Enhancing Police Procedures: The Evolution of e-FIR in India : Daily News Analysis

Date : 09/11/2023

Relevance –GS Paper 2 – Polity

Keywords – Law Commission of India, e-FIR, IPC, OTP


In the Law Commission of India's Report No. 282, a groundbreaking recommendation was introduced, proposing the implementation of electronic First Information Reports (e-FIR) for cognizable offenses. This move aimed to streamline the process of filing complaints, improve transparency, and ensure swift action by law enforcement agencies. However, the proposed e-FIR system has sparked debates regarding its efficacy, procedural intricacies, and the need for human intervention in criminal investigations.


About Law Commision of India

  • It is a non-statutory body, working under the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • It conducts research in the field of law and makes recommendations to the Centre in the form of reports.
  • These recommendations are not binding on the government.
  • Action on the said recommendations depends on the ministries/departments, which are concerned with the subject matter of the recommendations.

Understanding the Concept of e-FIR

The Law Commission's recommendation advocates for e-FIR registration in cases where the accused is unknown. For known suspects, e-FIRs may be allowed for offenses punishable up to three years under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and related laws. The verification process involves confirming the complainant's identity through a One-Time Password (OTP) sent to their mobile number, along with uploading a valid ID proof such as Aadhaar. The e-FIR remains pending until physically signed by the complainant within three days, after which it transforms into an official FIR. Failure to sign within the stipulated time leads to automatic deletion of the information from the portal.

Law Commission's Recommendations on e-FIR Submission:

1. Submission in Specific Situations:

  • Law Commission advocates for online submission of First Information Reports (FIRs) under two distinct circumstances:
    • When the identity of the accused is unknown.
    • When the accused is known, the potential jail term for the offense does not exceed three years.

2. Partial Implementation and Expansion:

  • Some states have partially implemented the online FIR submission system as per the commission's recommendations.
  • The Law Commission emphasizes the need for expanding this facility across the country, ensuring broader accessibility and convenience for citizens reporting crimes.

Benefits of e-FIRs:

1. Increased Accessibility:

  • Provides a convenient alternative for reporting crimes in areas with security or infrastructural challenges, eliminating the need to visit a physical police station.

2. Overcoming Reluctance:

  • Mitigates the reluctance of law enforcement officers, especially in cases of minor offenses, encouraging more proactive reporting.

3. Addressing Police-to-Public Ratio:

  • Overcomes challenges arising from low police-to-public ratios, enabling efficient handling of complaints and ensuring wider coverage.

4. Real-Time Crime Reporting:

  • Facilitates real-time reporting of crimes, addressing the persistent issue of delayed registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) and ensuring swift action.

Criticisms of e-FIRs:

1. Potential for Exaggeration:

  • Poses a risk of complainants exaggerating claims, leading to legal complications and potential discomfort for the accused; necessitates the implementation of checks and balances.

2. Lack of Immediate Investigation:

  • Not suitable for cases requiring immediate investigation, such as fatal accidents or incidents involving severe injuries, where on-site assessment and immediate action are crucial.

3. Infrastructure Constraints:

  • Challenges arise due to insufficient infrastructure in some police stations, with a significant number lacking essential communication tools like landlines and wireless/mobile connections.
  • Out of the total 17,535 police stations, 628 operate without a landline, and 285 lack wireless/mobile connections (Ministry of Home Affairs).
  • Limited availability of computers (172,168) in police stations further hampers the efficient handling of e-FIRs.

The Role of Human Intervention

Human interaction in the process of filing complaints plays a crucial role, especially in cases where immediate police involvement is necessary. While e-FIRs provide a convenient platform for reporting crimes, some offenses demand timely medical examinations or on-site investigations. Experienced police officers can extract vital information from victims, aiding in identifying suspects and solving crimes. Therefore, a balance between electronic reporting and traditional police interaction is essential to ensure comprehensive and effective investigations.

The Need for E-Authentication Techniques

The Law Commission's recommendation does not delve into the application of e-authentication techniques or digital signatures, as defined in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. Electronic records authenticated through government-notified e-authentication techniques, such as Aadhaar e-KYC services, hold legal validity. Implementing these techniques can enhance the credibility of e-FIRs, transforming them into legally admissible documents. Moreover, recognizing digital signatures in the filing process ensures the authenticity and integrity of electronic complaints, aligning them with legal standards.

Conclusion and The Way Forward

The concept of e-FIR marks a significant leap toward digitizing the Indian criminal justice system. While the proposed system offers expediency and accessibility, it must strike a balance between technological advancement and the human touch required for thorough investigations. Incorporating government-notified e-authentication techniques and digital signatures can elevate the credibility of e-FIRs, making them legally admissible documents. Additionally, a nuanced approach to implementing e-FIRs, considering the nature of the offense and the need for immediate police intervention, will ensure the system's effectiveness while upholding the principles of justice and transparency.

In light of these considerations, it is imperative for the Indian government and law enforcement agencies to revisit the e-FIR framework, addressing the gaps and leveraging technological advancements to create a seamless, credible, and efficient platform for reporting crimes. Such a holistic approach will not only enhance public trust in the legal system but also contribute significantly to the evolution of India's criminal justice infrastructure.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Examination

  1. 1. What are the Law Commission of India's recommendations on electronic First Information Reports (e-FIRs)? Evaluate the benefits and criticisms of e-FIRs, emphasizing the balance between technology and human intervention in criminal investigations. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. 2. Discuss the challenges and opportunities in implementing e-FIRs in India. Address the need for government-notified e-authentication techniques, digital signatures, and overcoming infrastructure constraints. Emphasize strategies to enhance public trust through effective e-FIR implementation. (15 marks, 250 words)

Source – The Hindu