Move towards e-FIR, but with caution
The Law Commission of India proposed a significant recommendation in Report No. 282 regarding the registration of an e-FIR (First Information Report) for certain types of offences, specifically when the accused is known. The process involves using electronic means to file a complaint, mandating a physical signature from the complainant within a stipulated time frame.
GS – 2 (Government Policies & Interventions)
First Information Report (FIR), ZERO FIR, Cognizable Offence & Non-cognizable Offence.
- Law Commission’s E-FIR Recommendation: The Law Commission suggested an electronic FIR filing for cases where the accused is known, primarily for cognisable offences with punishments up to three years under the Indian Penal Code.
- Complainant Verification and Timeframe: The verification process involves mobile number verification through an OTP (One-Time Password) and requires uploading valid ID proof such as Aadhaar. If the information isn’t signed by the complainant within the prescribed time, it will be deleted within two weeks.
Dimensions of the Article:
- E-FIR Demystified
- Benefits and Limitations of E-FIR
- Human Involvement Importance
- E-Authentication and Electronic Signatures
- FIR is a written document prepared by the police when they receive an information about the commission of a cognizable offence.
- It is the first and the most important document to initiate criminal proceedings.
- The term FIR is not defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, or in any other law. But, under police regulations, information recorded under Section 154 of CrPC is known as First Information Report (FIR).
- For filing an e-FIR, the complainant does not have to visit the police station rather they can register their complaint through a mobile app or the police’s online network.
- Once an FIR is filed, designated investigating officers will contact the complainant.
- This initiative is being implemented partially in Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
- The ‘e-FIR’ concept recommended by the Law Commission lacks a complete explanation. The procedure involves the verification of information received from a portal by the police station to determine the presence of a cognizable offence.
- If eligible, the information is entered within three days. In cases with a higher punishment, the traditional method under the Indian Penal Code is followed.
Benefits and Limitations of E-FIR:
- The ‘e-FIR’ offers the benefit of ensuring crime registration and prevents alterations to complaints. However, the process is not a direct electronic FIR registration, requiring a physical signature within three days.
- Investigations preceding the actual FIR registration may not align with the proper spirit of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Human Involvement Importance:
- While most states adopt the e-FIR method in property offences where the accused is unknown, the Law Commission suggests e-FIR for all unknown accused cases.
- Yet, for cases requiring immediate action or involving blind crimes, human interaction and police expertise remain crucial.
E-Authentication and Electronic Signatures:
- The Law Commission’s report doesn’t discuss the utilization of ‘e-authentication technique or digital signatures’ under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- This technique ensures legal authentication of electronic records and can be crucial in replacing traditional paper-based signed complaints.
The introduction of e-authentication techniques as a mandatory step for verification of complainants and immediate registration of an e-FIR could enhance the effectiveness and reliability of the process.