Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) – Explained!

The information regarding commission of an offence may be given to police orally or in writing. Where the information is given orally to the officer-in-charge of a police station, it shall be reduced in writing, and read over to the informant. It is required to be signed by the informant so as to leave no doubt about its correctness.

The substance of FIR is entered in the “General Diary” which is maintained at the Police Station according to the provisions of Section 44 of the Police Act, in such form as prescribed by the State Government.

It is an important document on the basis of which the investigation proceeds further in a criminal case. It may be used in evidence to support or contradict the evidence of the person who gave the information, as also to judge the trustworthiness of the prosecution story, though it is not substantive evidence.

Where the police officer of the Police Station refuses to record FIR, it would block the very operation of criminal law, therefore, sub-section (3) of Section 154 provides that the substance of FIR may be sent by the victim or informer, as the case may be, to the concerning Superintendent of Police in person or by post. If the Police Superintendent is satisfied that some cognizable offence has really taken place, he would initiate investigation either himself or direct any of his subordinate police officer to do so.

In State of A. P. v. Punati Raniulu, the Supreme Court observed that refusal to record FIR on the ground that the place of occurrence of crime does not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of the police station, amounts to dereliction of duty. The Court added that the information regarding cognizable offence must be recorded and then forwarded to the police station having jurisdiction.

On receipt of information disclosing a cognizable offence having been committed, the officer-in-charge of police station has no option but to record it as F.I.R. and he cannot refuse to register the case on the ground that it is not reliable or not credible.

There is no rule insisting that the first information should be lodged by the injured or the victim. It can come from any quarter. Though it; need not contain the details of events, it should contain the basic features of the prosecution case, since it sets the law into motion.

In Gulshan Kumar v. Delhi, the accused killed his brother and assaulted his father in the same transaction and soon after the incident, the father in the injured state, named the accused as assailant in the F.I.R. recorded by the police in the hospital, it was held that such an FIR was of great value because it contained the version of the incident at the first available opportunity on the basis of which the investigation commenced.

Where telephonic message was given to the police station in respect of incident that there was quarrel and one person was stabbed with knife and the police were only appraised with the situation by some unknown person, it was held that noting of the message in Rojnamcha in cryptic nature could not be treated as F.I.R.

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh expressed a similar view in Navab Khan v. State of M.P., wherein the police received information through telephonic message that four dead bodies were lying in between two villages. The informant did not disclose names and other details of the dead persons. The said information was recorded in daily diary (Rojnamcha).

The Court held that as message so received was vague, cryptic and indefinite and did not satisfy the requirements of Section 154 and no offence was recorded and registered by police on the basis of such message. Therefore, Rojnamcha could not be treated as FIR.

Where all essential and relevant details of incident were given in FIR and the witness who had directed FIR gave few more details in her evidence, it was held that evidence given by witness could not be doubted on ground that there was improvement by way of furnishing more details.

Where two FIR’s have been filed for the same offence, the decision as to which of them should be preferred shall be taken by the Court and the criminal proceedings should be initiated against the accused on the basis of that report.

In Amar Singh Gond v. State of Madhya Pradesh the High Court of Madhya Pradesh was called upon to decide the effect of non-examination of the author (person who recorded the F.I.R.) on the validity of F.I.R. The Court held that F.I.R. was not a substantive piece of evidence and it could be used only for its corroboration and contradiction.

Though author (the person who recorded the F.I.R.) of F.I.R. was not examined, another witness who was constable and had been working with the author of F.I.R. who was sub-Inspector and who was well acquainted with his signature and handwriting and proved F.I.R. Therefore, the plea that F.I.R. was not proved was liable to be rejected.

The High Court of Karnataka in Harakchand Sankla v. Kurlon Ltd., observed that the F.I.R. or complaint is not an encylopaedia to contain all the particulars and the sections under which the offences are committed. Therefore, mere omission to mention any penal section in F.I.R. would not ipso facto deter the concerned Court to proceed further for the concerned offence.

It is always open to the Court to frame charges for different offences, other than or in addition to the offences which are mentioned in the F.I.R. Thus the criminal proceedings cannot be scuttled, on that technical score at this initial stage. The substance of the allegations found in the F.I.R. or complaint is important and not mere format or the sections, for the purpose of proceeding further with the case.

Expressing a similar view, the Supreme Court in Motilal v. State of U. P., held that FIR need not contain minute details about the occurrence. It is not a substantive piece of evidence. It is not necessary that the name of every individual present at the scene of crime occurrence is required to be stated in the FIR.

In Kirender Sarkar v. State of Assam, the Apex Court observed that when essentially material facts are disclosed in the FIR that is sufficient. The FIR not being substantive evidence cannot be used for contradicting testimony of the eye-witnesses except that may be used for the purpose of contradicting the maker of the report.

Though the importance of naming the accused persons in the FIR cannot be ignored, but their non-mention would not vitiate the report. The question as to whether a person is impleaded by way of afterthought or not must be judged having regard to entire scenario in each case.

This view further finds support by the Court’s decision in Dilip Premnarayan Tiwari v. State of Maharashtra, wherein it was reiterated that omission of names of some accused persons in FIR is not of much importance, particularly when the informant was in state of deep shock having seen the dead bodies of her young son and brother-in-law and had also heard about injuries of her family members.

Though FIR is not an encyclopaedia of the entire events but it should at least contain broad story of prosecution and vital material facts.

In Manohar M. Kulkarni v. State of Maharashtra, it has been held that there could be no registration of an offence under the Atrocities Act, 1989 (or the Civil Rights Act, 1955) or investigation as regards the same offence, if the caste of the complainant and/or the accused, as the case may be, was not mentioned in the body of the F.I.R.

All investigations and further proceedings on such investigation are liable to be quashed in the absence of mention of the caste in F.I.R. or complaint. In the instant case the caste of the complainant was not given in the body of the F.I.R. and therefore the proceedings instituted on the basis of such F.I.R. were quashed.

Delay in Filing F.I.R.

The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the F.I.R. to the police in respect of the commission of the offence is to obtain first hand early information regarding the circumstances in which crime was committed, the names of culprits and part played by them as also the names of eye witnesses present at the scene of crime.

Therefore, delay in filing F.I.R. is likely to create scope for exaggeration or introduction of coloured version or concocted story by the prosecution hence it should be avoided as far as possible.

However, if the delay in lodging FIR is satisfactorily explained, it does not lose its evidentiary value. But undue or unreasonable delay is always fatal. Whether there has been delay in filing FIR or not, depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Supreme Court in Ram Jag v. State has ruled that prompt filing of the first information report is by itself no guarantee of the trustworthiness of the prosecution version, though it has a great evidentiary value.

Where dacoity took place at 1 a.m. and FIR was lodged next day at 10 a.m. at the police station which was six miles away, it was held that delay could not be said to be deliberate and therefore it was of no consequence. The Supreme Court in a number of cases has reiterated that delay by itself is not a valid ground for disbelieving the prosecution story.

Where murder took place at about 10 p.m. and the FIR was lodged at 5.30 a.m., the next morning, the police station being 25 kms. away, and the name of the accused and material facts were properly mentioned in the report, it was held to be a prompt FIR which certainly strengthened the prosecution case.

The Supreme Court in Sahebrao v. State of Maharashtra held that delay in filing F.I.R. by itself could not be a ground to doubt prosecution case and discard it. The Court must see whether any plausible explanation was offered, and if offered whether it was satisfactory.

In the instant case, daughter had committed suicide within just four months of her marriage. Her grief strucken father told police that he would give complaint afterwards as he was mentally disturbed. Held, that explanation given was not unnatural and therefore delay was satisfactorily explained.

In Mallikarjun Ningappa Ragati v. State of Karnataka, deceased and his wife were assaulted, as a result of which one of them died on the spot and the other was seriously injured. Therefore, anxiety on the part of persons who gathered there was to first shift the injured to hospital instead of going to the police station to lodge a complaint.

In this endeavour, about 2 hours were taken to go to police station for lodging F.I.R. The delay so caused was held to be reasonable. Merely because the informant did not choose to use a tractor available in village to go to police station, could not be suspicious circumstance as there was no evidence to show that the tractor was in a useable condition and it could be spared complainant. Hence, the delay in lodging F.I.R. could not be said to be inordinate nor was it fatal to the case.

In State of U. P. v. Shobhanath, the accused had assaulted informant’s father who died as a result of serious injuries. The informant had clearly stated in detail as to how incident had taken place. He stated that he could not immediately get any mode of conveyance to take his father to police station or to hospital and had to wait for quite some time for getting a conveyance In view of this statement it could not be said that there was any delay in reporting the incident to the police and filing the FIR.

In State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal, a married girl committed suicide within a year of her marriage. The mother of the deceased reported to the police next day which was treated as FIR. The mother gave her explanation that on hearing about the death of her daughter she fell seriously ill and became unconscious hence she could come to the police station next day only to report the case. The Supreme Court held that under those circumstances there was no inordinate delay in lodging the FIR.

In a case, where the FIR was lodged within half an hour of the murder by an injured witness, the Apex Court held that the omission of certain details was understandable because of the agony of informant due to personal injury and murder of his close relative.

In State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, a minor girl was kidnapped while returning from her school and was raped by three persons, who left her at the school in the morning. She narrated the incident to her mother in the evening after coming back from school, who in turn informed her father and then an FIR was lodged at the police station which was at a considerable distance. The Supreme Court held that the delay in lodging FIR was natural and in normal course of human conduct and, therefore, had to be overlooked as it was properly explained.

Where there was delay in lodging the F.I.R. in case of abduction, the conduct of complainant to go out in search of his kidnapped or other was quite natural. Therefore, delay in lodging F.I.R. on this account stood fully explained hence it would not be fatal to prosecution story.

In State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh and others respondent was convicted of offence under Section 300, I.P.C. (murder) by the trial Court. He appealed against the conviction on ground that there was delay in filing of F.I.R. as the alleged offence took place at 8 p.m. on 17th May, 1991 but the F.I.R. was filed only on the next day morning.

The wife of the deceased categorically stated that nobody came forward to accompany her (complainant) to police station in dark night. Therefore she had to wait till next day morning. Since no question regarding the alleged delay in filing F.I.R. was asked to the said witness during cross-examination the trial Court convicted the accused on the basis of material evidence against him.

In appeal, the High Court, reversed the judgment of trial Court and acquitted the accused on the ground of non-explanation of delay in presentation of the F.I.R. The state appealed against the order of the High Court before the Supreme Court.

The Court held that the finding by High Court that there was delay in filing F.I.R. and the same was not explained is untenable in view of the explanation put forth by the wife of the deceased, stating that nobody came forward to accompany her to police station in dark night and hence she had to wait till next day morning.

That apart, there was no requirement for offering any such explanation under these circumstances the conclusion of High Court and order directing acquittal of the accused is wholly unsustainable and the same is set aside.

In Rain Singh Jaieja v. State of Gujarat, the deceased was taken to hospital in an injured condition by his brother. The Head Constable on duty in the hospital telephoned the police station, and the sub-Inspector immediately came to the hospital and recorded the statement of the brother, who was an eye-witness of the occurrence, the Supreme Court held that the statement so recorded should be treated as FIR and it could not be said to be the cryptic telephonic message.

While dealing with the issue as to when investigation commences, the Supreme Court in this case observed with regard to the cryptic nature of a massage as follows:—

“……… If the telephonic message is cryptic in nature and the officer-in-charge, proceeds to the place of occurrence on basis of that information to find out the details of the nature of the offence itself, then it cannot be said that the information, which had been received by him on telephone, shall be deemed to be first information report. The object and purpose of giving such telephonic message is not to lodge the first information report, but to request the officer-in-charge of the police station to reach the place of occurrence. On the other hand, if the information given on telephone is not cryptic and on basis of that information, the officer-in-charge, is prima facie satisfied about the commission of a cognizable offence and he proceeds from the police station after recording such information, to investigate such offence then any statement made by any person in respect of the said offence including about the participants, shall be deemed to be a statement made by a person to the police officer ” in the course of investigation”, covered by Section IQ2 of the Code. That statement cannot be treated as first information report. But any telephonic information about commission of a cognizable offence irrespective of the nature and details of such information cannot be treated as first information report…. (Para 7)”

Where there was intrinsic evidence to show that FIR was lodged at 8 p.m. by the father of deceased taking into account time that had elapsed between post-mortem and death of deceased, it was obvious that death had taken place at about 6.30 p.m., held that FIR lodged within two hours of occurrence, was prompt and not delayed. There was no evidence to show that FIR was ante-timed.

The Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Om Prakash, held that in case of child rape, where reputation and prestige of family and career or life of victim was involved, it was not at all unnatural for the family members to await the arrival of the elders in the family before taking a decision to lodge a report with the police. The fact that the brother of prosecutrix was present at home was not of much consequence, hence the delay in reporting the matter to the police could be said to have been fully explained.

Expressing its views on the effect of delay in filing FIR the Supreme Court in Ravindra Kumar v. State of Punjab, observed as follows: —

“It is a recurring feature in most of the criminal cases that there would be some delay in furnishing the first information to the police. It has to be remembered that law does not fix any time for lodging the FIR, hence a delayed FIR is not illegal. Of course, a prompt and immediate lodging of the FIR is the ideal as that would give the prosecution a twin advantage. First is that it affords commencement of the investigation without any time lapse. Second is that it expels the opportunity for any possible concoction of a false version. Barring these two plus points for a promptly lodged FIR, the demerits of the delayed FIR cannot operate as fatal to any prosecution case. It cannot be overlooked that even a promptly lodged FIR is not an unreserved guarantee for the genuineness of the version incorporated therein.”

The Apex Court in the same case further observed:—

“When there is criticism on the ground that FIR in a case was delayed, the Court has to look at the reason why there was such delay. There can be a variety of genuine causes for FIR lodgment to get delayed. Rural people might be ignorant of the need for informing the police of a crime without any lapse of time. This kind of unconversantness is not too uncommon among urban people also. They might not immediately think of going to the police Station. Another possibility is due to lack of adequate transport facilities for the informers to reach the police station.

The Supreme Court has once again reiterated delay in recording F.I.R. is not always fatal to prosecution. Thus where murder took place in the mid-night and the police station was far off the scene of crime and the entire surrounding area was under flood, delay in recording F.I.R. and sending information to Magistrate would not be fatal and it will have no impact on conviction of the accused particularly when eye­witness has given a detailed description of events which collaborate with the medical evidence.

In Vikram and others v. State of Maharashtra explaining the delay in lodging of F.I.R. the independent witnesses stated that they gave priority to treatment of deceased and injured witnesses which caused delay.

The Police Station was however informed about the occurrence around 1.00 a.m. on telephone. The crime took place at about 10.30 p.m. on 22 January, 1997. Formal detailed F.I.R. was lodged at 7.30 A.M. on 23 January, 1997.

Keeping in view the gravity of offence under Section 300/149 and the consequences thereof the trial Court and the appellate Court held that in fact there was no delay in giving the information and if at all it was, the same was satisfactorily explained and justified. The Supreme Court refused to interfere with the judgments of the Courts below and upheld the conviction of the accused under Section 302/149 I.P.C. rejecting the plea of delayed F.I.R.

In this case 8 accused came together, assaulted the deceased and injured witnesses indiscriminately. They continued the assault despite the requests of wife of deceased and other witnesses present there to stop the same. The accused dragged the deceased and injured witnesses at bank of river and left them there only when large number of people gathered and intervened. Testimony of witnesses was reliable and the guilt of the accused was proved beyond doubt.

The third, which is a quite common bearing, is that the kith and kin of the deceased might take some appreciable time to regain a certain level of tranquillity of mind or dedativeness of temper for moving to the police station for the purpose of furnishing the requisite information. Yet another cause is, the persons who are supposed to give such information, themselves could be so physically impaired that the police has to reach them on getting some nebulous information about the incident.”

The Supreme Court in Harbans Kaur v. State of Haryana reiterated that even a long delay in filing the F.I.R. could be condoned if the witnesses had no motive of falsely implicating the accused and had given plausible reason for delay.

In Premlal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the counsel for the appellant had contended that there was nine hours delay in lodging the F.I.R. and it was a circumstance which provides legitimate ground for suspecting that the prosecution introduced improvement and embellishment and set up a distorted version of the prosecutrix.

Disallowing the appeal, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh held that the contention of appellant’s counsel could not be accepted as the reason for delay in lodging the F.I.R. was well explained. The parents of the prosecutrix first tried to search the culprits and when they failed, the father of the prosecutrix lodged the F.I.R. In such circumstances, the delay does not raise an inference that the complaint was false.

The Supreme Court in Satyapal v. State of Haryana, reiterated that delay in lodging FIR is a normal phenomenon in rape cases because ordinarily family of victim would not like to get stigma attached to victim of rape.

As regards the effect of delayed filing of FIR, the Apex Court in State of U. P. v. Manoj Kumar Pandey, held that normal rule regarding the duty of the prosecution to explain the delay in lodging FIR and the lack of prejudice caused because of such delayed lodging of FIR does not per se apply to cases of rape and this has been the consistent view of the Supreme Court in all rape cases. The High Court of Allahabad was, therefore, clearly wrong in disposing of the appeal in such cryptic manner.

The case of Mundrika Mahto v. State of Bihar relates to recording of FIR in a murder case. The plea of the accused in this case was that inquest report was prepared earlier in point of time than recording of fardbeyan, hence inquest report should be treated as FIR and as the names of the accused were not mentioned in inquest report, the mention of their names in the FIR registered on the basis of fardbeyan should be ignored.

The perusal of case-diary showed that investigation officer first recorded the fardbeyan and thereafter held inquest on dead body of deceased but recorded in case diary time of recording fardbeyan as 11.30 p.m. and that of holding of inquest as 11.45 p.m. in the reverse order to help the accused. The Supreme Court held that inquest report could not be treated as FIR in the given circumstances.

It must be noted that in most of the criminal cases, delay in furnishing information to the police is a recurring feature. It is well-settled that law has not fixed any time limit for lodging FIR and, therefore, it can be said that delayed FIR is not illegal.

Delay in informing the police of the incident or lodging the FIR is bound to occur for variety of reasons, depending upon the surrounding circumstances existing at the time of commission of offence. Thus it can be said that the entire prosecution case should not be thrown merely on the ground of delayed FIR.

Importance of FIR:

First information report has always been considered as a very important document relating to criminal cases. Though it is not substantive evidence, but it can be used to corroborate or impeach the testimony of person lodging it. The importance of the FIR is not lost only because it was lodged by an unconcerned person or sent to the police station by an unknown person or sent to Magistrate by post.

The Supreme Court in Ramesh Kumar v. State of (NCT) Delhi held that provision of Section 154 of Cr. P.C. is mandatory and the concerned officer of Police Station is duty bound to register the case on the basis of an information disclosing commission of a cognizable offence.

Where the prosecution has neither produced in evidence the person who lodged the FIR in the police station nor the person who recorded it in the Thana, it was held that such an FIR cannot be referred to in evidence.

The High Court of Orissa in Gadadhar Pati v. Bansidhar Pati, has held that though the FIR after being recorded in writing should be signed by the informant, but the requirement is only procedural and it is not mandatory and therefore omission of this formality does not affect the legal consequences of a valid FIR under this section.

The Supreme Court in Darshan Singh v. State of Punjabi has expressed a view that the fact that the names of some of the accused are not mentioned in the FIR does not entitle them for acquittal merely on this ground, but the prosecution has to explain and justify this omission to the satisfaction of the Court.

In a case where the first information regarding a non-cognizable offence is filed with the Magistrate who decides not to take cognizance of offence and drop the proceedings against some persons mentioned in the first information report, he must give a hearing to the first informant before taking such decision.

An omission to mention correct section or name of the offence does not ipso facto render the FIR disbelievable. But if the FIR does not disclose the commission of a cognizable offence, the investigation based on such FIR is liable to be quashed. The Supreme Court has held that where the FIR was filed by a rustic woman, omission by her to mention certain incidental facts could not affect the trustworthiness of the FIR.

In Ramesh Chandra Nandlal Parikh v. State of Gujarat the petitioner was Chairman of Co-operative Bank. A complaint against him and others was filed for misfeasance and the investigation was conducted by CBI.

The Bank (another branch) again filed complaint against the petitioner and others and the second investigation was directed against the petitioner. He challenged the validity of second F.I.R. and second investigation and wanted it to be quashed.

But the Supreme Court observed that the order directing second investigation was not liable to be quashed since two sets of complaints pertained to cases concerning different parties and different branches of the bank. The offences complained of were also independent and distinct and not in the course of the same transaction. Therefore, filing of two F.I.Rs was perfectly justified.

The FIR can also be used for the cross-examination of the informant and for contradicting him under Section 145 of the Evidence Act. But it cannot be used for the purpose of corroborating or contradicting any witness other than the person who lodged the FIR.

As provided in sub-section (2) of Section 154, the informant has a right to receive a copy of FIR free of cost. Denial of copy to informant will amount to disregard of the principles of natural justice and a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Where the officer-in-charge of the police station refuses to record the information (FIR), the aggrieved party may send the substance of such information in writing by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned (sub-section 3).

The Supreme Court in Patai alias Krishna Kumar v. State of U. P., held that cryptic message regarding an occurrence cannot be termed as FIR within the meaning of Section 154 Cr. P. C. The case involved murder of a passenger by gun-shot, the police received telephonic message that one passenger was shot dead at Room cabin while he was getting down from a passenger train, please arrange disposal of dead body.

This report was only cryptic message regarding occurrence of a murder requiring police to move to the scene of occurrence for investigation. It could not be termed as FIR as there was no proof regarding sending of any information.

The subsequent report lodged with the police by the informant in neat and clean handwriting giving details of the occurrence and witnesses was the real FIR for the purpose and therefore, the allegation of the appellants that there were two FIRs filed on the same day of occurrence has no substance.

It has been reiterated by the Apex Court in Sidhartha Vashistt alias Manu Sharma v. State (NCT) Delhi, that a cryptic telephonic message cannot be treated as FIR as the object of such message is only to get the police move to the scene of occurrence and not to register the FIR.

The Supreme Court in its decision in Rajinder Singh Katoch v. Chandigarh Administration held that although the officer in-charge of police station is legally bound to register a FIR in terms of Section 154 if the allegations made give rise to an offence which can be investigated without obtaining any permission from the Magistrate concerned, the same by itself, however, does not take away the right of the competent officer to make a preliminary enquiry in a given case in order to find out as to whether the first information sought to be lodged had any substance or not.

In the instant case the Court held that the police officer’s refusal to register F.I.R. on the ground that the wrongful restraint of co-sharer to enjoy joint family property should be enforced through remedies available under civil law, and not by recourse to criminal proceedings, was proper and justified.

In Paramjit Singh alias Mithu Singh v. State of Punjab, the Punjab Police Rules, 1934, required that information regarding a cognizable crime (murder in the instant case) should first be reduced in writing and entered in Police Station daily diary and then only F.I.R. is to be issued (Rule 2) was held to be not tenable because it is not so provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure the provisions of which are required to be followed scrupulously.

The Punjab Police Rules do not in any manner override the provisions of Cr. P.C. They are made only for the guidance of the Punjab State police officers and to supplement the provisions of Cr. P.C. but not supplant them.