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CONCEPT OF ZERO FIR

Author: Parth Sindhwani, III year of B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) from JEMTEC School of Law, Greater Noida (G.G.S.I.P.U)


What is Zero FIR?

The term ‘First Information Report’ has not been specifically mentioned in any statute under the Indian Legal System. But Section 154 and 155 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 encapsulates the concept without specifically mentioning the term FIR. The above-mentioned sections provide for the information given to the police officer which is reduced in writing by him and is known as First Information. The concept of ZERO FIR is certainly new. It refers to an FIR that is registered irrespective of the area where the offence is committed. The police can no longer say that they don’t have jurisdiction over that particular area. They would have no choice but to lodge the FIR. The FIR registered is then transferred to the police station that originally has jurisdiction for the investigation to begin. One thing to be noted is the provision under section 166A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which states the rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months extending till two years. [1]


Background

A jurisdiction-free FIR has been developed as a result of the Zero FIR concept. A concept was proposed in 2013 based on the Justice Verma Committee's recommendations. It was in the wake of the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The heinousness of the crime shock the country to its heart. The national demonstrations prompted legislators to reconsider the state of the criminal justice system at the time. The Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 was enacted as a result of the Justice Verma Committee's findings. The scheme saw some notable modifications as a result of this reform. Zero FIR was one of these concepts.


Characteristics of ZERO FIR

The salient features of the Zero FIR are:

  • Can be filed at any police station regardless of its Jurisdiction.

  • Filing of FIR is mandatory and cannot be denied.

  • As the name suggests, it is lodged under serial number 0

  • Thereafter transferred to the police station having original jurisdiction

  • In case of refusal by the officer in charge of the Police Station to register the information, then the same can be taken to the Superintendent of Police.

  • It is important not to mix it up with multiple jurisdictions. If crime is committed at different places, then all the police stations involved will have jurisdiction. They don't have to think about the FIR being transferred because they can file it somewhere between themselves.

  • It ensures that Justice prevails over everything.


Why Zero FIR is a much-required reform?

In sensitive situations where the crime must be reported as quickly as possible, zero FIR becomes especially relevant. This means that justice is delivered on time. In rape and sexual harassment cases, for example, collecting evidence by the forensic investigation is a high priority. Only after the FIR has been filed will such a list be made. This is because these bits of evidence are so important in these kinds of cases that they must be safeguarded from wrongdoing or decay. Furthermore, in murder cases, including the most egregious ones, the perpetrator must be apprehended immediately to avoid his fleeing. And for that purpose, lodging of FIR is a must. In Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P.,[2] the Apex Court observed that registering an FIR is a mandatory complaint relating to the commission of a cognizable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Further in the case of Kirti Vashisht v. State & Ors. [3], it was observed by the Delhi High Court that “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 has 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 that “if the complaint of cognizable offence is received in a Police Station, and the offence occurred in the 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.”


Investigation and collection of evidence are only possible until the FIR has been properly reported. By having a shortcut, Zero FIR stops the informant from wasting time. The informant is no longer concerned with the police station's authority. No one has the authority to deport him due to a lack of jurisdiction. The Zero FIR system allows every police station in India to file an FIR, regardless of where the crime was committed. When an offence is committed while travelling, it becomes a useful weapon. In such a case, the survivor should contact the closest police station along their path and file a Zero FIR. It will be the police station's duty to forward the zero FIR in question to the relevant police station.


Where are we lacking behind

As impressive as the reform looks on paper, its implementation in practice is still uncertain. To begin with, considering the changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the issuing of several directives, the police remain unaware of the reforms. There have been several cases where police officers have driven the perpetrator away due to a loss of local authority due to their incompetence. The Hyderabad rape case is the most recent example of police officers refusing to file an FIR. When the victim's parents tried to file an F.I.R. against the suspects, they have driven away from their local police station due to a lack of territorial authority.


The people, on the other hand, are unaware of their legal rights. They are unaware that they can now file a zero FIR with every Indian police station. And years after the 2013 Amendment making filing a zero FIR a constitutional obligation, police officers and police officials around the state, as well as residents, are still trying to understand the idea. Not just that, despite several Ministry of Home Affairs directives requiring concerned departments to compulsorily record zero FIRs, ignorance prevails at all levels, especially at the grassroots.


Conclusion

The Zero FIR principle is a useful mechanism for women in the nation who are victims of crimes such as sexual assault and abuse. However, most police officers remain unaware of this and continue to refuse to register an FIR in such a case based on jurisdiction. Such officers must be trained on such a rule, and the relevant state governments are responsible for this.


ENDNOTES

[1] Indian Penal Code, 1860, Inserted by Act 13 of 2013 (w.e.f. 03-02-2013).

[2] (2014) 2 SCC 1 (India).

[3] CRL.M.C. 5933/2019 & Crl.M.A.40833/2019