Recently, I wrote an article Beginning of the end of the non-registration of FIRs. In hindsight, the title of that article was appropriately chosen to take care of unpredictable future eventualities. And, here comes that unpredictable (or, should I call it “predictable”?) change. Back to square one. We are back in the world of burking of crimes. Police officers can heave a sigh of relief. The relevant part of Section 166A in IPC, that provided that non-registration of an FIR (under Section 154 of Cr.P.C.) would itself be an offence punishable under Section 166A of the IPC, has now been modified. This specific provision proved to be a very short-lived one. It is pertinent to mention that Section 166A was introduced for the first time recently in IPC through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, that was promulgated by the President of India in the first week of February, 2013. However, Section 166A that has been passed by the Parliament in March, 2013, through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, is in a modified form which curtails the scope of Section 166A of IPC drastically. The new provision makes non-registration of FIRs punishable under Section 166A only when such FIR relates to certain offences against women (such as rape, molestation, etc.). Such non-registration of FIRs is now NOT an offence under Section 166A of IPC if the FIR that was not registered relates to other offences (i.e., offences, in general, excluding the specified offences against women).
As I mentioned in my previous article, vide Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (download from here) a new Section 166A was inserted in the Indian Penal Code, clause (c) of which laid down as under:
“166A. Whoever, being a public servant,––… …… …(c) fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and in particular in relation to cognizable offence punishable under section 354, section 354A, section 354B, section 354C, sub-section (2) of section 354D, section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D or section 376E,shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.”.
Thus, non-registration of FIRs for all types of offences was made punishable under Section 166A of the said Ordinance (please read my previous article for more details).
Now, Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 (download from here) has been passed by both Houses of Parliament [by Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013, and by Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013], and it is likely to receive assent of the President of India shortly and will become a law to be called Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, that will take place of the aforesaid Ordinance which in any case is now about to expire.
Section 166A in this Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, has been passed in a form different from what was contained in the aforesaid Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013. The modified clause (c) of Section 166A now reads as under:
“166A. Whoever, being a public servant,––… …… …(c) fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to cognizable offence punishable under section 326A, section 326B, section 354, section 354B, section 370, section 370A, section 376, section 376A, section 376B section 376C, section 376D, section 376E or section 509,shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.”.
So, previously the relevant part of this provision was “…fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and in particular in relation to cognizable offence punishable under section 354,…”.
In the new provision, the words “and in particular” have been deleted from clause (c) of Section 166A of IPC. And, it makes a big difference!!! So, now, non-registration of FIR will be punishable under Section 166A of IPC ONLY IF it is in relation to certain offences against women such as Section 354, etc. On the other hand, the previous version of Section 166A of IPC (as in the said Ordinance) had made non-registration of FIR punishable in respect of any type of offence.
Since there is no “Statement of Objects and Reasons” annexed to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, that came to be passed by the two Houses of the Parliament, I am not in a position to make out as to why this important modification came about. Nonetheless, the fact remains that non-registration of FIRs (in general for any type of offence) will not be an offence now, though non-registration of the specified offences against women will continue to be an offence under Section 166A of IPC.
Since I had chosen the title of my previous article as “Beginning of the end of the non-registration of FIRs”, it is now clear that this “beginning” was a very short-lived one. Only for about two months.
Certain things do not change. Even if the change is introduced by an outside agency, there is resistance to change. Police in India has lost an opportunity to come clean. I call it an “opportunity”, since it was a blessing in disguise. Left to police itself, due to pressure to keep “crime under control” (even though not in reality but only in statistics), there is little incentive to freely register FIRs. The State Governments (and the ruling parties) also have vested interests to keep the crime charts in “control”. The fear of registration of an offence under Section 166A of IPC against the SHO or the officer-in-charge of the Police Station in case of non-registration of an FIR would have acted as the proverbial “force” within the meaning of Newton’s first law of motion (“an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it; and, an object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it”) to change this ‘static” mindset of police. This could have been an opportunity to freely register the FIRs and remove a major irritant in the way of a better police image in the eyes of the common man and woman. However, this was not to be. The mindset will continue to be “static” as usual. In any case, the change, in the absence of an “external force” will come about very slowly, may be perhaps only due to a feeble “external force” of public opinion since the strong “external force” of a statute is no more applicable now.
So, we are back to square one in the matter of burking of crime and registration of FIRs by police. Wish you good luck (you’ll surely need it) if you are planning to file an FIR in a police station.