Registration of an FIR (First Information Report) is the first step in the criminal justice system of Pakistan from where the law comes into action regarding the occurrence of an offence.
An FIR is registered under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Cr.P.C.) of Pakistan which under the head “Information in cognizable cases” states that “information regarding the commission of a cognizable offence given to an officer in charge of the station shall be reduced to writing by him. It continues as the written substance of information shall be read to the informant and his signature will be taken on the paper. Then, this substance of information shall be entered in a book kept by the officer.”
In 1993 SCMR 550, the registration of an FIR was declared mandatory for the police officer u/s 154 Cr.P.C. in a cognizable offence”. Then should an accused be immediately arrested after the registration of an FIR? The Supreme Court of Pakistan gives clear directions in its judgment PLD 2007 SC 539 that a suspect is not to be arrested straightaway upon registration of an FIR unless there is sufficient material on the ground after an investigation that prima facie provides evidence against an accused regarding his/her involvement in the matter in hand to the investigating officer.
Number and Content of an FIR
In a ruling, PLD 1975 Lahore 733, the police cannot refuse to register a case on the ground that they consider the version to be false. As for multiple FIRs, the Supreme Court has settled the principle in its judgment under PLD 2018 SC 595 by stating that there is no provision in the law regarding the second FIR. Also, in the same judgment, it is said that all the subsequent and divergent versions of the same occurrence or the persons involved therein are to be received, recorded, and investigated by the investigating officer in the same “case” which is based upon one and only one FIR.
An FIR commences the legal proceedings on the matter reported. It should neither be too detailed nor give minute information. In the Supreme Court’s judgment PLD 1977 SC 529, minute details were neither expected nor necessary in FIR. PLD 1983 SC 393 repeats the same position that FIR is not expected to be a detailed document.
Evidentiary Value and Delays
On the evidentiary value of an FIR, the honorable Supreme Court says in its judgment PLD 2016 SC 17 that the content of an FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence. It is simply a piece of information laid before the law enforcement agency to set the law into motion for the purpose of investigation.
Delays in launching an FIR adversely affect the case of the prosecution and favor the accused. There is a rationale behind this principle that it is a common practice that delays happen when the party ponders about distorting facts and there is a chance that it would manipulate the system in its favor. Thus, any unreasonable delay goes in favor of the accused. In its judgment PLD 2019 SC 64, the Supreme Court states “If there was any delay in lodging of FIR and commencement of investigation, it gave rise to a doubt, which, could not be extended to anyone except to the accused”.
However, if there is a valid reason behind the delay in the registration of an FIR, then it will not adversely affect the case of prosecution. For instance, when an injured person had to be shifted to another hospital or another city. In this case, saving the life of the injured was more important than lodging an FIR.
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