Context: The Law Commission of India, in Report No. 282, suggests two scenarios for e-FIR (electronic-First Information Report) registration.

Scenario 1: For cases where the person responsible for the offense is not known, they propose allowing e-FIR registration for all serious offenses.

Scenario 2: If the accused is known, as a first step, they suggest permitting e-FIR registration for serious offenses carrying a punishment of up to three years under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other laws.

Law Commission:

Non-statutory body operating under the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.

  1. Role: Conducts research in law and provides recommendations to the Centre through reports.
  2. Binding Status: Recommendations made by the Law Commission are not binding on the government.
  3. Action Responsibility: Implementation of recommendations depends on concerned ministries/departments related to the subject matter of the recommendations.

The Commission didn’t talk about using ‘e-authentication technique or digital signature’ as defined in the IT Act, 2000, for signing complaints.

What is e-FIR?

e-FIR is a digital system for reporting crimes to the police.

Objective: The main goal of e-FIR is to streamline the process of registering crimes by starting with an initial electronic submission.

Process to use e-FIR:

Submit information online through a national portal à Physically sign the report within a specified timeframe, which is usually three days à Verifying the complainant’s identity through their mobile number using a one-time password (OTP) à The name of the suspect is to be kept confidential on the central national portal à If the registered information isn’t signed by the complainant within the given time intentionally, it should be deleted within two weeks.

What are cognizable offences?

Cognizable offenses are crimes for which the police can arrest someone without needing a warrant. Immediate police action is allowed upon receiving information or a complaint.

  1. Serious Nature: These offenses typically involve more severe crimes, such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, and specific types of fraud.
  2. No Court Permission Needed: Law enforcement can start an investigation without court authorization. The police can take immediate action upon learning about the offense.
  3. Jurisdictional Variations: The classification of an offense as cognizable or non-cognizable may vary in different legal systems. It depends on the severity and nature of the specific crime.

Importance of Human Interaction:

  1. Immediate interaction with the police is crucial in cases like kidnapping, where medical examinations and a visit to the crime scene are time-sensitive.
  2. Experienced police officers can extract valuable information.

Mandating E-Authentication Technique:

The suggestion is to mandate the use of e-authentication technique for verifying the complainant and immediately registering an e-FIR.

Benefits of e-FIR:

  1. Convenience: In areas with security or infrastructure challenges, e-FIRs provide a convenient way to report crimes without the need to physically visit a police station.
  2. Mitigating Resistance: e-FIRs can help reduce the reluctance of police officers, especially for minor offenses, making the reporting process smoother.
  3. Overcoming Shortages: e-FIRs can address the challenges posed by a low police-to-public ratio, ensuring that even in areas with limited police resources, crimes can be reported.
  4. Timely Registration: e-FIRs help resolve the persistent issue of delayed registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) by allowing for real-time reporting of crimes.

Challenges of e-FIR:

  1. Risk of False Claims: Complainants may exaggerate their claims, leading to legal complexities and discomfort for the accused.
  2. Need for Oversight: Therefore, e-FIR systems should have checks and balances to prevent misuse.
  3. Not Suitable for Urgent Cases: E-FIRs may not work well for situations that require immediate police response, like fatal accidents or serious injuries.
  4. Limited Police Stations with Infrastructure: Not all police stations are equipped to handle e-FIRs efficiently.
  5. Lack of Basic Technology: Some police stations lack landlines and wireless/mobile connections, making it challenging to use electronic systems. There are 17,535 police stations in total, of which 628 are operating without alandline, while 285 run without wireless/mobile (According to Ministry of Home Affairs)
  6. Insufficient Computers: The total number of computers in police stations is relatively low, given the large number of stations. The total number of computers in 17,535 police stations is 172,168.
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