Punjab Police to Upload FIR copy online

IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH

CWP No.21898 of 2012
Date of decision:16.05.2013

Ajay Jagga …Petitioner
Vs.
The State of Punjab and others …Respondents

CORAM: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Jasbir Singh, Acting Chief Justice
Hon’ble Mr. Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain

Present: Mr. Alok Jagga, Advocate, for the petitioner.
Mr. P.S.Bajwa, Addl. A.G., Punjab.
Mr. Kulvir Narwal, Addl. A.G., Haryana.
Ms. Ashima Mor, Advocate, for respondent No.3.

The petitioner is a practicing advocate who has brought the present Public Interest Litigation to seek directions against the respondents to upload copy of the FIR on the official website of the respondents immediately after it is registered and provide a copy of the FIR to the named accused immediately on an application moved to the concerned Police Station or the concerned Trial Court, as the case may be. In order to strengthen his prayer, reliance has been placed upon Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India, which reads as under:-

“21. Protection of life and personal liberty:- No person
shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except
according to procedure established by law.”

“22. Protection against arrest and detention in certain
cases:- (1) No person who is arrested shall be detained in
custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the
grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to
consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his
choice.

(2) Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.

(3) Nothing in clauses (1) and (2) shall apply—
(a) to any person who for the time being is an enemy alien; or
(b) to any person who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention.

(4) No law providing for preventive detention shall authorize the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless—
(a) an Advisory Board consisting of persons who are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as, Judges of a High Court has reported before the expiration of the said period of three meonths that there is in its opinion sufficient cause for such detention: Provided that nothing in this clause shall authorize the detention of any person beyond the maximum period prescribed by any law made by Parliament under sub-clause
(a) of clause (7); or
(b) such person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by Parliament under sub-clauses (a) and (b) of clause (7).

(5) When any person is detained in pursuance of an order made under any law providing for preventive detention, the authority making the order shall, as soon as may be, communicate to such person the grounds on which the order has been made and shall afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order.

(6) Nothing in clause (5) shall require the authority making any such order as is referred to in that clause to disclose facts which such authority considers to be against the public interest to disclose.

(7) Parliament may by law prescribe—
(a) the circumstances under which, and the class or classes of cases in which, a person may be detained for a period longer than three months under any law providing for preventive detention without obtaining the opinion of an Advisory Board in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause (a) of clause (4);
(b) the maximum period for which any person may in any class or classes of cases be detained under any law providing for preventive detention; and
(c) the procedure to be followed by an Advisory Board in an inquiry under sub-clause (a) of clause (4).”

He further submitted that the FIR is registered in terms of Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 [hereinafter referred to as the “Cr.P.C.”] but the copy thereof is given in terms of Section 207 of Cr.P.C., which stage came at a very belated point. He further submitted that copy of the FIR is a public document in terms of Sections 74 and 76 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and has further relied upon a Division Bench judgment of the Delhi High Court in the case of Court on its Own Motion through Mr. Ajay Chaudhary v. State, W.P. (Crl.) No.468/2010, decided on 06.12.2010, and a Division Bench judgment of the Orissa High Court in the case of Arun Kumar Budhia v. State of Orissa and another, W.P. (Crl.) No.1096 of 2011, decided on 05.10.2012, in which certain directions have been given.

After notice, reply has been filed only by respondent No.2, whereas counsel for respondent No.3 has informed the Court that a decision has been taken by the Chandigarh Administration to upload copy of the FIR on the official website of the Chandigarh Police with certain exceptions.

We have heard learned counsel for the parties and have perused the record.

It is a matter of common knowledge that when the country became independent after a prolonged subjugation, a decision was taken to provide certain fundamental rights to the citizens so that they may not feel subjugated and oppressed. Out of these fundamental rights, which are made available to every citizen of this country, right of protection to life and personal liberty was one of them which could not be taken away by anyone except in accordance with the procedure established by the law. Certain protections were also granted against arrest and detention in Article 22 of the Constitution of India.

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It may be pertinent to mention here that issue which has been raked up by the petitioner in this case has earlier been dealt with by the Delhi High Court in W.P. (Crl.) No.468/2010 and after a detailed discussion on various aspects, the provisions of law and the precedents, the following directions have been issued:-

“(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.”

Almost similar directions were issued by the Orissa High Court in W.P. (Crl.) No.1096 of 2011 concurring the view expressed by the Delhi High Court. However, it is submitted in the reply filed by respondent No.2 that in case FIR is uploaded on the official website, the persons who have been wrongly named in the FIR shall face harassment and defamation. It may create problem in such cases especially in sensitive cases such like rape and crime against women etc.

Similarly, counsel appearing on behalf of the U.T. Chandigarh has submitted that a decision has been taken to upload copy of the FIR on the official website of Chandigarh Police w.e.f. 01.06.2013 for which a circular has been issued by taking the following steps:-

“(A) The copies of FIR, unless reasons recorded that the
same is sensitive in nature, should be uploaded on
the Chandigarh Police website by the SDPO Office
within twenty four hours of lodging of FIR, so that the
accused or any person concerned with the same can
download the FIR.

(B) The decision not to upload the copy of the FIR on the
website of the Chandigarh Police shall not be taken
by an officer below the rank of the DSP concerned
Sub Division or DSP Specialized Unit and that too by
way of a speaking order.

(C) 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.

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(D) In case a copy of the FIR is not provided on the
ground of sensitive nature of the case, a person
aggrieved by the said action, after disclosing his
identity, can submit a representation to the Inspector
General of Police, U.T. Chandigarh who shall forward
the representation to the committee of three high
officers headed by SSP Chandigarh.

SSP/Operations and, SSP/Traffic & Security will be
the members of the committee. The committee shall
deal with the said grievance and communicate it to
the aggrieved person. SSP Chandigarh shall be
responsible for convening meeting of this committee.
Decision on all such representation shall be taken
within 3 days.

(E) The directions for uploading the FIR on the Website
of the Chandigarh Police shall be effective w.e.f.
01.06.2013.”

The procedure in this regard is also provided, which reads thus:-

“(I) Any person who has reason to believe that his name has figured in (FIR) First Information Report, may submit an application through his representative/agent/Parokar for supply of a certified copy before the concerned police officer in the Police Station or at Public Window Chandigarh Police Hqrs, Sector 9-D (during Office hours on all working day) along with a fee of Rs.25/- (Rupees Twenty five only) in cash upto 4 pages of FIR and Rs.10/- (Rupees Ten only) for every additional page. In police Stations, such payment will be collected by MMHC in cash under a proper receipt. All such payments collected at Public Window and MMHC of Police Stations shall be deposited in Govt receipt head and proper record will be maintained. The application will be submitted in duplicate on the form given at Annexure – `A’ which can be downloaded from the web site of Chandigarh Police i.e. w ww.chandigarhpolice.gov.in.

(II) In case the application for obtaining the copy of FIR on behalf of the accused is submitted in the Police station, the Duty Officer shall acknowledge the receipt of such application by putting the stamp of the Police Station, Diary Number, date and time of receipt along with his/her full signatures and hand over one copy to the applicant. The duty officer shall immediately submit his application before the S.H.O. The SHO would apply his mind and send a report with his recommendation to the SDPO or DSP Specialized Unit to obtain the orders from the DSP to either supply the copy of FIR or to refuse its supply. SDPOs or DSP units shall dispose of such applications within 48 hours ordinarily.

(III) In case the application for obtaining the copy of FIR is submitted to the single Window of the Chandigarh Police Headquarters, the concerned clerk shall on receipt of the same acknowledge with Diary number date and time of receipt along with his full name and signatures and hand over one copy to the applicant. The application shall be sent to SDPO concerned or DSP Specialized Unit for approval. The decision taken by the SDPO concerned or DSP/Specialized Unit on such applications shall be communicated to SHO Concerned for further necessary action with copy thereof to Public window. DSP (HQ) will ensure that all such applications received at the Police Hqrs are immediately sent to the concerned SDPOs/DSP of Unit.

(IV) The SDPO office shall keep the copies of all FIRs (Police station-wise and year-wise) registered in the Police Stations under their respective Sub-Division. The SHO shall send a specific report along with the copy of FIR in sensitive cases immediately after its registration for getting the approval of SDPO/DSP Specialized Unit for refusal to supply a copy and not uploading the same on Chandigarh Police Website.

(V) The SDPO/DSP unit shall submit specific reports of sensitive cases to the Senior Superintendent of Police/Superintendent of Police for information. (VI) SDPO/DSP Unit will decide whether a copy of FIR should be supplied to the accused or refused being sensitive in nature, giving due consideration to various aspects including the concept of privacy and hampering of investigation. The reasons to refuse the supply of FIR would be recorded in writing by the SDPO/DSP Specialized Unit.

(VII) If the concerned case is not considered to be sensitive in nature, SDPO/DSP Unit should direct the concerned SHO to supply the copy of FIR duly stamped with the official stamp with the words “COPY FOR THE ACCUSED” on each page, within 48 hours of the receipt of such application from SDPO/DSP Specialized unit or refuse the applicant within the time for supply of copy of FIR along with the contents of reasons assigned by SDPO/DSP Specialized Unit for refusing the same. In case the FIR asked for does not exist or could not be traced in the Police Station due to insufficient information, the same should be communicated to the applicant.

(VIII) All the FIRs which are decided by the SDPOs/DSP Unit and refused to be supplied being sensitive in nature shall be marked/stamped as “SENSITIVE CASE” by the SHO concerned Police Station.

(IX) The communication for refusal to supply of FIR should also mention that the applicant can make a representation against such orders to the Inspector General of Police, Chandigarh who would refer the same to the Committee of three senior Police Officers formed by him. A specimen letter for communication of refusal is also enclosed as Annexure `B’.

(X) The Review Committee would deal with the grievances of refusal to supply copy of FIR to the accused within three working days from the date of receipt of a representation and communicate the decision to the aggrieved person.”

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Insofar as the particular cases are concerned, the FIRs of the following categories of cases can be refused for supply/updating on website:-

“(i) Cases registered under Sections 376, 376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D IPC as the disclosure of identity of victims in such cases is a punishable offence under Sections 228-A IPC.

(ii) Cases involving a juvenile in conflict with law or a child in the need of care and protection as the Section 21 of Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 prohibits disclosure of identity of any such juvenile or child.

(iii) Cases of kidnapping for Ransom as its disclosure may be dangerous to the life of kidnapped victim. (iv) Cases in which desperate criminals/gangsters are involved or where there is a danger to witnesses of the complainant being intimated.

(v) Other serious cases in which one accused has been arrested while others may be at large. Since FIR may contain the names of complainant, eye-witnesses etc., there may be chances of undue advantage being taken either by the accused still at large to continue to evade arrest of his/her becoming a threat to the complainant or eye-witnesses etc.

(vi) Cases relating to terrorists and cases in which the contents of the FIR may be concerned with the issue of National Security.

(vii) Cases such as those registered under the Officials Secrets Act where disclosure of information would be prejudicial to the interest of State.

(viii) Cases in which the nature of FIRs is such that it is, in the opinion of Deputy Superintendent of Police, sensitive for the reason of concept of privacy or otherwise.

(ix) In any other case which may prejudice investigation and circumvent criminal justice system.”

After considering the matter at hand, the present writ petition is disposed of with the following directions:-

“(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 Cr.P.C.

(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 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 Senior Superintendent of Police/Superintendent of Police Police/Inspector General 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 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.

(4) 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 Punjab Police/Haryana Police/Chandigarh 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.

(5) The decision not to upload the copy of the FIR on the website of Punjab Police/Haryana Police/Chandigarh 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.

(6) 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.

(7) In case a copy of the FIR is not provided on the ground of sensitive nature of the case, a person aggrieved by the said action, after disclosing his identity, can submit a representation with the Director General of Police, Punjab & Haryana and Inspector General of Police, Chandigarh who shall constitute a committee of three higher 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.

(8) The Director General of Police, Punjab & Haryana and the Inspector General of Police, Chandigarh shall constitute the committee within eight weeks from today.

(9) 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.

(10) The directions for uploading the FIR on the website of the Punjab Police, Haryana Police and the Chandigarh Police shall be given effect from 1st July, 2013.”

(Jasbir Singh) (Rakesh Kumar Jain)
Acting Chief Justice Judge
May 16, 2013

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