E-FIR System to fight Crimes
This October saw Odisha take the first step towards implementing the E-FIR system across the state that will enable citizens to file an FIR online from anywhere and will cover all 531 police stations in the state.
A pilot project was tested over a period of fifteen months and finally in October this year, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik formally inaugurated the E-FIR system in the state. Anyone can log onto: www.citizenportal-op.gov.in or log onto www.odishapolice.gov.in and click on ‘citizen portal’ link to access e-services.
What is an E-FIR?
E-FIR is a process wherein any individual can go online and log into the specified website and file an FIR. In turn, he receives a confirmation receipt with date, along with a specific FIR number.
Under the Indian legal system, filing a First Information Report (FIR) against any criminal offense is a fundamental right of every citizen.
How does the E-FIR system help the citizens?
Filing an FIR is the initial and most important step in seeking justice against any criminal offense. All subsequent investigations and legal actions that follow is based on the FIR lodged at the police station by the complainant. The problem that most citizens face is that the staff at police stations is often reluctant to file an FIR as the number of FIR reflects poorly on the station’s performance. This is the primary reason why the police are reluctant and unhelpful when it comes to registering an FIR.
Besides this, the other reason is corruption. Illiterate or semi-literate citizens who are unaware of their fundamental rights are exploited by corrupt police personnel who extract bribes from them just to register an FIR. The sheer harassment faced by most citizens, especially women, at the time of filing an FIR, is the primary reason that many criminal offenses go unreported.
Under the E-FIR system, any citizen can now log in from anywhere in India and file an E-FIR. This means that every citizen can now exercise his or her fundamental right in seeking justice against any criminal offense committed against him or her. This saves time, money and most of all, is free of any harassment. At present, this facility is available in the state of Odisha but other states are in the process of launching the same.
Under the E-FIR system, citizens can now undertake the following actions:
- Request an FIR copy
- File a missing person report
- File a lost property complaint
- Apply for license
- Request employee verification
- Request character certificate
- Request tenant verification, ….amongst other services
The complainant will have to log on to the portal and create a user ID and submit some personal information before proceeding to file the complaint. The complainant will subsequently have to visit the police station concerned, along with the E-FIR reference number, to complete the remaining procedural formalities before the police can proceed with further investigation.
How does the E-FIR system help the police?
In every police station, the time devoted to process the registering of an FIR for each case takes up a lot of time and energy of the staff present, as each complainant is usually accompanied by several persons, many of whom are agitated and at times, violent. With most police stations being understaffed and overburdened with paperwork, basic public response and courtesy get overlooked, leading to people complaining of police rudeness and apathy.
With several staff involved in the process of filing FIRs and in handling the large number of people present at the police station, basic policing tends to suffer. With a large percentage of FIRs now being filed online, the police staff has been freed of public pressure which is in turn leading to better FIR follow up and quicker response to complaints filed.
How does the E-FIR system help the government?
The central government, through the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the respective state governments, need to keep track, monitor, and take corrective and preventive measures to improve public safety and security. Towards this, the central government has launched the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) which help the centre and state to collate and analyze data pertaining to number of crimes committed, type of offense, track criminal behavioural patterns, etc, all of which helps establish policies for improved policing and take preventive measures towards controlling and fighting crime.
Challenges to the E-FIR system becoming popular
A large section of the population in India lives in rural and semi-urban areas where many are either illiterate or semi-literate. Most don’t have access to internet in any form and are therefore completely unaware and unable to use the E-FIR system. This is the segment that faces maximum harassment at the hands of the police and needs relief that the E-FIR system provides.
Fortunately, with mobile revolution spreading to the interiors, at least internet access will now be made available to most, if not all, in the near future. As people start using the mobile to access a variety of services, it is hoped, that with assistance from family, friends and neighbours, the use of E-FIR facility will also become popular.
The state government of Odisha did start an ATM Kiosk-like E-FIR facility designed especially for women complainants but the system never really took off, with very poor response from the people. The main reason being that people are still unaware and unsure of how to access the facility. The government needs to do more to create awareness and educate people on how and why they must go online to register the FIR. One hopes that more states adopt the E-FIR system, which will contribute in making the Digital India initiative, a success.