The Supreme Court has made it mandatory for the police to register a First Information Report (FIR) when they receive a complaint about a serious offence. The in-charge of the police station concerned will not have any discretionary power in this regard. The matter has been settled once and for all by a five-member bench, which upheld the ruling given earlier by a two-member bench. The power to register FIRs has been a contentious issue for a long time. It was an irony that while the citizen had the duty entrusted upon him by the Constitution to complain about offences—minor or major—the police had the power to reject such complaints outright.
The court order defines as serious offence any charge that invites an imprisonment of two years or more. Of course, the police have the power not to go ahead with the FIR if they find on investigation that the charge contained in it is patently false or baseless. It is common knowledge that the police refuse to register an FIR or delay registering it, if the complainant is a poor person, particularly when the person against whom the complaint is made is a local worthy or a person of influence. Instances of police officers asking for illegal gratification to register FIRs are quite common, making a mockery of criminal investigation.
Some police officers show reluctance to register FIRs only because they think that it will show their police station in a poor light. In fact, the number of FIRs registered should not be seen as an index of crime in a particular area. Rather, it should be viewed as a welcome sign. A police station should be judged by the percentage of cases registered that end in conviction and punishment of the accused. Now that registering FIRs has been made mandatory, police stations need to be given more staff to do policing work. At present, precious police time is wasted on providing security to the so-called VIPs. In other words, the challenge the apex court order poses can be met by rearranging the priorities of the police.