that they take appropriate samples, eye witnesses and other circumstantial details. Zero FIR allows the authorities to pen down the initial action taken rather than trying to figure out what had happened at the crime scene initially.[v]
In the case of Kirti Vashisht v. State &Ors., The Delhi High Court observed as follows,
“As per section 154 Cr.P.C., if any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence is received by any Police Station, the said Police Station is duty bound to register the FIR. However, if the crime is not occurred in the jurisdiction of the said Police Station, then after registering the ‘Zero FIR’, the same has to be transferred to the concerned Police Station for investigation, where the offence has been committed… A Zero FIR can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or the place of occurrence of crime.”
It also directed the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to issue circular/Standing order to all the Police Stations in NCT of Delhi and all concerned that “if complaint of cognizable offence is received in a Police Station, and offence occurred in jurisdiction of other Police Station, in that case, the ‘Zero FIR’ shall be lodged by the Police Station which has received the complaint and thereafter shall be transferred to the concerned Police Station.”[vi]
Legal provisions for Zero FIR:
There is no explicit provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure to accommodate Zero FIR.
However, Section 460 of the Code talks about ‘Irregularities which do not vitiate proceedings’, Clause (e) of the section states that If any Magistrate is not empowered by law to take cognizance of an offence under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub- section (1) of section 190 and takes a cognizance of the offence irrespective of this, such a proceeding shall not be set aside merely on the ground that the Magistrate did not have jurisdiction to entertain the same.
Under clause (c) of section 166A[vii] of Indian Penal Code, if any public servant fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to cognizable offence … shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.
What is the procedure to file a Zero FIR?
A Zero FIR is filed just like any other FIR. It can be filed by complying with the provisions of Section 154 of the Code.
If the information is given orally, it should be reduced to writing.
If it is in writing, it shall be signed by the Informant.
The information shall be read over to the Informant so it can be verified.
It shall then be recorded in the ‘station house diary’ or ‘case diary’ as prescribed by the State government.
The copy of the information as taken down in writing shall be given to the Informant free of cost.
Zero FIR is therefore a free jurisdictional FIR. It ensures that persons with information regarding commission of a cognizable offence are sufficiently heard and are not turned down with the excuse of ‘lack of jurisdiction’. It also ensures that everything possible is sufficiently done by a Police officer towards securing justice for the victims of the alleged offence. No complaint can be dismissed merely on the ground of a police station not being within the jurisdictional limits of the place of commission of an offence. This secures collection of evidence in cases where immediate attention by the police is required.