More than one FIR cannot be lodged in the same offence, a Thane court in Maharashtra has said while acquitting 10 people accused in an over 25-year-old case of attempt to murder and rioting. The ultimate objective of every investigation is to find out whether the offence is alleged to have been committed and if so, who committed it, Additional Sessions Judge A S Pandharikar observed in his order issued last Thursday.
According to the prosecution, the families of one Tatya Patel and Kesharinath Mhatre, an activist of a political party, were into the business of supplying construction material to developers. On February 10, 1994, members of Patel's family and some others, armed with weapons, came to Mhatre's house at Kashi village in Thane district, and warned him against supplying the construction material to a contractor.
They also threw a fireball at Mhatre's house, following which a part of it got damaged. Seventeen people were booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 342 (wrongful confinement), 143, 147, 148, 149 (for unlawful assembly and rioting), 436 and 427 (mischief).
Of these, three are still absconding, while four died during the course of trial in the case. Judge Pandharikar took recourse to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, while acquitting the remaining 10 accused.
He said on perusal of the prosecution's theory, it is clear two FIRs have been registered for the same incident. Referring to the apex court ruling, he said, "The legal position is that there cannot be two FIRs against the same accused in the same case."
"When there are rival versions of the same episode, they would normally take the shape of two different FIRs and the investigation can be carried out under both of them by the same probing agency," he said. Apart from that, the report submitted to the court by way of subsequent FIR needs to be considered as an information about new discovery made by police during investigation that persons named in the first FIR were the real culprits.
In the present case, the complainant (Mhatre's wife) herself does not know the names of all the accused. "Then, who is the person who inserted the name of the accused in the complaint? This question remains unanswered," he observed.
"The ultimate objective of every investigation is to find out whether the offence is alleged to have been committed and if so, who committed it," the judge said. "There can be no second FIR for fresh investigation or on receipt of every subsequent information in respect of cognizable offence or of the same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences. Only the first complaint can be regarded as an FIR," the court said.
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