First Information Report, abbreviated FIR, is a written document recording the instance of the commission of a cognisable crime. The FIR is recorded by the police as and when they receive the information and any action by the law enforcement agencies are done after the recording of an FIR. That is why it is called a First Information Report because it records the first official details of a crime. The FIR can be filed by anyone who has witnessed or has come to know about the commission of the offence and is not restricted solely to the victim. It plays a very crucial role in criminal administration as the police conduct an investigation of the crime only after the lodging of an FIR.
The procedure to file an FIR in India is formulated under S. 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (hereinafter, CrPC). It mandates that any information given about commission of a cognisable offence should be reduced in writing and should be attested to by the informant. Moreover, a copy of the FIR should be made available to the informant. The section also details the procedure to be followed in case a police officer refuses to file an FIR.
Penal Provisions for False FIRs
FIRs play a very crucial and vital role in the entire criminal machinery of the State. However, many a time, it is seen that false FIRs are filed against innocent people by vexatious people. False FIRs are generally used as a way to intimidate, harass or coerce any person to achieve some sinister end. There are various instances wherein a false FIR is used to strong-arm a person to do something against his or her will. Therefore, to deter people from misusing the law and to empower people in their battle against frivolous complaints, the law has put in place various penal provisions to safeguard the honest and law-abiding citizens. Some of these provisions are discussed below-
1. Section 211, IPC- Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for making a false charge of offence with an intent to cause injury to a person. The section penalises any person who institutes false charges or proceedings against any person without any legal grounds whatsoever. The section makes it essential that such knowledge should be imputed with the person filing a false charge coupled with an intent to cause injury and should not be made under bona fide, though mistaken, belief. The section postulates that such person should be imprisoned with a term extending to two years or with a fine. In cases where a false charge is made for offences carrying sentence upward of 7 years, the penalty provided is a jail term of up to seven years.
2. Section 182, IPC- This section of the Indian Penal Code carries penal provisions against a person who knowingly furnishes false information to any public servant. To attract the provisions of this section, it must be proved that the person intended to use the powers of such public officer to cause injury or annoyance to another person. If a person is convicted under this section, he can be punished with imprisonment of six months or with a fine up to one thousand rupees.
3. Section 167, IPC- This provision does not penalise a member of the public for instituting false proceedings. Instead, it penalises a public servant for preparing or framing any document which he knows to be incorrect or false. To convict a public officer under this section, it should also be proved that such a document was prepared with an intent to cause harm or injury to any person. If convicted, the court can award a punishment consisting of a term of three years or a fine or both.
4. Section 218, IPC- Section 218 also deals with penal provision for a public servant in charge of preparing any record. Under this section, if a public servant frames such records, knowing that it is incorrect, with an intent either to injure someone or to save someone or to save someone’s property, will be liable for punishment. The punished prescribed under this section is imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine.
5. Section 203, IPC- This section punishes such a person who while reporting on an offence which he knows or believes has been committed, gives any information concerning that offence which is he knows or believes is entirely false. The punishment under such a case has been prescribed to be a sentence of imprisonment up to two years or a fine.
6. Section 177, IPC-This section penalises a member of the public who when bound by law to furnish any information to a public servant, furnishes information that he knows or has reasons to believe is false. This provision does not deal with cases wherein a person voluntarily provides some information. Instead, it covers cases wherein a person is called upon to furnish a piece of information and therefore is under a legal obligation to provide an accurate and honest account of the same. A person liable under this section can be sentenced to imprisonment extending up to six months or with a fine extended to one thousand rupees.
7. Section 250, CrPC- Section 250 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 also carries some provisions for safeguarding and protecting a person accused under frivolous charges. Under this section, a person facing trial by a Magistrate is entitled to be given compensation if it so found by the Magistrate that no reasonable grounds were necessitating the accusations made. The Magistrate is empowered to make an order directing the complainant to pay satisfactory compensation to the wrongfully accused person.
Apart from the above-mentioned penal provisions, the law provides several alternative remedies to further the protection granted to innocent citizens. The most potent and immediate relief which a falsely accused person can get is provided for under Section 482 of CrPC. Section 482 provides High Courts with the power to quash FIRs against any person to prevent a miscarriage of justice and undue harassment. Alternatively, a person can move a writ petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, and the court can issue an appropriate writ to quash any false FIRs.
Moreover, if a person is falsely accused of a non-bailable offence, he can move to the court under Section 438 of CrPC to apply for an Anticipatory Bail. Anticipatory bail is a mechanism by which a person can save himself from anticipated arrest and becomes effective at the exact moment of arrest. A high court or sessions court, if satisfied, can make an order for anticipatory bail giving the accused much-needed relief from being detained. Lastly, if a person suffers damage to his reputation in consequence of any false FIR, he can institute defamation proceedings in a court of law against the complainant.
This article is authored by Anshum Agarwal, First-Year, B.A. LL.B student at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS)
Also Read – What Is The Time Limit For Filing An FIR?