Is an accused person entitled, as a matter of right, to get a copy of the FIR (First Information Report) registered against him?
Yes, the accused person is entitled to get a copy of the FIR registered against him on payment of the applicable legal fees. Let me explain it in detail.
The First Information Report (FIR) is registered by the police under the provisions of Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.). Section 154(2) of the Cr.P.C. requires that a copy of the FIR should be given to the informant immediately after its registration; this provision is reproduced below:
“(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub-section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.”
However, we are concerned here with supply of copy of FIR to the accused person, and not the informant.
Where a charge sheet has been filed on completion of investigation by the police, clause (ii) of Section 207 of the Cr.P.C. requires the Magistrate concerned to furnish to the accused a copy of the FIR; this provision is reproduced below:
“207. Supply to the accused of copy of police report and other documents.— In any case where the proceeding has been instituted on a police report, the Magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following:—
(ii) the first information report recorded under Section 154;
Similarly, a combined reading of sub-sections (5) and (7) of Section 173 of the Cr.P.C. shows that, after filing of the charge sheet, the police may also supply copy of the FIR to the accused person along with other papers of the charge sheet.
However, the aforesaid provisions of Section 207 and Section 173 of the Cr.P.C. are attracted only after filing of the charge sheet by the police. Therefore, these provisions require supply of the FIR to the accused only after the filing of the charge sheet. There is no specific provision in the Cr.P.C. requiring supply of the FIR to the accused person before the filing of the charge sheet or immediately after registration of the FIR. But, there are certain judgments of various high courts requiring supply of the FIR to the accused on his request on payment of legal fees, after registration of the same and even before filing of the charge sheet.
To begin with, there are several judgments of the High Courts holding that FIR is a “public document” within the meaning of Section 74 of the Evidence Act. Therefore, as required under the provisions of Section 76 of the Evidence Act, certified copy of the FIR has to be given to the accused person on his request on payment of the applicable legal fees by every public officer (such as the officer in charge of the police station) having the custody of such document. In this regard, decision of the Allahabad High Court in Shyam Lal v. State of U.P., 1998 Crl. L.J. 2879; decision of the Karnataka High Court in Chnnappa Andanappa Siddareddy v. State, 1980 Crl. L.J. 1022; and decision of the Bombay High Court in Mohammed Khalid Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra [Criminal Application No. 709 of 2010 decided on 4 March 2010]; decision of the Delhi High Court in Court on its own motion v. State [WP (Crl.) No. 468/2010 decided on 6 December 2010], may be seen.
Sections 74 and 76 of the Evidence Act are reproduced below for a quick reference:
“74. Public documents.—The following documents are public documents—
(1) documents forming the acts or records of the acts—
(i) of the sovereign authority,
(ii) of official bodies and tribunals, and
(iii) of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, of any part of India or of the Commonwealth, or of a foreign country;
(2) public records kept in any State of private documents.”
“76. Certified copies of public documents.—Every public officer having the custody of a public document, which any person has a right to inspect, shall give that person on demand a copy of it on payment of the legal fees therefor, together with a certificate written at the foot of such copy that it is a true copy of such document or part thereof, as the case may be, and such certificate shall be dated and subscribed by such officer with his name and his official title, and shall be sealed, whenever such officer is authorized by law to make use of a seal; and such copies so certified shall be called certified copies.
Explanation.—Any officer who, by the ordinary course of official duty, is authorized to deliver such copies, shall be deemed to have the custody of such documents within the meaning of this section.”
It may also be pertinent to point out that in the case of Munna Singh v. State of M.P., 1989 Crl. L.J. 580, Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that FIR is not a privileged document under the Evidence Act.
Now, let me come directly to the judgments of various High Courts which hold that the accused person is entitled to get a copy of the FIR.
In the case of Dhanpat Singh v. Emperor, AIR 1917 Patna 625, Patna High Court held as under:
“… It is vitally necessary that an accused person should be granted a copy of the first information at the earliest possible state in order that he may get the benefit of legal advice. To put difficulties in the way of his obtaining such a copy is only creating a temptation in the way of the officers who are in possession of the originals.”
Similarly, Calcutta High Court has, in the case of Panchanan Mondal v. State, 1971 Crl.L.J. 875, held as under:
“The question of prejudice of the accused on account of the denial of the copy of the FIR at the earlier stage therefore assumes greater importance and on a proper consideration thereof, I hold that it is expedient in the interests of justice that a certified copy of the first information report, which is a public document, should be granted to the accused on his payment of the legal fees therefor at any stage even earlier than the stage of S. 173(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. At the later stage of accused will have the right to have a free copy but the same would not take away the right he already has in law to have a certified copy of the first information report on payment of the legal fees.”
In Jayantibhai Lalubhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, 1992 Crl. L.J. 2377, Gujarat High Court held as under:
“6. …whenever FIR is registered against the accused, a copy of it is forwarded to the Court under provisions of the Code. Thus it becomes a public document. Considering (1) of the provisions of Art.21 of the Constitution of India, (2) First Information Report is a public document in view of S.74 of the Evidence Act, (3) Accused gets right as allegations are made against him under provisions of S.76 of the Indian Evidence Act, and (4) FIR is a document to which S.162 of the Code does not apply and is of considerable value as on that basis investigation commenced and that is the first version of the prosecution, as and when application is made by accused for a certified copy of the complaint, the Court to which it is forwarded should give certified copy of the FIR, if the application and legal fees thereof have been tendered for the same in the Court of law…”.
In a recent decision, the Bombay High Court in Mohammed Khalid Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra [Criminal Application No. 709 of 2010 decided on 4 March 2010], held as under:
“The Magistrate to whom a copy of a F.I.R. is sent under section 157 of the Cr. P.C. is required to issue a certified copy thereof to the accused on demand. … The officer in charge of a police station where an F.I.R. is registered, is also required to give a certified copy of the F.I.R. to the accused on demand.”
Recently, the Delhi High Court in the case of Court on its own motion v. State [WP (Crl.) No. 468/2010 decided on 6 December 2010], discussed in detail the issue of providing copy of the FIR to the accused. A division bench of the High Court, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra (his Lordship is at present a Judge of the Supreme Court of India), held not only that copy of FIR must be provided to the accused person on his request within 24 hours, but also that copies of all FIRs should be uploaded on the website of Delhi Police in all cases except in some sensitive cases. The relevant directions issued by Delhi High Court in this case are reproduced as under:
“(A) 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 Cr.P.C.
(B) 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 First Information Report 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.
(C) Once the First Information Report 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 Cr.P.C.
(D) The copies of the FIR, unless reasons recorded regard being had to the nature of the offence that the same is sensitive in nature, should be uploaded on the Delhi Police website within twenty-four hours of lodging of the FIR 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.
(E) The decision not to upload the copy of the FIR on the website of Delhi Police shall not be taken by an officer below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police and that too by way of a speaking order. A decision so taken by the Deputy Commissioner of Police shall also be duly communicated to the Area magistrate.
(F) The word ‘sensitive’ apart from the other aspects which may be thought of being sensitive by the competent authority as stated hereinbefore would also include concept of privacy regard being had to the nature of the FIR.
(G) 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 with the Commissioner of Police who shall constitute a committee of three high officers and the committee shall deal with the said grievance within three days from the date of receipt of the representation and communicate it to the grieved person.
(H) The Commissioner of Police shall constitute the committee within eight weeks from today.
(I) 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.
(J) The directions for uploading the FIR on the website of the Delhi Police shall be given effect from 1st February, 2011.”
It is germane to point out that following the aforesaid directions given by Delhi High Court, copies of the FIRs registered by Delhi Police are now uploaded on its website, which can be seen by clicking here.
Likewise, recently, the Orissa High Court has also held that the accused is entitled to get a copy of the FIR from the police station on payment of the legal fees (see here).
Thus, while no decision of the Supreme Court is available on this issue, as mentioned above, there are several judgments of various High Courts which clearly lay down that the copy of the FIR shall be given to the accused person, on his request, on payment of the legal fees. This has to be done even if the charge sheet has not been filed, i.e., the copy of the FIR can be provided to the accused immediately after the registration of FIR. This is in consonance of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.