Politics of FIR and rule of law

Wazirabad incident has triggered an emotive debate on the issue wherein legal aspects are being ignored completely


Dr Syed Akhtar Ali Shah November 16, 2022
The author is a former Secretary to Government, Home & Tribal Affairs Department and a retired IG. He holds a PhD in Political Science and currently heads a think tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at [email protected]

Imran Khan wants to nominate high-profile figures — the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister and the DG-C — in the FIR of the attempt on his life in Wazirabad. This has triggered an emotive debate on the issue wherein legal aspects are being ignored completely. As a matter of fact, a pure professional issue has been turned into political controversy, as a result of which an FIR of the incident could not be registered at all for four days.

It is not out of place to mention that under Section 154 CrPC 1898 “every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer-in-charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction and be read over to the informant: and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the Provincial Government may prescribe in this behalf.”

The superior courts have held that FIR is not a substantive piece of evidence and can only be used to corroborate or contradict its maker, but at the same time its importance cannot be ignored because it depicts the initial version set up by the prosecution as also reported in 2003 PCrLJ 1778 and PLJ 2003 CrC (Qta) 1029 (DB).

Under the above mentioned provision of law and judgment of superior courts, an officer in charge of a police station is bound to register a cognizable offence instantly without hedge and haw. The officer in charge and the whole hierarchy by ignoring, refusing or delaying to register an FIR of the bid to assassinate Imran Khan had not only committed criminal negligence but also ceased to act efficient — a misconduct under the Efficiency and Discipline Rules, therefore liable to be proceeded upon.

The FIR, an important piece of investigation, sets the whole machinery of criminal justice into motion. However, in that high-profile case, where a former PM had been attacked, and where one person was killed and several others injured, the system remained at a halt.

A complainant has a legal right to charge any person at the initial stage of the report, as nobody is above the law or enjoys immunity from being charged in an FIR. The Supreme Court has, in numerous cases, declared this to be the right of the complainant. It is not known under what authority of law, the police in Wazirabad (Punjab Police) was reluctant to file Imran Khan’s report.

Though a sub-inspector has registered an FIR on his own, the investigating officer is under an obligation to record the statements of the legal heirs of the deceased, injured persons and others present on the scene. The investigator cannot refuse to record the statement of Imran Khan and others, while charging any person over the crime. Substantial material evidence has to be brought on file to connect the planners with the offence.

The denial of the FIR has once again brought to the fore the negation of the rule of law in the country. However, one can see a silver lining emerging in the wake of this incident, as there exists a strong political will for enforcement of citizens’ rights. And this will of the people is the real strength of a political system.

In developed democracies, political leaders are cautious even in their private lives and abide by the law for fear of public backlash in case of violation. A case in point is the resignation of British PM Boris Johnson under public pressure for allowing a party at 10 Downing Street in violation of Covid rules.

In contrast, the issue of Imran Khan’s FIR has had an effect not only on the whole political system but also the psyche of the nation. Imran Khan has vowed to continue his fight for “real freedom” until his last breath as thousands of his supporters joined the PTI’s long march on Islamabad, demanding snap elections. The government, on the other hand, is utilising all resources to frustrate the protest march. The situation threatens to add to the political chaos to the extent of breakdown. The only way to navigate out of this quagmire is reconciliation through persons having the ability to connect both the adversaries. Both sides need to provide face saving to each other in order to embark on the path of democracy through a fresh mandate.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2022.

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