Evidentiary value of FIR

    FIR stands for First Information Report and is dealt with under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter, “CrPC”). It simply means any information given by a person (this can be anyone including the victim, third party, etc.) to a police officer on duty regarding the commission of an alleged cognizable offense. Based on this FIR, the police initiates the investigation and further submits a charge sheet under Section 173, CrPC.

    The FIR holds prime importance in any criminal case and has various aspects associated with it. However, for this article, only the evidentiary value of FIR is taken into consideration. FIR finds its mention in CrPC, but to find its evidentiary value, the Indian Evidence Act (hereinafter, “IEA”) is relevant. A culmination of both these statutes helps the court to finally determine the guilt or the innocence of the accused.

    The evidentiary value of FIR has two aspects, i.e., substantial and procedural aspects. The earlier aspect deals mainly with relevant facts, with regards to which Sections 6, 8, 21, 27, and 32 of IEA will be pertinent for discussion. The latter aspect is mainly for the purpose of corroboration, contradiction, etc. Here, Sections 145, 157, 159, and 160 of IEA will come into play. This above list of sections is not exhaustive, and there can be various dimensions associated with FIR. Nevertheless, for this article, only the above-mentioned sections will be dealt with, as these cover up most of the evidentiary value of FIR.

    SUBSTANTIVE ASPECT

    Substantive aspects of FIR, as mentioned above, deals with the relevancy of facts, and for that, we will consider Sections 6, 8, 21, 27, and 32 of IEA.

    Section 6 of IEA discusses the relevancy of facts, which, though not in issue, form a part of the same transaction. Suppose some incident has taken place, and in the continuity of the event, an FIR is lodged. This FIR would then be considered relevant as it was lodged in the same transaction. For being relevant, it should be spontaneous, and there should not be any gap between the incident and FIR. So, FIR should be lodged in a fashion that is continuous, spontaneous, natural, automatic, and there should not be any external intervention. In Kapoor Singh Rana vs. State of Delhi [1], there was a considerable time gap. First, medical treatment was given, and then he talked to many people and then lodged FIR. The statement was not considered in the same transaction. 

    Further, In Dudh Nath Pandey vs. State of UP [2], the sister Ranjana immediately after finding her brother dead ran to the police station and lodged an FIR. So, the statement made by Ranjana can be considered to be in the same transaction, as there was no gap. It was spontaneous, and the time taken by her was the normal time that anyone would take to reach the police station without any gap. Therefore, FIR lodged by her was considered to be in the same transaction. Thus, FIR was given high evidentiary value when compared to the earlier case.

    Section 8 of the IEA deals with motive, preparation, and previous or subsequent conduct. Explanation 1 of the section says that statement wouldn’t be considered as conduct. But, if such a statement accompanies and explains the conduct, then such a statement can be considered as conduct. This could be explained with the help of an example. Suppose a man has been robbed and therefore is crying. He then goes to the police station for lodging an FIR regarding the robbery. The statement given by him to the police accompanies his conduct of going to the police station after being robbed, and thus explains his statement.

    Section 21 of IEA deals with proof of admissions against persons making them, and by or on their behalf. FIR may be relevant as an admission by the party. For example, Accused A has murdered B. Then, A himself goes to the police station and lodges an FIR, wherein he narrates the incident that he was present with B, and then C came and killed B. So, in a way he is admitting to the fact that he was present on the spot with B. One point that needs to be noted here is that it is different from confessional FIR as in the Aghnoo Nagesia case [3]. Rather, here he is exculpating himself by putting blame on C. So, if any other circumstantial evidence later is discovered, then his admission that he was present at the spot can be used.

    Section 27 of IEA deals with how much of information received from the accused may be proved. This section prevents the accused from exculpating himself, although an FIR can be used as a discovery statement. For instance, A kills B and then lodges FIR that he has killed B by stabbing him with the help of a knife. A also explained his motive behind the act of killing B. He further adds to this statement that he has hidden the dead body of the victim and the weapon in the garden. Here, the FIR is confessional, but since it was made to police, it would fall under Section 25, and hence will not be admissible. However, his statement regarding the place where he hid the dead body and weapon could be relevant. If such a dead body and murder weapon are retrieved from the said place, the same may be used as a discovery statement. Thus, even though confessional FIRs are very well rejected, discovery statements given by such persons may still be taken into account.

    Section 32(1) of IEA deals with Dying declaration. Suppose, A is the accused who has stabbed B with a knife. After the incident, B is taken to the hospital where he is at a critical stage. B, in such a situation, gives a statement, and the police officer converts his statement to FIR. Later on, this victim dies because of that stab injury, and therefore his statement as to who has caused his injury, will be considered as a dying declaration. Thus, the victim’s statement, which has been converted to FIR, is used as a dying declaration.

    PROCEDURAL ASPECT

    The procedural aspect finds significance with regards to corroborations, contradictions, etc. Here, Sections 145, 157, 159, and 160 of IEA will come into play. We will see how each of these sections are relevant to the discussion.

    Section 145 deals with cross-examination as to the previous statement in writing. So, in simple words, it can be used for contradiction under section 145. 

    Section 157 deals with former statements of witnesses that may be proved to corroborate testimony as to the same fact. In simple terms, previous statements made by a person can be used for corroborating their statements in any given case.

    Suppose a witness (this witness can be the third person, or also can be a victim) has lodged an FIR. His statement is recorded in the form of FIR, and thereafter, an investigation is initiated. After investigation, a police report will be submitted, and the trial will begin in the court of law. During the trial, the witness is called, the one who has lodged FIR, and on oath, he will give his statement. Based on that earlier statement, the defense can cross-examine the witness and can contradict him if he digresses from his statement.

    Under Section 145, that witness can be cross-examined based on prior statements given by him, and also, he can be contradicted. Thus, based on FIR a witness can be cross-examined as well as contradicted.

    Now, suppose the testimony given in court is the same as that given in FIR. Here, the witness reiterated his earlier statement of the FIR in the court, and therefore, the prosecution here can use it for corroboration under section 157. On similar lines, the defense can also use it during cross-examination for contradicting the statements, as provided under 145.

    CONTEMPT OF COURT- THE LATEST WRANGLE

    Similarly, suppose the witness appears in the court and he is giving the testimony (i.e., statement on oath) that the incident took place in such and such manner, and in the process, he forgot the details of the incident. Then, he can look at the copy of the FIR for refreshing his memory. This is possible under section 159 and 160 IEA. These two sections are also relevant in other circumstances than refreshing the memory of the witness, but only relevant to the topic has been discussed.

    DELAY IN LODGING OF FIR

    There can be instances when the incident took place on one day, but the FIR for the same was given after a considerable gap of time. In such a case, what would be the evidentiary value of a delayed FIR? The person who has filed FIR must-have information on that incident and thereafter,  should have delayed filing FIR. The element of knowledge plays an essential role here. ,  Where there is no knowledge about the incident,  delay in lodging FIR owing to the same is justified. Delay in lodging FIR here means despite having the awareness about the incident, the witness chose not to inform it to police. There may be numerous reasons for not informing the police. What matters, however, is whether the delay is explainable or unexplainable. Thus, will unexplained delay in lodging the FIR affect the merit of the case?

    In Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of UP and Ors.[4], the Supreme Court has stressed the fact that FIR has to be lodged as soon as possible. Any delay in FIR would result in embellishment which is a creature of an afterthought. Due to this delay in lodging of FIR, the case is denied of the benefit of spontaneity, and there is a high risk of exaggerated facts or concocted story which is the end-result of deliberation and consultation with others. Hence, it should be made at the earliest possible time, to protect the evidentiary value of FIR.

    Delay in lodging of FIR will not intrinsically affect the merit of the case, as it is a curable irregularity. However, the court will become suspicious of the incident, along with the informant. That informant of FIR later has to appear as a witness in court, and there the prosecution can use the FIR for corroboration. If the court finds the delay to be undue, and not reasonably explained, the evidentiary value of the informant’s testimony gets reduced. Nevertheless, if there are other cogent evidence regarding the incident, then it can lead to an ultimate conviction. But, if the testimony of the witness was pivotal evidence, and it becomes weak due to delay, then the accused in such cases can be given the benefit of doubt and ultimately acquitted.

    So, all of this depends on the fact that whether the delay caused in the lodging of FIR has been well explained by the informant. It is a question of fact and depends on the facts of the case, as there can’t be a set formula for this. If there is a delay in lodging of FIR and there is no explanation given, then the court will normally be suspicious about the role of the informant. There will be a suspicion regarding the testimony of that informant in the court, and the corroborative value of the FIR under Section 157 will get adversely affected. However, this per se will not result in a defeat of the merits of the case; if other pieces of evidence are sufficient enough then the court can still convict the accused based on the other shreds of evidence. However, if it is found that the testimony of the said informant was the main evidence, i.e., pivotal evidence then the court may give the benefit of the doubt to the accused. If the court finds that due to the delay there is a suspicion regarding the testimony of the said witness, then the court can give the benefit of the doubt to the said accused.

    This delay in FIR however is not viewed similarly in all the cases. In rape cases, the delay is usually seen as a natural delay on the part of the victim, and it does not affect the evidentiary value of FIR. In-State of Punjab vs. Gurmit Singh & Ors. [5] delivered by Justice A.S. Anand  it was held that in rape cases the delay is self-explained because of apprehension of social stigma, social wrath, a threat by the accused, etc. Such delay in rape cases is natural and would not reduce the merits of the case. On a similar line of reasoning is the incest abuse cases, i.e., sexual abuse within the family. Here also, it is considered as a natural delay in filing the FIR, as there may be several considerations for the victim. The element of fear, the psychological hitch in informing the police, the fear of being thrown out of the family, etc. to name some of that. Hence, here also delay is self-explanatory. Moreover, delay in lodging will not affect the merits of the case as a whole, if the rest of the evidence are strong enough.

    References

    [1] Kapoor Singh Rana v. State of Delhi, 126 (2006) DLT 367.

    [2] Dudh Nath Pandey v. The State of U.P., 1981 SCR (2) 771.

    [3] Aghnoo Nagesia Case,  AIR 1966 SC 119. 

    [4] Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. and Ors., AIR 2014 SC 187.

    [5] State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh & Ors., 1996 SCC (2) 384.

    Abhishek Kumar | National Law University, Delhi

    One thought on “Evidentiary value of FIR

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