CONTRIBUTOR

The Legality and Viability of Multiple FIRs Based on the Same Facts and Allegations: A Critical Examination

Introduction

The First Information Report (FIR), as per Section 154(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), is a vital document that initiates criminal proceedings and plays a significant role in the criminal justice system. An official complaint, usually made by the victim, an eyewitness, or someone with knowledge of the incident, is submitted to the police. The filing of the FIR not only initiates the legal process but also provides the necessary information regarding the alleged offense, establishing the basis for further investigations and legal proceedings.

The matter of several First Information Reports (FIRs) stemming from identical facts and accusations raises significant concerns regarding the legal procedure and the possibility of misuse. Although the FIR is an essential mechanism for reporting crimes, the presence of many FIRs on the same incidents made by the same informant poses complications. This occurrence necessitates an investigation into the legal and procedural ramifications, assessing if such duplicity is legally defensible or if it undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. This article aims to explore the legal framework, judicial precedents, and practical factors related to the registration of several First Information Reports (FIRs) that originate from the same informant and set of circumstances.

Legal Precedents

1.    T. T. Antony v. State of Kerala[1]

In the significant legal decision of T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala, the Supreme Court unequivocally declared that it is strictly forbidden to file a second complaint for the same incident. The ruling highlighted the significance of conclusiveness in legal proceedings, noting that permitting several grievances for the same occurrence would result in possible exploitation of the judicial system. The purpose of this rule was to deter unwarranted persecution of the defendant and facilitate a more efficient and effective criminal justice system.

The court ruled that it is not permissible to file a second First Information Report (FIR) or conduct a new investigation based on every subsequent piece of information related to the same criminal offense or incident that gives birth to one or more criminal offenses. The investigating agency must only act upon information regarding the occurrence of a serious crime, which is initially recorded by the Officer In-charge in the Police Station diary under Section 158 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (referred to as the Cr.P.C.). Any subsequent information would fall under Section 162 Cr.P.C., as it is the duty of the Investigating Officer not only to investigate the reported crime in the FIR, but also any related offenses that may have been committed during the same incident. The Investigating Officer is required to submit one or more reports under Section 173 Cr.P.C.

2.    Anju Chaudhary v. State of Uttar Pradesh[2]

The Supreme Court, in its landmark opinion, declared that it is not permissible to register a second First Information Report (FIR) due to the protection against double jeopardy, which is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution. The restriction guarantees that a person accused of a crime is not subjected to several prosecutions for the same offense, thus preserving the principles of fairness and justice. The court established the "Same Transaction Test" by consolidating many acts into a single FIR. This test requires that the activities be closely connected in aim, cause, and effect, or as principal and subsidiary, in order to justify a shared FIR.

The Supreme Court's discerning approach, as exemplified in the case of Anju Chaudhary, acknowledges that the assessment of whether two or more acts are considered the same transaction cannot be governed by a universally applicable formula. However, it relies on a meticulous analysis of the specific facts in each individual case. Factors such as temporal proximity, spatial proximity, action continuity, and purpose/design commonality are crucial in this evaluation. The Court explicated that if two episodes exhibit dissimilar temporalities, involve unique individuals, and arise from separate circumstances with divergent intentions, they cannot be deemed as constituting a single transaction. This comprehensive explanation guarantees the sensible application of the legal concept that prohibits future FIRs or the consolidation of trials, in order to protect justice and prevent any potential misuse of legal procedures.

3.    Tarak Dash Mukharjee v. State of Uttar Pradesh[3]

Allowing the registration of multiple First Information Reports (FIRs) by the same person against a common accused for the same facts and allegations presents a serious risk of subjecting the accused to multiple criminal proceedings for a single alleged offense, which would be an abuse of the legal process. This method not only imposes an excessive burden on the accused, but also raises questions regarding the effectiveness and concentration of the criminal justice system. This duplication not only violates the concept of not being tried twice for the same offense but also faces constitutional examination under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India. Subjecting an individual to repetitive legal processes may be considered a breach of Article 21, which safeguards the right to life and personal liberty.

Moreover, the ongoing registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) may jeopardize Article 22, which guarantees certain rights to those who have been arrested. This practice has the potential to undermine the fairness of the legal proceedings and may violate constitutional safeguards that are intended to preserve the rights of the accused. It is of utmost importance to prevent such misuse in order to maintain the integrity of the legal system and uphold the ideals established in the Constitution.

4.    Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash[4]

A significant ruling was issued by a panel of three judges in the Supreme Court, clarifying that submitting a further complaint against the same defendant would be considered an unauthorized modification of the facts presented in the initial complaint, as specified in Section 162 of the Code. The court clearly acknowledged the prohibition stated in Section 162, but importantly, it ruled that this prohibition does not apply to a counter-complaint filed by the accused or on their behalf. 

The court stressed that a counter-suit, which alleges a different account of the incident reported in the initial complaint, is not covered by the statutory restriction. This nuanced interpretation helps to maintain a fair and comprehensive resolution of the matter by giving the accused an opportunity to provide a different version of events, while yet adhering to the procedural restrictions outlined in Section 162.               

Doctrine Of Sameness 

The legitimacy of the second First Information Report (FIR) was thoroughly examined in the case of T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala (2001)[5]. The court created the criterion of identity, which stipulates that unless the first and second FIRs, registered in separate instances, exhibit significant dissimilarities in terms of facts and circumstances, the second FIR cannot be lodged. Consequently, for there to be two First Information Reports (FIRs), there must be a distinction in the facts and circumstances leading to each report, a variation in the committed offense, or a difference in the individual accused of committing the offense. Only in that case, the second First Information Report (FIR) is admissible. 

The court noted that the provisions from Section 154 to Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) pertain to the entire process of investigation, from the initial report to the completion of the investigation, and specifically apply to the first information provided on the commission of a cognizable offense. This fulfills the criteria outlined in Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

Therefore, there is no opportunity to initiate a new inquiry upon receiving any further information regarding the same cognizable offense. 

Improper and Excessive Utilization of the Legal System:

It is essential to thoroughly examine the possibility of misuse by utilizing several First Information Reports (FIRs) under the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1908 in order to guarantee a fair and equitable administration of justice. Section 154 of the CrPC confers the privilege to any anyone to notify the occurrence of a cognizable violation. However, determining whether repeated First Information Reports (FIRs) are lodged with malicious intent or as a form of harassment requires a meticulous study of the circumstances pertaining to each case. Courts must carefully evaluate whether these First Information Reports (FIRs) truly relate to separate criminal acts or if they are purposefully employed to manipulate legal proceedings.

Occurrences of malevolent intentions and persistent mistreatment should be thoroughly examined to safeguard persons from unwarranted adversity. When several First Information Reports (FIRs) are lodged with the main intention of inflicting harm, seeking revenge, or resolving personal disputes, it undermines the essential tenets of justice. The judiciary must stay diligent in detecting such occurrences and implement suitable measures to discourage the misuse of legal procedures for malicious intentions.

It is essential to establish measures to prevent the abuse of the legal system in order to uphold the integrity of the judicial process. It is important to contemplate legislative amendments and implement procedural safeguards in order to deter the submission of groundless or malevolent First Information Reports (FIRs). This may entail implementing sanctions for the submission of fraudulent complaints, establishing procedures for the prompt dismissal of baseless claims, and establishing measures to hold individuals accountable for the improper use of the system. Encouraging legal knowledge and awareness can also help promote a conscientious and ethical use of legal resources.

The significance of the impact on investigative processes cannot be exaggerated. Having multiple First Information Reports (FIRs), particularly those motivated by malevolent intent, can place a burden on investigative resources and shift focus away from legitimate criminal operations. Judicial authorities should proactively oversee cases containing several First Information Reports (FIRs) in order to avoid placing excessive strain on investigative agencies. It is crucial to strike a balance between safeguarding the rights of the accused and maintaining an efficient investigative process. This ensures that justice is served while also deterring the exploitation of legal procedures for personal or vengeful reasons.

Conclusion 

Ultimately, we have thoroughly analyzed the complex legal framework governing the registration of several First Information Reports (FIRs), considering important legal precedents, constitutional protections, and practical factors. The essential function of the First Information Report (FIR) in commencing criminal proceedings has been recognized, however, concerns regarding the possible exploitation and manipulation of the legal procedure through the use of multiple FIRs have been emphasized. Notable legal decisions, such as T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala, Anju Chaudhary v. State of UP, Tarak Dash Mukharjee v. State of Uttar Pradesh, and Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash, have established significant principles and criteria to assist in determining the legality of second FIRs. The "Same Transaction Test" and the notion of sameness have been clarified, highlighting the importance of thoroughly analyzing the specific details and context of each case in order to prevent misuse. 

Furthermore, the potential consequences for the accused's rights, investigation procedures, and the general effectiveness of the criminal justice system have been discussed. Advocates have recommended the establishment of legislative reforms, procedural protections, and the promotion of legal literacy as measures to prevent misuse. The utmost importance lies in maintaining a harmonious equilibrium between safeguarding individual rights and guaranteeing the efficient and fair functioning of the legal system, while upholding the ideals outlined in the Constitution.

[1] (2001) 6 SCC 181

[2] Criminal Appeal No. 2039 of 2012 (Arising out of SLP (Crl) No. 9475 of 2008)

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 1400 of 2022 (Arising out of SLP (Criminal) No. 503 of 2020) and cited in 2022 Live Law (SC) 731

[4] (2004) 13 SCC 292

[5] Supra note 1.