Online FIR or E- FIR
First Information Report (FIR) is a written documented report that is prepared by the police authorities as a measure to record the first basis information provided about a cognizable offence. In simple terms, a cognizable offence is such offence in which the police have an authority to investigate or file an FIR even without the prior permission from the court. Non-cognizable offences are those in which police needs the permission before carrying out any investigation. The punishment prescribed for cognizable offences is more than three years and any person who is the victim, or representative, or even observed a crime before him, can file an FIR. With the advent of technology and internet, the application of e-governance became prevalent and the option of online FIR or e-FIR was made available.
The Benefits of Online FIR:
- Time saving: e-FIR is a facility that makes it easier for the police authorities and the victim to work together. The sense of embarrassment or fear that is inhibited in the minds of many about lodging a complaint or FIR at a police station, is addressed by online FIR. Apart from this, due to travel related reasons or physical incapability, online FIR is proving to be a great benefit.
- Lesser paperwork: As the world is moving towards the era of technology, online FIR help in saving paperwork as they can be filed digitally and a copy of the same is provided by the means of email.
- Encourages the use of internet in e-governance and related procedures: E-Governance has been promoted in India in the past decade and it aims at the well-functioning of communication channels between citizens and the government and its agencies. Online FIR helps in encouraging this purpose.
- Creation of new jobs: Filling an e-FIR also leads to creation of several new jobs related to information technology and data collection.
Soon after 2012, automation and digitisation of police stations across the country was initiated and emphasised, the use of online FIR for helping the victims was introduced. It should be noted that the present situation of e-FIR is quite varied in India as not all states have a portal for registering an FIR online and basic features or added conditions provided differ to some extent.
The former Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, in 2016, directed the police officials countrywide to upload FIR online after it is filed within 24 hours. This was in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which was filed by the Youth Lawyers Association of India. This was another step enhancing the role of technology in law and justice.
The process of filing e-FIR can differ within India only because the portals that take up the complaints/e-FIR are managed under the state police authorities and hence some authorities provide various other services in some states. Although the basic information that the complainant has to provide are similar, which include the name, contact information, address, the information about the crime that occurred and email ID for a copy of the FIR.
The Technological Reforms in Police Services:
The portals developed under state police authorities are under the policy of information technology development, which is a core objective of this digital era. Several training and workshops are conducted routinely to equip the police officers and forces to be aware about technology and its applications.
On many portals, the police officials share information about crimes and even the legislative acts concerned with them to inform citizens about the offences and their rights related to it. Even newsletters and notices are issued on numerous state police websites for the same cause. The information about several other units of police force and their objectives is also shared to make the work and guidelines transparent. Several state police authorities are also managing to respond to common queries and questions of citizens from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. This helps in strengthening the communication channel between police and the general public.
Although e-FIR and other police services are provided to the common people through the websites and portals, there are separate portals for some services as well. For example, for registering a complaint for a cybercrime, there is the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal, cybercrime.gov.in.
Filing an FIR was a matter of distress before, as in most cases people were afraid to visit a police station and get themselves involved in the supposedly tedious procedure due to several reasons including the fear of embarrassment and fear. While every citizen should be aware about the rights guaranteed and never waver from fulfilling the moral duty of bringing justice to those who need it, the introduction of online FIR has streamlined the process and made it easier for people to access it.
By Anurag Kushwaha