There has been considerable media attention on the Nithari killings and the persistent refusal by the local police to register an FIR or First Information Report that would have led to an investigation. Several officers have been suspended, politicians from all major political parties have made appearances, and this gruesome beyond belief episode is likely to remain a running story for the next few years (given the slowness of our judicial process).
What is an FIR? The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 describes the process of its recording as follows:
Section 154. Information in cognizable cases - (1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer - in - charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read over to the informant; and every such information whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.
Thus, when you report the occurrence of a cognizable offence to the officer at the police station, he will record that information in writing, and that particular document is known as the first information report. Under the law, you are entitled to receive a copy of the report. S 154 (2) of the Code directs the police officer to supply a copy of this information free of cost to the informant.
The police refused to register an FIR. It could not have been the first time and neither will it be for the last. It will take years before the character of the police turns more responsive and responsible. Do our laws provide for options when the police refuse to register an FIR?
If a concerned citizen goes to the police station to report a cognizable offence, even though the officer in charge of the police station is enjoined by the law to register an FIR he may refuse to do so. Why should this happen? It could happen for a variety of reasons.
It could be, for example, that he genuinely does not believe the informant, or it could be that his refusal stems from the influence upon him of powerful vested interests, who have managed to approach him before the informant reached the police station. When faced with a point blank refusal, what can an ordinary citizen do?
The Criminal Procedure Code itself provides the first remedy. It provides that when the officer in charge of a police station refuses to record the information you are giving him, you could send it in writing to the Superintendent of Police. In metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bombay, you would need to dispatch the information to the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned area.
Thus Section 154 (3) of the Code provides as follows:
Section 154 (3). Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in sub section (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police, who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by an police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.
You could feel that it may take too long by post for the information to reach the Superintendent of Police. In that event you could write down the substance of your information and try to meet the concerned officer personally and hand it over to him.
What happens if the Superintendent of Police (or Deputy Commissioner of Police as the case may be) too does not take any action even though the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, because the influence of powerful, vested interests have been brought to bear upon him, or some other reason?
Our concerned citizen (who may be an informant or even a complainant) has two options before him then. The first is to file a criminal complaint case in the Magistrates Court and the second is to file a Writ Petition in the High Court.
These are legal processes where a person will need to spend time, energy and money but something the media and legal literacy campaigns should spread awareness of - given the state of law and order and the police machinery.