The registration of multiple complaints for the same offence is contrary to the spirit of the constitution
akistan has a history of political turmoil and corruption. Over the years, political leaders and workers have been accused of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds and abuse of official powers. However, the legal system provides for protection of fundamental rights of all its citizens. This included the right to lodge a First Information Report against whoever is believed to have committed a crime.
In recent years, there have been instances of some unknown individuals lodging FIRs against mainstream politicians and activists in various parts of the country. This phenomenon has led to a debate about the motives behind these FIRs and their legal validity. This article aims to provide an overview of the legal perspective of FIRs against politicians and activists. It examines the legal provisions related to lodging an FIR, the procedure for filing an FIR and the legal consequences of a false FIR.
Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, states that any person having knowledge of the commission of a cognizable offence may give the information orally or in writing to the officer in charge of a police station. A cognizable offence is one for which the police can arrest a person without a warrant. The section also provides for the recording of the information in a book maintained at the police station. The person giving the information has the right to demand a copy of the entry made in the book.
The filing of an FIR is relatively simple in theory. It’s not as simple in actual practice. The lodging of a false FIR is a serious offence. Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) provides for punishment for lodging a false FIR. In practice, due to widespread distrust in the judicial system, most people try to avoid initiating court proceedings for malicious prosecution against the person who lodged the false FIR. Section 182 states that any person who, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has not been committed, gives such information to a police officer with the intention of causing the police officer to use his lawful power to the injury of any person or to cause such person to be arrested and detained in custody, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to six months or with a fine or with both.
The lodging of FIRs against some politicians or activists across Pakistan raises suspicions about the motives behind them. There are several possible motives behind the lodging of such FIRs. The law does not limit the number of FIRs that can be filed against a person for the same offence.
One recent case of this nature was of Mir Shakeel-ur Rehman, the owner of the Jang group, one of Pakistan’s largest media conglomerates. He has repeatedly been the subject of multiple FIRs. At one point the number of such complaints crossed 100. Several of these FIRs were lodged in Balochistan. In a landmark ruling reported in PLD 2019 Balochistan 25 (Independent Media Corporation Pvt Ltd vs Government of Balochistan and Others) the honourable high court held that multiple FIRs for the same act/ incident amount to an abuse of the process of law are contrary to the spirit of Articles 4, 9 10-A and 13 of the constitution.
While the lodging of multiple FIRs against a person is legally permissible, it is important to ensure that the cases are based on substantive evidence and are not used for harassment or political persecution.
The lodging of multiple FIRs against Rehman raised questions about the motive behind those. It was argued that the FIRs are politically motivated and were an attempt to silence Rehman, known for reporting critical of the government. Legally speaking, it is not necessary for all such FIRs to be consolidated for prosecution. Each FIR can be considered a separate case, and the accused have to defend themselves against each case. Thus the filing of multiple FIRs can prolong the legal process.
The legal implications of multiple FIRs are also significant. Each FIR requires an independent investigation. The police have to gather evidence for each case separately. This can put a strain on the resources of the Police Department and delay investigations. Additionally, it can be financially and emotionally draining for the accused.
The accused have to hire separate lawyers for each case and may have to appear in multiple courts. This can be time-consuming and expensive.
The filing of multiple FIRs can also have an impact on the right to fair trial. The accused may be subject to multiple trials for the same offence, which can lead to double [/multiple] jeopardy. This means that the accused could be punished twice for the same offence - a violation of the fundamental rights.
In the matter of lodging of multiple FIRs, Sindh High Court in its reported judgment 2023 YLR 524, held that “registration of multiple FIRs against the accused under same section made the case doubtful.”
The filing of multiple FIRs against an individual can be seen as a form of harassment or intimidation, particularly if the cases lack substantive evidence or are politically motivated. In such cases, the individual may challenge the FIRs in a court and argue that they are being targetted unfairly. Multiple FIRs for the same offence can also contribute to the backlog of cases in the courts and result in delays and inefficiencies in the administration of justice.
While the lodging of multiple FIRs against an individual is legally permissible, it is important to ensure that the cases are based on substantive evidence and are not being used as a tool for harassment or political persecution.
The author occasionally writes on legal and human rights issues. He also practices law as an advocate of the Sindh High Court and is pursuing a doctorate in law from SZABUL. He can be reached at advocate.ahmed @ymail.com