‘Women’s Rights in India: A detailed study with special focus on the concept of ZERO FIR’
Author: Natasha Gandhi
Co-Author: Yashwant Yadav
Man and woman both are equal and play a paramount role in the creation and development of their families in a particular and the society in general. Indeed, the struggle for equality has been one of the major concerns of the women’s movement all over the world. Women have been ill-treated in every society for ages and India is no exception. Women are often considered the weaker group and despite all the feminism and awakening of the people against this injustice, one cannot deny that women do need special set of protection and laws for their upliftment in the society, for their safety and security. The Indian Judicial System made a provision in it, keeping in mind the problems often faced by women in times of distress, i.e., the provision of ZERO FIR. Since FIR (First Information Report) is the first step that a victim takes to get relief and to initiate the proceedings against him, this provision will help make the process easier. Often police officers decline to register FIRs giving this issue that ‘the place of crime doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction.’ But this provision makes it compulsory for the policemen to register the FIRs made to them, no matter in which jurisdiction the place of crime falls into and refusal to register it would make him liable to punishment under section 166A(c) which states him to be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine. This provision was made in the Indian Judicial System to provide timely justice to the victim, to provide efficient punishment to the wrongdoer and to provide ease in the crime reporting process in local police stations.
Gender injustice is a problem that is seen all over the world. Whatever the causes may be, it is our duty of humans to protect the human rights of those who are victims.
Women have been ill-treated in every society for ages and India is no exception. Indian judiciary feels convinced of the need for women’s empowerment-by law and by legal means.
The Constitution of India has taken a long leap in the direction of eradicating the lingering effects of such adverse forces so far as women are concerned. And hence for the same purposes, women have been granted special rights and recognition in the Constitution of India, amongst which is the Provision for ZERO FIR.
The readers, by the end of this research piece, would be well versed with the rights of women under the Indian Constitution and with the concept of Zero FIR. Answers to various questions like- what made its existence a necessary element in the Indian Judicial System, how it has helped women in times of distress and how it has saved them from the ill-treating of the police men and also as to what extent this provision has been followed and penalties for not following it would be answered by the end of this research.
Our Constitution makes express provision for affirmative action in favour of women. It prohibits all types of discrimination against women and lays a carpet for securing the equal opportunity to women in all walks of life, including education, employment and participation.
For the same reason, the following Articles were given a place and due recognition in the constitution of India.
- Article 21 states as follows: “No person except according to procedure established by law shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. Fundamental right under Article 21 of the object personal liberty except according to procedure established by law is to prevent encroachment on and loss of life.” – Anyone, including women, can seek protection under this.
- Article 14 states as follows: This Article guarantees Right to Equality, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India and Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
- Article 19 states as follows: This gives the citizens (which include both women, men and third gender) the Right to Freedom, which among other things guarantees freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, freedom of practising trade and profession etc.
- Article 32 states as follows: This Article gives the right to us to seek constitutional remedies through the Supreme Court of India for violation of Fundamental Rights mainly. Along with constitutional safeguards, there are further rights that women have guaranteed under the law.
Apart from these there are other laws in the Constitution for the protection and preservation of interest of women – 
Right to equal pay – According to provisions under the Equal Remuneration Act, one cannot be discriminated on the basis of sex when it comes to salary or wages. Working women have the right to draw an equal salary.
- Right to Dignity and Decency – In the event that an accused is a woman, any medical examination procedure on her must be performed by or in the presence of another woman.
- Women have a right against harassment at work – The enactment of theSexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act gives you the right to file a complaint against sexual harassment. The law enables a sexually harassed woman employee can put in a written complaint to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at a branch office within a period of 3 months. The complaint can also be filed by any of the woman’s legal heirs on her behalf or any other person who has a written permission given by her to make the complaint.
- Right against domestic violence – The act primarily looks to protect a wife, a female live-in partner or a woman living in a household like a mother or a sister from domestic violence at the hands of a husband, male live-in partner or relatives. She or anybody on her behalf can file a complaint.
- Right to anonymity for sexual assault victims– Victims of sexual assault have a right to anonymity. To ensure that her privacy is protected, a woman who has been sexually assaulted may record her statement alone before the district magistrate when the case is under trial, or in the presence of a female police officer.
- Right to free legal aid– All female rape victims have the right to free legal aid, under the Legal Services Authorities Act.
- Women have right not to be arrested at night– A woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, except in an exceptional case on the orders of a first-class magistrate. Further, the law states, “The police can interrogate a woman at her residence in the presence of a woman constable and family members or friends”. A woman can also not be detained at night at the police station without legal permission.
- Women have a right to register their complaint virtually– If a woman is not in a position to physically go to a police station and file a complaint, there is a provision for virtual complaints where she can lodge a complaint via e-mail or write her complaint and send to a police station from a registered postal address. This provision leads to the SHO (Station House Officer) sending police to the complaint’s place to record her.
- Women have a right against indecent representation– The depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals”, is a punishable offense.
- Women have a right against being stalked– Section 345D of the IPC and legal action can be taken against an offender. It has been considered as a legal offense. Stalking has been defined by the law as, “To follow a woman and contact, or attempt to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitor the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication.”
- One of the provisions that have been added in the constitution of India in recent times, for the protection of rights of women and quick and easy disposal of cases pertaining to violation of these rights is- THE ZERO FIR.
What is FIR?
FIR (First Investigation Report) can be said to be an information given to the police first in point of time relating to a cognizable offence. It is the earliest report made to the police officer with a view to his taking action and on the basis of which investigation has commenced. Sections 154-156 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with FIR.
The Provision of zero FIR-
The ruling by Supreme Court mentioned that a woman who is a victim can register her complaint at any police station under the Zero FIR ruling.
Section 154(1) of CrPc has made it clear that a police officer is duty bound to register a case on the basis of such information disclosing a cognizable offence and FIR has to be registered irrespective of territorial jurisdiction.
In the case of Habib v State of Bihar, the court said that the principle object of the first information report from the point of view of the information is to set the criminal law in motion and from the point of view of the investigating authorities is to obtain information about the commission of a cognizable offence with a view to take suitable steps for tracing and bringing to book the offender.
In the case of P.Sirajuddin v State of Madras it has been held that another equally important object of the recording of the first information report is to obtain early information of an alleged offence from the informant and to put into writing the statement before his memory fails or before he gets the time and opportunity to embellish it. The information so obtained is very important for the accused also inasmuch as he is entitled to know what were the facts stated immediately after the occurrence to connect him with the crime. It safeguards him against subsequent variations, additions and alterations.
The Zero FIR is a FIR that can be filed at any police station irrespective of the location where the incident occurred or a specific jurisdiction it comes under. So once that FIR is lodged and investigation and filling are done with a magistrate, it can be moved to the Police Station in whose jurisdiction the case falls under.
This ruling was passed to save time that would impact a victim and also lead to an offender getting away scot-free.
The ZERO in ZERO FIR stands for – the report being filed with the serial number ‘0’ and then transferred to the police station of competent jurisdiction for conducting further investigation.
Notion of Zero FIR:
The provision of Zero FIR came up as a recommendation in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the heinous Nirbhaya case of December 2012. The provision says:
An FIR can be filed at any police station irrespective of place of crime and area of jurisdiction. This provision is for everyone. When in trouble men and women will be benefited equally. In Zero FIR, any police station can register FIR irrespective of the jurisdictional area but the investigation will be taken up by the police in the place of occurrence reported in the FIR.
The police station registers the zero FIR marking it serial number ‘0’ and transfers it to the respective jurisdictional area which can carry out the investigation. The sanctity of the legal process remains the same in zero FIR. It is very helpful for people as it facilitates them and takes away the inconvenience of searching for the right police station for lodging the FIR. A Zero FIR can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or the place of crime. Even if you are away from the place of incident or are unaware of the right jurisdiction, you can successfully file an FIR in any police station.
This concept was given by Supreme Court in the case of Satvinder Kaur vs. State (Government of NCT Delhi) where the complainant had appealed in the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court, where the High Court had quashed the FIR filed at Delhi Police Station by the complainant. This type of FIR is termed as a Zero FIR
The right to file a zero FIR extends to any person who has information pertaining to the commission of a cognizable offence.
In the case of Satvinder Kaur vs. State (Government of NCT Delhi), the appellant, along with her 4 months old daughter was thrown out of her matrimonial home by her husband and her in-laws in Delhi. She then registered the complaint in Patiala, where her parents lived. Then the husband, filed petition to squash the FIR registered by the wife in Patiala on the grounds that the allegations made in the complaint were false and mala fide and no part of the cause of action for investigation or trial of an offence arose within Delhi.
On the where the complainant had appealed in the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court, where the High Court had quashed the FIR filed at Delhi Police Station by the complainant. The Supreme Court held that, Police can investigate the case, which does not fall under their jurisdiction.
In another case of Sanjay Sharma vs The State Of Jharkhand wherein a minor girl was allegedly raped. The allegation in the said F.I.R. is that the victim informant was raped when she was a student of class IX while attending Taekwando Class, by one Kamlesh Thakur, who was her coach. She further complained that when she went to Ranchi to complain before Sanjay Sharma (petitioner) about the incident, she was administered some intoxicating substance and when she became unconscious, she was raped by this petitioner and her objectionable photographs were captured by this petitioner and was blackmailed by this petitioner with the help of those photographs.
In this case, even though the petitioner was released on account if male fide intentions of the informant when she was chucked out by the petitioner and lack of evidence of the blackmail, the case proceedings started when she filed the case in Delhi (Zero FIR), even though the incident took place at Jharkhand, thereby imposing on the filing of FIR mandatory by the police officer.
In the case of the State vs. Raj Kumar, the court held that in the case where a homeopathic doctor had committed rape of a minor sister of the doctor’s patient, Police, in this case, refused to register zero FIR and forced her to sign a statement saying that no rape had been committed by the accused. The accused in this case was acquitted for lack of evidence but action was taken against the police for their refusal to register the said FIR.
Another interesting case is that of the infamous Asaram Bapu Rape case, the report against the self-proclaimed Godman Asaram Bapu was booked under Zero FIR. The complaint about the crime committed in Jodhpur was lodged in Delhi by a minor girl who hailed from UP.
On August 21 Delhi Police then booked Asaram Bapu under the charges of rape and wrongful confinement. The case was later transferred to Jodhpur police, where the actual crime took place.
In Lalita Kumari case, the Supreme Court held that a police officer cannot evade his duty of registering a zero FIR; if information about a cognizable offence is disclosed and if an officer refuses to record such information, disciplinary action would be taken against him.
Need for this provision in the Indian Constitution-
- 93 cases of rapes are reported every day in India. Provisions like ZERO FIR are essential to bring out the process of justice in a very efficient manner. Many cases go unsolved because of lack of evidence, which was lost because of wastage of time.
- Heinous crimes like murder, rape and accidents require immediate action from the concerned police authorities so that they take appropriate samples, eyewitnesses, and other circumstantial details.
- Zero FIR is one of the greatest assets when you are traveling & unfortunately become a victim of any cognizable crime. You can reach any police station and file a zero FIR anytime.
Remedies to the general public to protect themselves from Non-adherence to this greatly beneficial provision of Zero FIR
Crimes like murder, rape and accidents require immediate action from the concerned police authorities so that they take appropriate samples, eyewitnesses and other circumstantial details. Zero FIR allows the authorities to pen down the initial action taken rather than trying to figure out what had happened at the crime scene initially.
But this being India, we of course see that the police officers reject to file your FIR or claim ignorance as in the aforementioned case of State. Vs. Raj Kumar in such a situation, the following remedies could be available:
- If the concerned officer in charge refuses to register a first information report about commission of a cognizable offence within his territorial jurisdiction under Sec. 154(3), the informant can approach any senior officer of police or the Superintendent of Police or the Commissioner of the police with a written complaint.
- If, after analysing the complaint it is satisfied that the complaint discloses a cognizable offence, the senior officer may moreover investigate the case himself or give directions to his subordinate to register the FIR and initiate investigation in the matter.
- If even after submitting a complaint to Senior Police officials no FIR is lodged then the informant is legally entitled to file a complaint to the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate u/s 156(3) read with Section 190 of the criminal procedure thereby requesting the FIR to be registered by the police and commencing investigation into the matter.
Under section 166A(c), if the Public servant concerned fails to record any information given to him (under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973), in relation to a cognizable offence, he is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Certainly, it looks like a great concept in seeking a way to ameliorate criminal justice in a preliminary stage and deciding on the gulp of truth. But requires a third eye to monitor the procedure. For such purpose a better option is if a committee simultaneously supervising the process that will include at least an ordinary citizen and scrutinizing the whole FIR instituting process is instituted.
The Zero FIR is a free jurisdiction FIR. It was introduced in order to avoid the delay in filing the crime that adversely impacts the victim. The government should run campaigns to make people aware of such provisions and peoples should also show more concern about knowing their rights as well as when & how to use them.
The government cannot surpass their duties for the protection of its citizens by merely introducing a provision. It shall also look into the fact that it is being fully followed to ensure its maximum benefit for the public.
- Sources from the internet referred while preparing the paper-
 https://sheroes.com/amp-articles/women-rights-india/NzExNg== ; 24 sept, 2019.
 https://www.legalcrystal.com/case/110235/sanjay-sharma-vs-state-jharkhand ; 28th sept, 2019
 https://lawyersgyan.com/blog/zero-fir-a-brief-overview/#_ftnref2 ; 26th sept, 2019.