Quashing of FIR: Legal angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Introduction

A First Information Report (hereinafter referred to as ‘FIR’) was registered against a Haryana Congress leader, Pankaj Punia, for allegedly ‘hurting religious sentiments’ through a Social Media Post on Twitter. The FIR was registered at Madhuban Police Station in Karnal, Haryana, and several similar complaints were also filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The complaint was filed u/s 153, 295-A, 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as ‘IPC’) along with section 67 of the IT, for Puniya’s tweet on May 19, 2020. The post targeted the UP’s Aditya Yoginath government and also referred to the Sangh parivaar. The writ petition of the congress leader to get the FIR quashed was dismissed by the Supreme Court by a three-judge bench. The Hon’ble court observed that Punia’s plea for quashing of the FIR against him cannot be entertained under Art. 32 of the Constitution of India. However, the petitioner was granted liberty to approach the appropriate forum or the High Court.

Legal provisions regarding FIR

Although the term ‘FIR’ is not explicitly used in the Criminal Procedure Code (hereinafter referred to as ‘CrPc’), however, any information provided u/s 154(1) is commonly known as FIR. Basically, it is the earliest information of a cognizable offence recorded by an officer-in-charge of a police station. The underlying vision for this provision of documentation of this information is to set the criminal law in motion. The information must be bona fide.

The following are eligible to file an FIR:

  1. An aggrieved person or someone on his/her behalf.
  2. Any person aware of an offence through an eye-witness or hearsay.
  3. The accused himself/herself
  4. An SHO on knowledge or information through detailed statement from an aggrieved or injured person.

An FIR should be filed in the police station in the jurisdiction where the offence took place. Witnesses if any could also be informed about.

When can a FIR be quashed?

In simple terms, the quashing of an FIR means ceasing or abating the criminal proceedings which have been set in motion. Usually, it is possible to quash an FIR before the charge-sheet is filed, after that this practice generally discouraged by the Courts. But as per the wide scope provided in Sec. 482 of CrPc, a FIR can be quashed at any stage of the criminal proceedings.

Legal provisions regarding it

Section 482 of CrPC, which talks about the power of courts to quash criminal proceedings, reads as follows:

 “Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice”.

This section empowers the High Court with vide discretionary powers and its use has been debated since long. It should be made sure that these wide powers are exercised with great care and caution. This power is generally used in cases such as dowry etc. but as this tool can also be used to pressurize or extort someone, due care should be exercised in these matters. The purpose of this section is to prevent injustices and secure the ends of justice. The court can use this power to quash the FIR at any stage.  

Landmark judgements

In the case of Lalita Kumari vs. Govt. of Uttar Pradesh [(2004) 2 SCC 1], it was laid down that FIR is an important and irreplaceable document to set the criminal law in motion with an aim to book the guilty and get justice, from the view point of an informant, this cannot be denied to the informant and the police officer is bound to register an FIR when approached. If the police officer denies, a complaint can be made to a superior officer and even the court and an action will lie against him/her.

As regards to the use of Section 482, the High Court has a wide ambit which should be exercised only for meeting the ends of justice and for preventing an abuse of power by any court. This was laid down in the case of Prashant Bharti v. State of NCT of Delhi [(2013) 9 SCC 293].

Furthermore, in 2017, the Hon’be Apex Court elucidated some important points to be considered while exercising the power u/s 482 for quashing a FIR. This was done in the landmark judgment in Parbatbhai Aahir & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 1723 of 2017). A full bench of the Apex Court laid down certain principles regarding this, in an appeal against a decision of the Gujarat High Court. Firstly, it was observed that section 482 does not confer new powers, it only recognizes the powers already inherent. An important observation which was made was that an FIR can be quashed even in the case of a non-compoundable offence. It was laid down that while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must give due regard to the gravity of the offence and degree of harm caused.

Moreover, it has been observed that heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed.  

Conclusion

It is very true that there are instances where the power of filing the FIR is misused by the informants and can create trouble for innocent people. Which is why, the right of getting an FIR quashed is necessary and comes under the scope of the wide discretionary powers which are inherent in High Courts. However, to make sure that these wide powers are applied aptly, certain precedents and laid down principles as discussed above must be followed and applied with great care and caution. However, not allowing the power to quash the FIR in cases such as murder and rape is also necessary as these offences have a considerable and serious effect upon the society at large and due investigation becomes necessary.

Author: Aakash Batra from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

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