Kohima, November 05 (NEx): The Quashing of FIRs and Multiple FIRs (Law in Motion – 18) is in continuation to the articles on ‘Law’, written by Shri Rupin Sharma, IPS, to educate people about the process of Law in matters of crime to create awareness and bridge the gap between law and people;
Law In Motion– 18: Quashing Of FIRs And Multiple FIRs;
Frivolous and false complaints are not uncommon although these are not widely prevalent. Among the remedies outlined above are seeking of anticipatory bail, writ petitions in High Court or Supreme Court, requesting senior officers to intervene or seek quashing of FIRs. All others have been dealt with in previous articles.
Let me dwell upon Powers of supervisory officers and quashing here.
[A] Powers of superior officers of police:
Police officers superior in rank to an officer in charge of a police station may exercise the same powers, throughout the local area to which they are appointed, as may be exercised by such officer within the limits of his station.
Under these powers, the superior officers can help resolve the grievances of the public on false and frivolous complaints and FIRs. Since the superior officers exercise all the powers of an O/C and they are in a supervisory role, if there are matters brought to their notice, either for non-registration of FIRs or frivolous complaints or when either party is not happy with the quality or direction of the investigation or the evidence being gathered or omitted by the investigating officers, the superior officers can issue written directions and supervisory directions to the subordinates. This can be done to further the course of justice or even to prevent miscarriage of justice by deliberate commission or omissions or even oversight.
The subordinate officers are expected to report compliance of directions or give reasons why certain directives cannot be complied with. In fact for the serious cases called Special Report (SR) Cases, it is imperative that the superior officers visit the scene of crime also and then follow up by issuing written directives. This is also done in periodical crime meetings convened by the SDPOs or Additional SPs or SPs or even the DIGs or IGs.
Although police investigation is usually to be professionally conducted based on evidence – witnesses, physical evidence and the circumstances, sometimes the type of criminal justice system in the country poses a hurdle.
Adversarial System– India and most commonwealth countries follow the ‘adversarial system’. In this system, two advocates represent their parties’ case or position before an impartial person or group of people, usually a judge or jury, who attempt to determine the truth and pass judgment accordingly. It pits the prosecution against the defence with the prosecution trying to prove the guilt of a suspect/accused person.
In this system, by practice and convention, the role of the police has boiled down to proving the charges against the suspect or accused referred to in the FIR. There is an over-emphasis on proving the guilt of suspect/accused rather than arriving at the truth. Further, our systems in India also judge the police officers and investigators by their capability to file ‘charge-sheets’ in court against the suspects/accused persons and ensuring their conviction.
Traditionally, police officers, during training are indoctrinated on these principles rather than on “finding out the truth”. This is a major factor which pushes the investigating officers to use torture in custody to extract statements or unearth evidence or even plant false evidence.
Sometimes, this system leads to miscarriage of justice especially for those sections of the society which are deprived or discriminated against. If the emphasis was on ‘finding out the truth’ first and then seeking a conviction and punishment, the system would be fairer. However, this calls for a change of mind-set and training of police officers and also the judicial officers.
[B] Quashing of FIRs:
The Indian legal system empowers the High Courts with power to quash criminal proceedings in a case if it is satisfied that such quashing is necessary to meet the ends of justice and to prevent misuse of power, rights, and freedoms provided by law.
The High Court and Supreme Court have the power to quash F.I.R. on lawful grounds by the virtue of Sec. 482 of CrPC. These powers of the Courts are referred to as ‘inherent powers of Court’. Some of the grounds on which FIRs can be quashed are:
(a) acts” and “omission” attributed towards the accused person in the FIR does not constitute any offence; or
(b) No incidence of offence as alleged in the FIR has happened; or
(c) FIR contains “bare allegations” without attributing “acts or omission” on the part of the accused person, towards the commission of the offences.
Where the allegations set out in the complaint or the charge-sheet do not constitute any offence; it is competent to the High Court exercising its inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 of CrPC to quash the order passed by the Magistrate taking cognizance of the offence.
Further clarifying things, the Apex Court specified the circumstances when the proceedings could be quashed u/s 482 Cr.P.C. and laid down that in the following cases an order of the Magistrate issuing process against the accused can be quashed or set aside:
– Where the allegations made in the complaint or the statements of the witnesses recorded in support of the same taken at their face value make out absolutely no case against the accused or the complaint does not disclose the essential ingredients of an offence which are alleged against the accused;
– Where the allegations made in the complaint are patently absurd and inherently improbable so that no prudent person can ever reach a conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;
– Where the discretion exercised by the Magistrate in issuing process is capricious and arbitrary having been based either on no evidence or on materials which are wholly irrelevant or inadmissible; and
– Where the complaint suffers from fundamental legal defects, such as want of sanction, or absence of a complaint by legally competent authority and the like;
– Where the allegations in the FIR and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Sec.156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Sec.155(2) of the Code;
– Where allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same, do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused;
– Where the allegations in the FIR constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate, the FIR can be quashed;
– Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to a private and personal grudge.
[C] Limits to Inherent Powers:
The power conferred on the High Court under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution and under Section 482 of Cr. P.C. have no limits. Section 482 Cr.P.C. proclaims that nothing in the Code shall affect or limit the inherent powers.
Usually multiple FIRs on the same crime are not allowed or permitted. The Courts have tended to ‘club’ the multiple FIRs based on the fact where the FIR was first registered or where the crime occurred. However, law is an evolving process and things could change. It is a fact that a crime can have different impact on different people and the victims may also be spread over a large geographical area.
Usually multiple FIRs happen in economic offences or cybercrimes or incidents where media – news or print or even digital media is used to commit crimes or where there is a perception that certain acts/omissions hurt the feelings or sentiments of people in different geographical jurisdictions. So far court have tended to ‘club’ such matter sand either allow one of the police forces to investigate or transfer all the cases to a central agency like CBI. However, these dynamics can change and the settled legal position can be revised by court or laws.
Cross-FIRs, however, are more common. Cross FIRs are a peculiar case where both sides resort to filing FIRs against each other. These could be because the sequence of events are different factually or are interpreted or presented differently by the various parties. Usually, cross-FIRs are common in cases of riots between communities or groups of people although individual complainants are not uncommon.
The police usually resists registration of cross-FIRs because the first FIR should normally be sufficient to put the process of investigation into motion. However, given the way our police functions and particularly the mind-set that if the accused/suspects are named in the FIRs, there is a duty to prove their guilt, rather than finding out the truth, individual FIRs can result in miscarriage of justice. This is also because there is some evidentiary value attached to FIRs and if a cross-FIR is not filed, it may lead to an inference of guilt by the police. Personally, as for me, there is no legal prohibition in filing a police report about a cognizable offence. I think police could easily register cross-FIRs and then only file charge-sheet of both instances ‘in one go’ i.e., a ‘combined charge-sheet’.
By Rupin Sharma IPS