Why 'FIR' is the catalyst in burglary insurance claims?

Before we understand the importance and relevance of FIR, we need to appreciate a few basics of administration of criminal justice system in India. Two laws which govern the criminal justice system in India are- Indian Penal Code (IPC) that defines the various offences and Criminal Procedure Code (Cr PC) which regulates the operational part of criminal justice.

IPC inter-alia defines offenses against the body (causing hurt, murder, sexual offences etc.) & against property (theft, dacoity, embezzlement etc.). Cr PC deals with the process of how these crimes are to be registered, investigated and taken through the judicial process. Incidentally FIR is a term which is not mentioned in Cr PC but popularly known for the first information given to the police about a crime.

1. Crimes- Cognizable & Non-cognizable

Another distinction that we need to understand is- between Cognizable and Non cognizable offenses. Cognizable offences are those which are punishable with death/ life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than 3 years. Non cognizable offences are crimes that are of less serious nature.

The relevance of this distinction is that for cognizable offences, The police is expected to take immediate action to record and investigate the alleged offence. Police is also authorised by law to arrest the person without waiting for an arrest warrant from a court.

Lodging of a FIR is the first step of the process that requires immediate action by the police.

2. Operation of Criminal Law

As mentioned above, FIR is not defined in Cr PC as such. However, it means the first information given to the officer in charge of a police station in relation to commission of a cognizable offence. The expectation from the police is to take immediate action on this information. The intention is to enable police to arrest the alleged offender and take all necessary steps to collect evidences required to establish the nature of crime and the role of the offender.

In view of the importance of this information and the necessity of prompt action by the police, there is no restriction on who can provide this information to the police- it can be a person who may be a witness or may not be, but has personal information about the Commission of alleged offense.

3. FIR in a Theft/ Burglary claim

Having understood the importance of FIR, let's understand its relevance in an insurance policy covering theft/burglary.

The insurance policy requires a claimant to prove his claim by way of authenticated documents etc. Since the criminal justice system requires a government authority (police department) to investigate and authenticate the incident, this obviously is an independent & probably the best proof of cause of loss that can be found by a claimant. So as a general practice, the insurance companies insist on a FIR to substantiate the cause of loss and also look at the details mentioned in the FIR to check if any observation has been made confirming or casting doubt as to. the occurrence of the incident.

On completion of the investigation process, Cr PC expects the police to either file a charge sheet in the court against the offender or file a Untraced report. In general a time limit of 6 month is provided to the police to complete this process. So even if the offender is not traced, the police hash to confirm the position by way of the Untraced report at the end of six months.

hence normally the theft/burglary claims are settled only after 6 months unless the criminal is traced earlier and a final report issued before six months.

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