India has a poor reputation when it comes to reporting of criminal activity. Several crimes, particularly against women, go unreported. This is for a variety of socio-political reasons, but somewhere among them is also a misunderstanding of legal rights. India, in truth, has all the laws in place and understanding your rights is key to increasing reporting criminal elements in our society.
A detailed procedure for filing criminal complaints has been laid down in India, as per the Criminal Procedure Code. The following steps will clear any doubts you may have over filing a criminal complaint in India:
Filing an FIR
In case you are the victim of a cognizable offence, the first step you would take is to approach the police. The police, on receiving information, prepares a written document, known as a First Information Report (FIR). The duty of the police lies in hearing the aggrieved and directing him to the District Magistrate for further action. An FIR can be filed by you if you are the person against whom the crime has been committed or know about an offence that has been committed. There are no charges for filing an an FIR, it being a crucial document that sets the criminal justice system in process.
What can you do if your FIR is not registered?
It is illegal to not register an FIR. The remedies available are:
1. You can meet the Superintendent of Police or other higher officers like Deputy Inspector General of Police & Inspector General of Police and bring your complaint to their notice.
2. You can send your complaint in writing and by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned. If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied with your complaint, he shall either investigate the case himself or order an investigation to be made.
3. You can file a private complaint before the court having jurisdiction.
4. You can also make a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission or the National Human Rights Commission if the police does nothing to enforce the law or does it in a biased and corrupt manner.
What is the next step after filing an FIR?
The police conducts investigation, which may include arrests. Once the investigation has been concluded the police will record all their findings in a Challanï or charge sheet. If it is deemed that there is enough proof on the charge sheet the case goes to court.On the flipside, after their investigations if the police conclude that there is not enough evidence or proof that a crime has been committed they can close the case after justifying their reasons in court. If the police decide to close the case, they are bound to inform the person who filed the FIR of their decision.
What is a zero FIR and when should it be used?
A zero FIR is used for crimes such as murder,rape etc. where immediate investigation is required and time cannot be wasted in reaching the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime falls. The main idea of a Zero FIR is to initiate the investigation or urge the police to take their initial action. Once you have lodged a Zero FIR, make sure that your complaint is not transferred to the appropriate police station in your jurisdiction without any initial action or investigation.A zero FIR is necessary for crimes where immediate action is required,eg in case of murder,rape etc, or when the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime was committed is not easily accessible, eg in case of crimes while travelling
Criminal Complaint: The Plaint
It is a document submitted by the complainant to file a criminal complainant against an accused. In layman’s language, it is simply the written allegations of the complainant and it contains a summary of the facts of the case he seeks to present and the relief he seeks for the same.
If you are filing a plaint, you are the ‘plaintiff’ and the person whom you are filing against, is the ‘defendant’. There are certain regulations set by the ‘Limitation Act,1963’ for filing of plaints.
For instance, there is a time limit within which the plant should be filed, and it differs for different courts.
The Plaint, as per the Act, should be filed within 90 days in High court and within 30 days from the date of the crime that is being appealed against.
The details required to be mentioned in the plaint are:
A.The name of the court
B.The nature of the complaint
C.The name and addresses of both the parties.
All of this is normally typed in English, with double-line spacing.
It is also important to remember that it has to be filed within a certain time limit of the occurrence of the act in question as prescribed by the Limitation Act. A plaint filed after an unreasonable delay will not be entertained in the court of law. It should also contain a verification from the complainant with an assurance that all facts stated in the plaint are correct and true to his knowledge.
As the plaint procedure is simple, and if you have enough proof in hand, you can file them with the help of an expert in no time.
Criminal Complaint: Vakalatnama
This document is submitted by the complainant authorizing an advocate to argue the case on his behalf. Although an individual can file their Vakalatnama, the terms used are highly technical for a layman to understand, and respond in case of queries. Hence, a vakalatnama is a document that gives the advocate (who is appearing on your behalf) the authorization to fight for justice, and handle all court procedures on your behalf.
It contains the terms and conditions of this authorization, and lists out the rights of the advocate. The terms and conditions, mentioned in the Vakalatnama include:
1. The advocate will not be held responsible for any decisions taken by him/her during the course of an investigation, in the best interests of the clients.
2. The advocate will be paid the requisite fees as well as the fees for the court proceedings.
3. The advocate can be disengaged at any time during the proceedings, if the client wishes, and so on.
The basic idea of a Vakalatnama is to engage a lawyer to fight for the case in the court, and to provide him the authorization to do it with the permission of the plaintiff.
The vakalatnama is affixed with the plaint and submitted to the court by the advocate authorized to represent the case.
Although no fees are paid for submission, some courts demand a stamp ‘Advocate Welfare Stamp’ to be pasted on it.
Criminal Complaint: Court Fees
The plaints are required to pay the court fees, as per the rules and regulations set by the Court fees Stamp Act.
The nominal court fee is then paid by the Complainant as required by the Court Fees Stamp Act. The court fees usually amount to a nominal percentage of the value of a claim or the suit being made in the case filed and thus, differs depending upon the case.
The advocate authorized to carry on with the dealings of the case will be able to instruct about the procedures and also the court fees to be paid.