As per the Code of Criminal Procedure, the statements made to the police are of three categories. They are:
(i) A statement which has been recorded as first information report (F.I.R.);
(ii) A statement recorded by the police in the course of the investigation; and
(iii) A statement recorded by the police during the period of investigation but not during the course of investigation.
The above categories of statements made to the police cannot be considered as substantive evidence, i.e., as evidence of facts stated therein as they are not made during trial, not given on oath, nor they are tested by cross-examination. These statements could be used to corroborate the informant under Section 157 of the Evidence Act, or to contradict him under Section 145 of the Evidence Act when the person who makes the statement to police is called as ‘witness at the time of trial.’
Further, if any statement made to a police officer amounts to a confession, such a confession cannot be proved against a person accused of any offence. However, this bar on proof of confession made to police officer is partially lifted by Section 27 of the Evidence Act.
The evidentiary values of the statements of the above three categories are as follows:
Evidentiary value of First Information Report (F.I.R.):
Any person aware of the commission of any cognizable offence may give information to the police. Such information is to be recorded in a book to be kept by such officer-in-charge of the police station in the form prescribed by the State Government which is called the Station Diary or General Diary in such a form and manner as is provided in Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Such recorded information is usually known as the first information report or simply as F.I.R. The evidence value of F.I.R. is far greater than that of any other statement recorded by the police.
The F.I.R. is not substantive evidence and can be used only for limited purposes like corroborating and contradicting the maker or informant thereof or to show that the implication of the accused was not an afterthought or as one of the res gestae or for being tendered in a proper case under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. In certain circumstances, F.I.R. may be relevant under Section 11 of the Evidence Act.
The F.I.R. may be considered for the purpose of corroboration under Section 157 of the Evidence Act which provides that:
“In order to corroborate the testimony of a witness, any former statement made by such a witness relating to the same fact, at or about the time when the offence took place, or before any authority legally competent to investigate the fact may be proved.”
The F.I.R. can be used to contradict him if the informant makes a statement subsequently in Court when he is called as witness at the time of trial under Section 145 of the Evidence Act which provides that :—
“A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him in writing or reduced into writing, and relevant to matters in question, without such writing being shown to him, or being proved; but if it is intended to contradict him by the writing, his attention must, before writing can be proved, be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.”
Obviously, the F.I.R. cannot be used for the purposes of corroborating or contradicting any witness other than the one lodging the F.I.R. It is admissible in evidence against the maker or informant.
It can be used only as a previous statement admissible to corroborate or contradict a statement made by the informant subsequently in Court. It can, therefore, be used only for the purpose of corroborating or contradicting the maker thereof.
The F.I.R. can have better corroborative value if it is recorded before there is time and opportunity to embellish or before the informant’s memory fails. Undue or unreasonably delay in lodging the F.I.R. inevitably gives rise to suspect the trustworthiness.
If the F.I.R. is given to the police by the accused himself, it cannot possibly be used either for corroboration or contraction because accused cannot be a prosecution witness, and he would very rarely offer himself to be a defence witness under Section 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
A F.I.R. though not substantive evidence is an important document. Its prompt lodging lends credence to prosecution and diminishes the possibility of a coloured version being put up by the complainant. The recording of time and date of lodging of F.I.R. in the register is an internal check about the promptness of the lodging of F.I.R.
If the F.I.R. is of a confessional nature, it cannot be proved against the accused-infoymant, because according to Section 25 of the Evidence Act, no confession made to a police officer can be proved as against a person accused of any offence. If it is not a confession but contains admissions made by the accused, the F.I.R. is admissible in evidence under Section 21 of the Evidence Act.
A part of the F.I.R. is admissible as an admission under Section 21 of the Evidence Act even when the other portion of it is a confession and inadmissible under Section 25 of the Evidence Act if the part can be properly separated from the confession part.
If the F.I.R. is a document containing not only the confession of the accused for committing the crime with which he is charged, but also relates to several other matters which are relevant to the trial, there is nothing in the provisions of the Evidence Act making the latter inadmissible.
Though, generally speaking, the contents of F.I.R. can be used only to contradict or corroborate the maker thereof, there may be cases where the contents become relevant and can be put to some other use also. The F.I.R. can be used as part of the informant’s conduct under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. In certain circumstances, F.I.R. may be relevant under Section 11 of the Evidence Act.
The F.I.R. can be used to show for being tendered in a proper care under Section 32(1) of the Evidence Act. Section 32(1) of the Evidence Act relates to statement of relevant facts as to the cause of his death made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence, or whose attendance cannot be procured without an unreasonable amount of delay of expense. The F.I.R. can be used for the purpose of testing the truth of the prosecution story.