Multiple FIRs Alone Cannot Brand an Accused as a ‘History Sheeter’- J&K High Court

History Sheeter

The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh recently held that a person cannot be designated as a ‘history sheeter’ solely based on the registration of multiple first information reports (FIRs) against them in the past.

A bench of Justice MA Chowdhary clarified that creating a history sheet should not be a mechanical procedure; it should involve reasonable evidence indicating that the person is “habitually addicted” to criminal activities, as well as information about whether they were convicted of the alleged crimes, among other factors.

The single bench emphasized that authorities must exercise their discretion based on reason and justice, not private opinions, in accordance with the law and not arbitrary or fanciful criteria. Their actions should align with the rules of justice and fairness, staying within the limits of their authority.

The case before the Court concerned a challenge to the ‘Verification of Character and Antecedents Certificate’ issued by a Sub-Divisional Police officer in Mahore, which labeled the petitioner as a history sheeter.

Upon examination, the Court found that the local police had opened a history sheet against the petitioner based solely on the registration of five cases over an eight-year period.

Consequently, the judge invalidated the history sheet, deeming it inconsistent with relevant police regulations. The Court held that the petitioner’s fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution were violated by the opening of the history sheet.

The petitioner contended that various politically-motivated, unfounded, and manipulated cases had been filed against him. He highlighted that he had been acquitted in four out of the five cases, with the remaining case dropped during the investigation. Therefore, he argued that the police could not label him a ‘history sheeter’ or subject him to surveillance.

Government authorities, including the police, cited rule 703 of the Police Rules, 1960, as the basis for opening the history sheet. However, the Court disagreed with this justification.

Considering that the petitioner had faced five cases between 2009 and 2018, with four resulting in acquittal and one deemed unproven during investigation, the Court determined that he could not be classified as addicted to criminal activities or a habitual offender.

The judge stressed that the power to create history sheets must be exercised cautiously and responsibly due to its significant consequences. Labeling an individual as a history sheeter carries a negative social image compared to others. It can lead to societal estrangement and interfere with a person’s right to privacy. Therefore, the Court urged strict adherence to the parameters outlined in police rules and consideration of the intended objectives when opening or maintaining history sheets.

As a result, the Court granted the petitioner’s challenge, ordering the removal of his history sheet from the records of the relevant police station.


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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte