The FIR in a criminal case is extremely vital and valuable piece of evidence for the purpose of corroborating the oral evidence adduced at the trial. An (FIR) when lodged, the police are legally bound to start the investigating of the case at the earliest. Under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 the copy of the FIR should be given to the accused immediately after the lodging of FIR. In some cases, accused is not provided with the FIR immediately and as a result, he is deprived of his rights of filing appropriate application before the Court as per law for redressal of his grievances. Also, destroying or tampering of FIR is common incident which leads to delay in justice.
To mete out this justice, the Supreme Court of India via its judgment in Youth Bar Association of India v Union of India has given a getaway from this widely practiced deterrence of justice. The apex Court has directed in the said judgement that FIRs across the country, keeping certain exceptions where the FIR lodged is on a sensitive matter, have to be uploaded on police websites and, if any such websites are not there, the FIRs have to be uploaded on the State Government websites within twenty four hours of lodging the FIR. The judgement has given certain exemptions to remote areas where due to connectivity issues it becomes impossible to upload the FIR within twenty four hours, for those cases, the time span is extended to forty eight hours which can be extended maximum to seventy two hours.
The judgement has largely relied on the ‘due process’ of law enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The liberty to lead a life and protect the rights and personal liberty of an Individual except according to procedure established by law. The individual spoken about also include an accused individual and his personal liberty and rights which cannot be taken away unless according to procedure established by law. The judgment has filled the void regarding tampering of FIR, delaying in lodging a FIR by the Police etc. Online FIR has been rightly removed in certain offences which mainly covers sexual offences and offences under Protection of children from sexual offences Act, which is rightly so to safeguard the identity of the accused and the victim.
The judgement has bridged a gap by making it mandatory for FIR to be uploaded on the website for efficiency but there still remains certain aspects that need attention from the apex Court. In the era of Digital India, Internet has become an integral part of human lives. Though, a large population of India find it difficult to get an access for the same. For them, a message service could be provided, i.e. as soon as an FIR is uploaded on the website a text message containing the FIR number can be delivered to the accused and the victim, which can act as a proof of lodging the FIR, if in any case the FIR is destroyed.
It has been observed that at times, the investigation carried by the policemen face inadequate delay due to personal vendetta or genuine reasons. To check the same, if periodically (say fortnightly) a progress/status report of the investigation carried out by police could be updated on the website, the whole process would become transparent.
FIR is a public document under Section 74 of the Evidence Act, 1872. If the FIR is uploaded on the website, it would be in the larger public interest and the same will also avoid many difficulties being faced by the general public. This judgment of the Supreme Court of India is a reviving hope of the dying belief on the judiciary and the executive of our country.
Mohit Seth, 5th Year, BA LLB, School of Law, KIIT University