Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing of FIR in Pakistan

Upright Opinion
Writing of FIR in Pakistan
By Saeed Qureshi
September 17, 2010
The FIR (First Information Report) is a complaint lodged either orally or in writing with the police by the victim of a cognizable offense or by someone on victim’s behalf. The FIR is a fundamental document that massively affects the outcome of a crime or offence. Much depends as to how the FIR is written by the police.
It is rather a strenuous ordeal and in specific cases, a tall order to get an FIR registered with the police whether based on facts or fabricated with false information. If FIR is not registered, the case cannot be prosecuted in the court of law. If there is a strong party on the defense or those against whom the report is being lodged, the report would seldom be written or if written, it would be heavily tampered with and look frivolous.
It is the SHO (station house officer) or in charge officer of a police, station or his appointed person within the police known as Muharrar who normally write the FIR. If the SHO (station house officer) refuses or dithers to write a report, he cannot be forced by any means to enter the report unless some high up asks him or he is heavily bribed. For small and insignificant offences as a street brawl or money matters, he may ask his minions to register the complaint but for high profile cases including murders, he clearly sees a mouthwatering opportunity to make a big buck.
So invariably, the immediate tussle after the incidence of crime between the rival parties is, to make the SHO (station house officer) agree to write an FIR that favors them. While the victim party may normally want the bare facts or exaggerated version to be recorded, the defendants may pull their strings to dilute the piquancy and punch of the report with a view for the case to be finally dismissed or entail a minor sentence. In this tussle, the principal beneficiary is always the SHO and his staff with hefty gratifications.
Writing of FIR is practiced in three countries namely India, Pakistan, and Japan. In India and Pakistan, it is a legacy from the British colonial rule. As far Japan, I am not aware how they introduced this practice in their justice system for the registration of a crime in a police station.
The form on which the FIR is written needs to be drastically modified or redesigned. This form is the same all over Pakistan and is photocopied over and over again. In the past when the photocopying system has not yet been in vogue, the forms were cyclostyled and used for the FIR. The FIR is written by the police mostly in vernacular Urdu and in the typical jargon or diction of the police. You will find as if the pages of the form are moth-eaten or covered with sleazy lines, scratches, and dots.
Elsewhere in the world, while the system and mechanism of writing the reports of crimes and law breaking has been radically transformed and updated, it remain in India and Pakistan like a sacred antiquated exercise.
Even the high profile murders in Pakistan such as that of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, the eldest son of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto were written after enormous delay. Even the delayed versions were watered down ostensibly due to ulterior motives. Since these FIRs have not been made public for everyone to see, no one can figure out if these contain facts or were heavily loaded with ifs and buts to favor the perpetrators of the heinous crimes.
The video-recorded gruesome murder of two young boys in Sialkot does not need any FIR, proof, or witnesses. The whole of Pakistan and even the entire world has seen the killers bludgeoning and lynching the helpless victims. Yet the FIR written by the police against their own counterparts or influential individuals was heavily forged. It gave out an impression as if there was a scuffle between the two parties that grew serious and in the course of that conflict the two brothers died.
Can there be a more brazen travesty of a crime to which the whole world is a witness but which has been falsified and diluted by the collaborators in police and with the connivance or compulsion of the powerful local lords. The judicial commission inquiry report entirely contradicts the police FIR as also rejected by the whole of the country. Such is the mala-fide nature of the report written by a mindless havaldar or a heavily pressurized police constable.
The countrywide uproarious protestations by the people of Pakistan, the widespread show of sympathy and support by the establishment from top to bottom, the visits of top notches of Punjab government to the house of victims, stand nullified and rendered ineffectual in face of an FIR written by a small minion of police whose legal expertise is as faulty as his fairness and impartiality are dubious.
Then comes the medical report. Put your hand on your heart and solemnly declare if a doctor’s report was at all necessary in this public lynching case of two defenseless souls. And if it was a legal requirement then beat your breast that doctors assigned to conduct autopsy reported that there were injuries on the bodies of deceased caused by mutual fighting and exchange of blows.
Do you still believe and pray that Islam has its deep impact on the morals of the Pakistanis who never tiring of professing Islam in face of sacrilegious overtures from the non-Muslims. Also solemnly state that with such loathsome government functionaries, can Pakistan survive and has a right to survive whose doctors put dust in the eyes of the entire fellow citizens of their country.
So FIR should be abolished and in its place, a more rational, reliable, scientific mode of registering complaints should be evolved. The FIR being a highly critical and sensitive document or statement should not be written by illiterate or less educated persons who are bereft of the various aspects and knowledge of the law and jurisprudence.
It should be assigned to the magistrates, judges, lawyers, either individually or as members of a legal board. The victims and the complainants should go to a court of law or an office for lodging their complaints and such courts or offices must remain open round the clock. This would inject authenticity, meaningfulness, and propriety in the registration of the case. It would as well diminish chances of perjury or bribe, as is now the order of the day. Such centers can be established within the precincts of the police stations.
It should be made mandatory to write an FIR without delay. In the present legal set up only the victim can lodge an FIR, though there can be a possibility that he or she is actually not the victim. It would, therefore, be in all fairness if both sides are allowed to file FIR and the court can later determine their falsehood or veracity.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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