Dr Ingudam Yaipharemba
The metaphor of a successful investigation of a criminal act depends on how the crime is acknowledged, reported and minutely examined. With ever increasing criminal activities against women and juvenile in Manipur of various magnitude and nature, proper investigation stands a vital step toward delivering justice to the survivor and the victim. The policing of law enforcement agencies must put equal emphasis on documentation of the reported crime and investigation to resolve the criminal act. The newly elected Manipur Government indeed takes strong steps to address crimes against women in the form of introducing a 181 women’s helpline and a Cyber Crime Police Station to check IT related illicit activities that will boost to keep a tap on any criminal acts targeting female and others digitally. In addition to all the precautionary measures taken up, the concept of Zero FIR must also be made aware to the common public irrespective of genders.
Police play an important role towards investigating and proper handling of the crime before submitting the findings to the judiciary for due punishment. It is a familiar knowledge that after any criminal incident, an individual can lodge a First Information Report (FIR) to the nearest police station. An FIR is lodged by the police after checking the reliability of the complainant, and victim’s motives in the manner provided under Section 154 of the CrPC. The FIR is the lead thread to conduct an official investigation and many approach with the believed that their grievances will be heard at the police station. However, due to cross jurisdictional issues and domicile police station problem, many individuals spend precious time initially locating and identifying the concern police station even to report the matter. This is the very sorry state of registering and vivid documentation of any criminal activities.
After much consideration, to avoid running door to door and further victimisation & harassment of the survivor for registering FIR, a revolutionary concept called Zero FIR was introduced. According to Indian law, a Zero FIR is one which can be registered on the basis of a woman’s complain at any police station, irrespective of jurisdiction. This means women can file an FIR at any police station and the complaint is required to be registered on the basis of the woman’s complaint verbatim. This action is a huge improvement in fighting any untoward crime toward women and children, but sadly many of us are unaware of such a powerful weapon.
The central idea of a Zero FIR is to initiate the investigation or urge the police to take the prompt action. Once a Zero FIR has been lodged, it must be ensured that the complaint doesn’t transfer to the appropriate police station in the victim/survivor’s jurisdiction without any initial investigation. Crimes like murder, rape require immediate action from the concerned police authorities so that they take eye witness’s records and circumstantial forensic evidences. Zero FIR allows the authorities to note down the initial action taken rather than trying to figure out what had happened at the crime scene initially. Even if the victim/ survivor is no longer in the place of the incident and may not know the right jurisdictional police station to approach, the Station House Officer (SHO) of a police station is under legal obligation to lodge FIR. A Zero FIR can be transferred to the concerned police station later.
The police cannot refuse to register an FIR on the ground that the offence was not committed within their jurisdiction. The concept of Zero FIR is a free jurisdiction FIR, devised to avoid the delay in registering the crime and to avoid wastage of time that negatively impacts the victim/survivor and gives the culprits to escape easily from the law and roam freely while the victim further suffered from victimization.
The Supreme Court repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction in various judgments over the failure of police to register FIRs, particularly in rape cases. Policemen generally refuse knowing about provisions of Zero FIR and direct the complainant to Police Station having jurisdiction, but Clause (e) of Section 460 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) says that if any Magistrate not empowered by laws to call for cognizance of an offence positioned in section 190 (a) or (b) erroneously but in good faith does take cognizance, the proceeding minutes will not be set aside merely on the grounds of not being empowered for same. If at the time of filing FIR, it looks evident that the crime was committed outside the jurisdiction of the concerned police station, then the police must be appropriately ordered to register a Zero FIR, and ensure that the FIR is transferred to the jurisdictional police station. If there is a failure in complying with the instruction of FIR registration on acknowledgement of information about the offence, it will invite prosecution of the police officer under Section 166A which provides a rigorous imprisonment of six months extendable up to two years. The avoidance of responsibility may very well attract departmental action for the police officer too and put his career at risk.
The provision of Zero FIR came up as recommendation in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Amended Section 154 CrPC authorised that, if a woman victim of an acid attack, assaulted with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, disrobing, voyeurism, stalking, rape, or so called eve-teasing reports such offence, the FIR has to be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer. Again, if a victim of any of the above mentioned offences (except acid attacks) is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the FIR has to be recorded at her residence or a place of her choice, in the presence of an interpreter or special educator. The recording has to be video-graphed.
Statistically in India, for every 1.7 minutes a crime is committed against women and rape is committed within every 16 minutes and domestic violence done in every 4.4 minutes against every girl/women. Zero FIR is introduced as a right to women, which she can exercise as required to shield and safeguard themselves. In cases of any heinous crime done against in any place or at any moment, Zero FIR acts as a remedy in the hands of the women of our society.
And in Manipur, 266 cases were reported and 20.8 percent rate of crime committed against women during 2015. The reported case includes 46 rape cases (Section 376 IPC), 94 cases of kidnapping & abduction of women (Section 363, 364, 364 A, 366 IPC), 84 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (Section 354 IPC) and 42 cases of victims of rape (also incest rape cases) under different age-groups of below 6 to 60 and many more. The statistics are filtered from the “Crime in India 2015” published by the National Crime Records Bureau annually and the figures may be even higher in 2016-17.
onsidering the number of case, the nature and tendency of the crime against women in a small state like Manipur; it is reasonably alarming and dangerous. The situation is a red flag waving with danger written all over it. To help further victimization of victims/survivor and reduce precious time in registering for a crime against women, besides introducing women helpline and cyber crime units, the lodging procedure and knowhow of the Zero FIR must be made understandable and aware through community policing and legal aid clinics. Manipur show sudden spurs increased of women related crimes in recent months, which is a negative aspect of our society. In the process of development and day to day hustle, individuals and governmental machineries should also not fail to safeguard the vulnerable from heinous crimes.
Source: The Sangai Express