Are you aware of how to file a police complaint? The process involves filing a formal complaint report (FIR) at the police station that has authority over the incident site. While this is standard procedure, what if I told you that the police station does not even have jurisdiction over the location of the incident where the complaint was made? It is possible if you file a Zero FIR.
The idea of Zero FIR, as well as its guidelines, procedures, and pertinent case laws, will all be covered in this article.
The ability to file a Zero FIR is unrestricted by a police station’s jurisdiction; a Zero FIR can be filed there regardless of whether the station covers the incident’s area. When a formal complaint is filed, a number is allocated for future reference and documentation purposes. However, in the case of a zero complaint, the number “zero(0)” is issued to that specific complaint, as the name implies. However, this does not imply that police stations will operate outside of their borders; rather, they must forward complaints that are filed as Zero FIRs to the relevant police station, which will then give a FIR number to the Zero FIR and make it a regular FIR.
The concept of Zero FIR is not as outdated as a regular FIR; rather, it was adopted in India based on the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was established in response to the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case. The committee made several changes to the criminal code to expedite the trial process and strengthen penalties for certain crimes that are punishable by law. This recommendation’s primary goals were to expedite the reporting of cognizable violations, minimise procedural obstacles, and provide prompt redress through prompt action.
HOW TO FILE ZERO FIR
registering a zero FIR is the same procedure as registering a normal FIR. The following illustration helps to clarify the filing process:
Mr. X was riding his bike from Delhi to Ghaziabad. He had a bag with him that contained cash and a few technological gadgets. Just as he was ready to cross the Delhi border, two persons approached him and attempted to stop him under the guise of asking for assistance. When Mr. X stopped the bike, one of them pulled out a knife and tried to injure him. The other then snatched his backpack, and the two fled. The entire incident took place within Delhi’s borders, yet the closest police station was in Ghaziabad.
1. Now, Mr. X, who is upset, goes to the Ghaziabad police station, which does not cover the location of the occurrence.
2. Based on the information provided by the harmed party, the police officer records the complaint because the problem is serious and cognizable.
3. The police officer verifies the information is accurate after drafting the complaint.
4. The written complaint bears the complainant’s signature.
5. This complaint is allocated the number “0” after it has been registered.
6. The concerned police station, which is in charge of the region where the said incident took place, has now received this Zero FIR.
7. Following the transfer, the relevant police station takes any additional actions.
GUIDELINES RELATED TO THE ZERO FIR.
As per the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, section 154, it is imperative to file a complaint on behalf of an individual who has been victimised by a cognizable offence. A police officer is required to register complaints; but, if he refuses, there are alternative channels for registering complaints, such as the Superintendent of Police (SP) or even a Judicial Magistrate. Additionally, following the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendation, section 166A was added to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), making it illegal for a public official to omit to file a complaint or to do so without permission. Violations of this provision carry a maximum two-year jail sentence as well as a fine. Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs released an advice. which emphasises the need for all crimes, regardless of geographical jurisdiction, to have their First Information Report (FIR) registered. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India’s constitution bench held in the Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. [W.P (Crl)No. 68/2008] case that, in addition to statutory guidelines, “Registration of FIR is a mandatory procedure if the incident is cognizable and does not require a preliminary investigation.” The Hon’ble court also issued some guidelines pertaining to this, one of which being “The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if the cognizable offence is disclosed.” Erroneous police who fail to file a formal complaint (FIR) after receiving information on a criminal act must face consequences. Consequently, it is required of a police officer to register a Zero FIR if a cognizable offence is disclosed.
The question before the honourable supreme court inDelhiinder Kaur v. State (Govt. Of N.C.T. Delhi): 1999 (8) SCC 728 was whether it is a legitimate reason to suppress a police report if the police lack territorial authority over the subject, even if it is a cognizable one. In summary, the case involves a Delhi woman who married a Patiala guy, and after two years of marriage, she was ejected from her Patiala marital residence. After filing a FIR in Patiala, she returned to Delhi. After receiving threatening calls from his husband in Patiala asking her to drop her allegations, she filed a formal report in Delhi about the abuse, torture, and harassment she had experienced there. Delhi Police acted over it and arrested his husband from Patiala.
The Supreme Court ruled that if police get information of a crime that qualifies as a crime, they must act on it without regard to whether they have geographical jurisdiction over the place in question. This is not a good reason to dismiss a formal complaint. Here, it is evident that the Police have the authority to conduct investigations under a Zero FIR. These investigations are safeguarded and cannot be contested only on the grounds that no territorial jurisdiction existed.
Once more in 2019, the Delhi High Court ruled in Kirti Vashisht Vs. State & Ors. Crl.M.C. 5933/2019 & Crl.M.A.40833/2019 that if the offence is of a cognizable nature, it is mandatory to register a Zero FIR. The Zero FIR must be filed at the location where the offence is discovered and must subsequently be forwarded to the relevant police station.
“It is to be noted that the duty to register FIR, when information is received about a cognizable offence falling under Chapter IV of the Act, it is clear from the very inception that a Police Officer has no jurisdiction to investigate the offence,” the Hon’ble Supreme Court stated in paragraph 71 of Union of India Versus Ashok Kumar Sharma and Others  4 MLJ (CRL) 243, reaffirming its position on the registration of zero FIR. This does not pertain to a lack of geographical jurisdiction. Without a doubt, the law stipulates that there is a duty to investigate if another police officer is granted the authority to do so under the provisions of the CrPC. register an FIR and then make it over to the Police Station which has jurisdiction.”
The Hon. SC even declared in State of Andhra Pradesh v. Punati Ramulu and Others AIR 1993 SC 2644 that “it is nothing but an act of shame of duty on the part of such officer if a police officer refuses to lodge a FIR just because it is outside the territorial jurisdiction.”
The idea of a Zero FIR is crucial for ensuring prompt resolution because it saves the informant time by eliminating the need to locate a police station. The reasoning behind the Zero FIR is that reporting an offence should be done without regard to territorial jurisdiction because it is the first step in any process that is started to guarantee that justice is served. Additionally, Zero FIR offers an opportunity to those who are unable to report a crime within their local bounds due to powerful individuals in the region or a lack of police readiness to file a complaint.
The Zero FIR policy is highly recommended and has shown to be practical for promptly filing complaints without worrying about losing evidence.
Adv. Khanak Sharma