Youth Bar Association of India v. Union of India

In this landmark judgement, the Apex Court laid down a set of guidelines when presented with a writ to direct uploading of FIRs online within 24 hours of their registration. Read the analysis to find out more!
CITATIONAIR 2016 SC 4136
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice Dipak Mishra, Justice M Khanwilkar and Justice Y. Chandrachud
DATE OF JUDGEMENT07.09.2016

Introduction

First Information Report (or FIR) is a report of a crime pertaining to cognizable offence filed with the police to record and initiate the investigation process. This case laid down various important guidelines regarding the same.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: A Writ of Mandamus was filed by the Petitioner before the Supreme Court of India, to direct the Union of India and the States to upload each and every FIR registered in all the police stations within the territory of India on the official website of the police of all States, as early as possible, preferably within 24 hours from the time of registration.

Issues

The main issue in the case was: Whether or not FIR should be published online within 24 hours of registration on the official police websites.

Summary of court decision and judgment

The directions issued by the Court with respect to the FIR were as follows:

  1. An accused is entitled to get a copy of the First Information Report at an earlier stage than as prescribed under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  2. An accused who has reasons to suspect that he has been roped in a criminal case and his name may be finding place in a FIR can submit an application through his representative/agent/parokar for grant of a certified copy before the concerned police officer or to the Superintendent of Police on payment of such fee which is payable for obtaining such a copy from the Court. On such application being made, the copy shall be supplied within twenty-four hours;
  3. Once the FIR is forwarded by the police station to the concerned Magistrate or any Special Judge, on an application being filed for certified copy on behalf of the accused, the same shall be given by the Court concerned within two working days. The aforesaid direction has nothing to do with the statutory mandate inhered under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  4. The copies of the FIRs, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism and of that category, offences under POCSO Act and such other offences, should be uploaded on the police website, and if there is no such website, on the official website of the State Government, within twenty-four hours of the registration of the First Information Report so that the accused or any person connected with the same can download the FIR and file appropriate application before the Court as per law for redressal of his grievances. It may be clarified here that in case there are connectivity problems due to geographical location or there is some other unavoidable difficulty, the time can be extended up to forty-eight hours. The said 48 hours can be extended maximum up to 72 hours and it is only relatable to connectivity problems due to geographical location;
  5. The decision not to upload the copy of the FIR on the website shall not be taken by an officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or any person holding equivalent post. In case, the States where District Magistrate has a role, he may also assume the said authority. A decision taken by the concerned police officer or the District Magistrate shall be duly communicated to the concerned jurisdictional Magistrate;
  6. The word ‘sensitive’ apart from the other aspects which may be thought of being sensitive by the competent authority as stated herein before would also include concept of privacy regard being had to the nature of the FIR. The examples given with regard to the sensitive cases are absolutely illustrative and are not exhaustive;
  7. If an FIR is not uploaded, needless to say, it shall not ensure per se a ground to obtain the benefit under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  8. In case a copy of the FIR is not provided on the ground of sensitive nature of the case, a person grieved by the said action, after disclosing his identity, can submit a representation to the Superintendent of Police or any person holding the equivalent post in the State. The Superintendent of Police shall constitute a committee of three officers which shall deal with the said grievance. The committee so constituted shall deal with the grievance within three days from the date of receipt of the representation and communicate it to the grieved person;
  9. The competent authority referred to hereinabove shall constitute the committee within eight weeks (from the day of judgement);
  10. In cases wherein decisions have been taken not to give copies of the FIR regard being had to the sensitive nature of the case, it will be open to the accused/his authorized representative/parokar to file an application for grant of certified copy before the Court to which the FIR has been sent and the same shall be provided in quite promptitude by the concerned Court not beyond three days of the submission of the application.
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The directions for uploading of F.I.R. in the website of all the States were tobe given effect from 15.11.2016.

Analysis

After registration of the First Information Report if it is uploaded on the official website of police it will solve many unnecessary problems faced by the accused persons and their family members. When the criminal law is set in motion and liberty of an individual is at stake, he should have the information so that he can take necessary steps to protect his liberty. In this context, the judgment rendered in State of West Bengal v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal[1] becomes pertinent to note, wherein it has been observed:

Article 21 of the Constitution in its broad perspective seeks to protect the persons of their lives and personal liberties except according to the procedure established by law. The said Article in its broad application not only takes within its fold enforcement of the rights of an accused but also the rights of the victim. The State has a duty to enforce the human rights of a citizen providing for fair and impartial investigation against any person accused of commission of a cognizable offence, which may include its own officers. In certain situations even a witness to the crime may seek for and shall be granted protection by the State.

In Som Mittal v. Government of Karnataka[2], the Court has ruled thus:

The right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution is a valuable right, and hence should not be lightly interfered with. It was won by the people of Europe and America after tremendous historical struggles and sacrifices. One is reminded of Charles Dickens novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in which Dr. Manette was incarcerated in the Bastille for 18 years on a mere letter de cachet of a French aristocrat, although he was innocent.

Furthermore, in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal[3]  it has been opined that:

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The rights inherent in Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution required to be jealously and scrupulously protected. We cannot wish away the problem. Any form of torture of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would fall within the inhibition of Article 21 of the Constitution, whether it occurs during investigation, interrogation or otherwise. If the functionaries of the Government become law breakers, it is bound to breed contempt for law and would encourage lawlessness and every man would have the tendency to become law unto himself thereby leading to anarchism. No civilized nation can permit that to happen. Does a citizen shed off his fundamental right to life, the moment a policeman arrests him? Can the right to life of a citizen be put in abeyance on his arrest? These questions touch the spinal court of human rights jurisprudence. The answer, indeed, has to be emphatic ‘No’. The precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be denied to convict under trials, detunes and other prisoners in custody, except according to the procedure established by law by placing such reasonable restrictions as are permitted by law.

Conclusion

India being a democratic country, with a constitution which empowers its citizens with a wide variety of fundamental rights and also protects them when infringed, mandates all functionaries to act in its consonance. It must be the duty of every such law enforcement agency to check whether these rights under the constitution and other legislations are protected in its widest possible sense.


[1] (2010) 3 SCC 571.

[2] (2008) 3 SCC 753.

[3] AIR 1997 SC 610.