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Distinction between Complaint and First Information Report (FIR)

Distinction between Complaint and First Information Report (FIR)


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About the Author:
Prof.(Dr.) Priya Sepaha
Director, Law Colloquy,
Author, Trainer, blogger, Youtuber


Any offence committed requires certain records and documents to take action before starting the criminal procedures. FIR and complaint are one of those prerequisites.

A cognizable case means a case in which a police officer may arrest without warrant, in accordance with the First Schedule of Cr.P.C. (1973), or under any other law for the time being in force. Whereas, non-cognizable offence means in which a police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant.

Complaint (Section 2 (d) CrPC)

“Complaint” means any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under the Code of Criminal Procedure that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but it does not include a police report.

To constitute a complaint there must be an allegation made with a view to the recipient taking action under the Code, charging some person with a particular offence. A complaint need not necessarily be made by the person aggrieved but may be made by any person aware of the offence. The complaint need not specify any offender or even the section of the law which makes the act or omission punishable.

Although, when after investigation it is discovered that offence is non-cognizable, a police report in a case can also be considered as a complaint. In such a condition, the officer who prepares the report is known to be as a complainant.

Any person is allowed to file a complaint, except in the case of marriage and defamation, where the only aggrieved party can complain. In a complaint, the complainant requests to penalise the culprit appropriately. A mere presentation of a petition to a Magistrate to enable him to take administrative action is not a complaint within the terms of the definition.

If a complaint is received by the Magistrate, the power to take cognizance on the basis of such complaint is under Section 190 of Cr.P.C. However, further action on such complaint has to be taken under Sections 200-204 of Cr.P.C. Under Section 200 Cr.P.C., the magistrate is required to record the statement of the complainant on oath, and also of other witnesses, if present. The objective sought to be achieved by Section 200 is that a large number of complaints are filed by private individuals, many of which may be frivolous complaints. Therefore, it is considered necessary to verify the details of such complaints by examining the complainant on oath under Section 200 of Cr.P.C.

Cognizance of offences by Magistrates (Section 190, CrPC)

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any Magistrate of the first class, and any Magistrate of the second class specially empowered in this behalf under sub-section (2), may take cognizance of any offence-

(a) upon receiving a complaint of facts which constitute such offence;

(b) upon a police report of such facts;

(c) upon information received from any person other than a police officer, or upon his own knowledge, that such offence has been committed.

(2) The Chief Judicial Magistrate may empower any Magistrate of the second class to take cognizance under sub-section (1) of such offences as are within his competence to inquire into or try.”

First Information Report (FIR)

In criminal law, FIR is the report of information that the police receives first in point of time, regarding the commission of the cognizable offence. The term cognizable offence refers to the crime in which the police has the right to arrest the accused without any warrant and can start an investigation.

Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

(1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub- section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.