In a decision which could bring transparency in police functioning across the nation, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the states and Union territories to upload FIRs on their websites within 24 hours of their registration.
A bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice C Nagappan, however, exempted the police across the nation from uploading the FIRs on the websites if the offences were sensitive in nature and pertained to insurgency, terrorism and sexual cases including those lodged under the POCSO Act.
“The copies of FIRs, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism and of that category, offences under POCSO Act and such other offences, should be uploaded on the police website, and if there is no such website, on the official website of the state government, within 24 hours of the registration of the first information report 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,” the verdict said.
The bench, which held that an accused is entitled to get a copy of the FIR at an earlier stage, said “it may be clarified here that in case there are connectivity problems due to geographical location or there is some other unavoidable difficulty, the time can be extended up to 48 hours.
“The said 48 hours can be extended maximum up to 72 hours and it is only relatable to connectivity problems due to geographical location.”
The verdict came on a PIL filed by Youth Lawyers Association of India which had referred to an order passed by Delhi High Court asking the city police to upload the FIRs on its website within 24 hours of being registered.
The lawyers’ body had sought pan-India implementation of the Delhi High Court verdict which was allowed by the apex court with certain modifications.
The apex court considered the apprehension of additional solicitor general Tusar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that accused may collude with the police and ensure that FIRs do not get uploaded for taking benefit in the court of law.
“If an FIR is not uploaded, needless to say, it shall not enure per se a ground to obtain the benefit under Section 438 (provision for bail) of the CrPC,” it said.
The extension of time in uploading the FIRs on sites was granted when the counsel for states like Sikkim and Mizoram said due to difficult terrain and poor Internet connectivity, it would be difficult to upload the FIRs within 24 hours.
Concurring with almost all the directions passed by the Delhi High Court in 2010, the apex court said, “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 24 hours.”
It also said a decision not to upload an FIR on the website shall not be taken by an officer below the rank of deputy superintendent of police or any person holding equivalent post.
“In case, the states where district magistrate has a role, he may also assume the said authority. A decision taken by the concerned police officer or the district magistrate shall be duly communicated to the concerned jurisdictional magistrate,” the apex court said.
Once the FIR is forwarded by the police station to the concerned magistrate, on an application for certified copy on behalf of the accused, it shall be given by the concerned court within two working days, it said.
The bench said that sensitive FIRs in cases of terrorism, insurgency and sexual offences cannot be uploaded, clarified that these illustrations were “not exhaustive”.
“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. The examples given with regard to the sensitive cases are absolutely illustrative and are not exhaustive,” it said.