Recent legislative changes with the enactment of the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), 2023, aimed at replacing the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, introduce significant reforms, including the concepts of Zero FIR, E-FIR, and preliminary inquiry. These new provisions have sparked discussions and analyses among legal experts and citizens alike due to their potential impact on law enforcement and victim assistance.

Zero FIR:

The concept of Zero FIR allows the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) in any police station, irrespective of the territorial jurisdiction, upon receiving information about a cognizable offense. This enables swift action in cases where an offense occurs, allowing immediate reporting to any police station, which is then obliged to transfer relevant documents to the appropriate jurisdiction for investigation.

The provision of Zero FIR under Section 173 of the BNSS mandates the recording of information related to a cognizable offense, orally or through electronic communication, and its subsequent transfer to the relevant jurisdiction. This statutory inclusion ensures victims’ rights to prompt FIR registration, irrespective of territorial boundaries, aiding law enforcement in swift actions.

This provision aligns with previous government advisories and judicial directives emphasizing the necessity of Zero FIR registration for various offenses, showcasing its precedence and criticality in the Indian criminal law system.

E-FIR:

The BNSS also introduces provisions for Electronic FIR (E-FIR), allowing FIR registration through electronic means. This provision serves as a significant relief for victims, especially women, by expediting the registration process and preventing them from reliving traumatic experiences while reporting crimes.

While this development is a positive step towards timely and sensitive case registration, it raises concerns about unregulated online FIR registrations. The Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended that such registrations be allowed through specified modes regulated by the State to avoid logistical challenges and the proliferation of unmanageable FIRs.

However, the BNSS, as passed and assented, lacks the inclusion of this recommendation, leaving a potential need for future amendments to specify modes and regulate electronic FIR registrations.

Preliminary Enquiry:

Furthermore, Section 173(3) of BNSS recognizes the need for a preliminary inquiry in cases punishable with three to seven years of imprisonment, with prior authorization from a Deputy Superintendent of Police. This provision allows a preliminary inquiry to establish a prima facie case within fourteen days before commencing a full investigation. However, if a prima facie case already exists, the officer must proceed with the investigation.

This statutory recognition contrasts with the Supreme Court’s Lalita Kumari judgment, which mandated FIR registration upon disclosure of a cognizable offense without scope for preliminary inquiry unless necessary to ascertain the existence of a cognizable offense.

The BNSS raises the threshold for preliminary inquiries, requiring prima facie evidence, which might deviate from Lalita Kumari’s framework, potentially impacting the investigation process.

Conclusion:

These significant changes introduced by the BNSS mark a fundamental shift in criminal law procedures. While initiatives like Zero FIR and E-FIR aim to enhance victim-centric approaches and accelerate justice delivery, the divergence from established judicial principles in preliminary inquiries warrants critical scrutiny.

The Implementation of these provisions and their alignment with existing judicial precedents and principles of justice remain pivotal for the effective and fair administration of criminal law in India.

Leave a Comment

× Need legal help?