Free FIR – Part 2: How can free FIR be implemented?

A pilot can be held under an independent social audit by local citizens. Even in the worst case scenario, technology exists to have an “any media anyone anytime free FIR” and let the police put their decision as Second Information Report or Agreed Action Report or by any other name. We can have all-India hotlines for Kaun Banega Crorepati, but not for crime registration?

Time is ripe now to unleash an equivalent of RTI (Right to Information) in policing; to free up FIR registration as a right. It can be done. The police should have no discretion to refuse FIR registration. What stops the police from opening up lodging of a FIR over SMS, registered email accounts, Facebook, twitter or phone call, apart from a visit to the police station? We have adequate authentication mechanisms to rule out fake mail accounts. We have banking, filing tax returns, eSeva and eGovernance initiatives all running well already on multiple media. If budget be a constraint, charge transaction costs to the victim in case of a fake FIR, but record it as a FIR, record investigation report and close it as fake and get charges applied and collected. If the process efficiency be a constraint, establish a call centre to record FIRs over emails, calls, SMS and social media, ensure authentication, filter complaints on priority and perform as per SLAs. If police cannot do it, let third parties handle it like PSKs (Passport Seva Kendras) handling the issue of passports.


One recalls the days when even to pay cheques, one had to bribe and queue up the whole day because else, electricity/water would be disconnected. Today, eGovernance has meant online, credit card, advance deposit, cheque drop box—a full range of options exist. It can be done similarly for FIR registration too once we remove our blinkers.


If a FIR is wrongly filed in a police station due to incorrect jurisdiction, it can be transferred as a routine procedure by call centre staff trained for this purpose. Rate and prevention of such mis-classifications can be also studied only when compulsorily recorded.


A pilot can be held under an independent social audit by local citizens. Even in the worst case scenario, technology exists to have an “any media anyone anytime free FIR” and let the police put their decision as Second Information Report or Agreed Action Report or by any other name. We can have all India hotlines for Kaun Banega Crorepati, but not for crime registration? One can, even in such revised system too, at least track what percentage of complaints got converted to genuine actionable reports and cognizable offences. The whole system settles down pretty soon as people realize odds of filing a wrong report. In fact, a recorded FIR helps make people as accountable as the police simply because a record exists.


What stops us from implementing this process?


Beneficiaries of status quo wield power generated from opaqueness and anti-people design of the current discretionary FIR registration system. These include politicians and the elite powerful who can cover up their crimes with current system, police that misuse discretionary powers and criminals who can exploit such system. Their opposition is understood but cannot be accepted.


Argument of the budget does not hold as the system can be self-sustaining like RTI. Fees can be refundable or nominal Rs10 or so as transaction cost. In fact, current help-lines can be made toll-free with mandatory FIR registration service centres having access and ability to redirect FIRs to the appropriate police station in the country.


One may say that there will be chaos with part information, frivolous complaints, over-burdening of the police, increase in clerical work, etc, but quite obviously benefits from free FIR registration outweigh any such perceptions. Even at its very basic, the FIR in letter and spirit is designed to be the first prompt uncontrolled sharing of information with the police. All actions of the polity and process must be to remove hindrances from such sharing of info. We seek right to get information in RTI and out here we seek Right to give information.


It is also a requirement to have a multi-channel unified customer service system to integrate FIRs registered from all sources of the media. The technology exists. We run the state-of-the-art GPS linked 108 ambulance service, controlled through a dedicated call centre, in many states that are much more complex technically.


Unfortunately, suggestions that get accepted for implementation often are those that generate huge contracts or concentrate more power with powers-that-be. For something as simple as RTI, anti-corruption law or FIR registration, history shows that we need the people’s movement. And such movement is akin to asking the government to release the CBI. It may be against principles of natural justice to have the state-control investigating agency even when it is investigating crimes by the state itself, but it is more about power than being about justice. Likewise releasing the police to be accountable to people by way of transparent metrics and measures through 100% compliant FIR registration will meet with resistance under other baseless arguments.


But like RTI, this can be done if people power gets it on their agenda. Get parties to commit it for 2014 elections.


Sandeep Khurana earlier wrote Allow registration of FIR as a matter of right.


(Sandeep Khurana is an independent consultant and researcher. Views expressed here are personal. He can be reached at his twitter Id @IQnEQ.)

Krishnaraj Venkataraman
1 decade ago
I agree with Mr Khurana. Please tell me how I can help?

My id is [email protected]
Vaibhav Dhoka
1 decade ago
FIR registration is police officials choice and not citizens right.In Pune when public member who lost his mobile went to lodge FIR he is asked to file affidavit(Costing around 300Rs)and payment to police.This one has to do when one looses his mobile,ti prevent MISUSE.This is state of affair.
Dr V S Prasana Rajan
1 decade ago
Mandatory registration of FIR is a right implicit within article.21 of the constitution of india, which deals with life and liberty of a person.
The implicit right embedded within the constitution, read with the decision of the apex court in sakirivasu vs state of UP in 2007, places the mandate on the police to register FIR immediately on receipt of an information of cognizable offence.
Replied to Dr V S Prasana Rajan comment 1 decade ago
Easier said than done.

I am sure there are millions of Indians who have suffered helplessly at the hands of others - mainly because of the utter callousness with which the Indian police refuse to register an FIR.

Personally, we were victimized by our landlords (who own a newspaper and TV channel in Hyderabad) who made a huge song and dance about compensating them for repairs which were necessitated by faulty design and construction.

We were shifting to Chennai - and in our absence, they blocked the packers and movers & locked up the house before our household items could be removed; worth more than Rs 1 Lakh like a motorized treadmill, Aquaguard and other items which included my beloved plants.

The police totally refused to register an FIR in spite of the evidence!!! We were unable to get any justice whatsoever.
Dr V S Prasana Rajan
Replied to Lalita comment 1 decade ago
As my own personal experience with regard to the non-registration of FIR, I filed an application under 156(3) CrPC to the magistrate for directions to the police to register FIR. Then I filed RTI application to the magistrate court to provide the orders. After not getting response, I filed first appeal to the appellate authority ( Registrar General of High Court ) and the registrar general directed to provide information on the orders of the magistrate under 156(3) CrPC. Hence, in case of non registration of FIR a complaint under 156(3) or 200 CrPC before the magistrate court coupled with RTI will address the problem currently faced by people.
Krishnaraj Venkataraman
Replied to Dr V S Prasana Rajan comment 1 decade ago
Dr Prasana Rajan - this is very useful information. Thanks a ton.
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