Difference Between Complaint and FIR (With Table)

Complaint vs FIR

Complaint and FIR might sound like one and the same to laymen but in legal terms, they have very different meanings.

The key difference between complaint and FIR lies in the fact that a complaint can be made against both cognizable and non-cognizable offences whereas and FIR can be filed only in case of the former.

An offence for which arrest can be made without a warrant is a cognizable offence and where a warrant is necessary, it is a non-cognizable offence.

Besides this major point of difference, a complaint is to be made to the magistrate and it can be given orally or in writing.

An FIR has to be filed with the officer in charge of a police station and if it is given orally, it must be written down and read out to the informant.


Comparison Table Between Complaint and FIR (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonComplaintFIR
ProvisionDefined by Section 2(d), CrpCProvided under Section 154, CrPC
AuthorityMagistratePolice officer in charge of a police station
OffenceNon-cognizable offencesBoth cognizable and non-cognizable offences
ResultInquiry by Magistrate or officer under Magistrate’s directionInvestigation by police officer


What is a Complaint?

Complaint is defined under Section 2(d) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or CrPC as ‘an allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this Code, that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but does not include a police report.’

The explanation to the section further provides that if the commission of a non-cognizable offence is disclosed in the investigation report.

The report will then be called the complaint and the officer who filed the report will then become the complainant.

Section 200, CrPC requires the Magistrate to examine the complainant and any witness under oath before putting it down in writing. The written complaint will then be signed by the complainant and the aforementioned witnesses.

The Magistrate can then initiate proceedings against the person accused in the complaint or, under Section 202, CrPC, start an inquiry into the matter himself or direct an investigation to be conducted by a police officer or by a person considered fit for the matter.

After all these steps have been carried out, the Magistrate can dismiss the complaint under Section 203 if there does not seem to be sufficient material to continue.

Whenever a Magistrate dismisses a complaint, he needs to record his reasons for coming to that conclusion.

However, if it is found that there is substance to the complaint, he may issue a summons or a warrant as required against the accused and begin trial proceedings.

In cases where only a Sessions Court can try the matter, the Magistrate must commit the case to a Sessions Court.

Such a complaint filed before the Magistrate need not be written in any set format. It can be filed by any person who is aware that an offence has been committed even if they are not actually connected to the situation.

The facts given by the person need only establish that an offence has been committed and it is not necessary for him to show which specific legal provision has been violated.

Anybody can file a complaint against a product or service
Anybody can file a complaint against a product or service

What is FIR?

According to Section 154(1), CrPC, all the information received about a cognizable offence being committed by the officer in charge of a police station should be put into writing.

The written version will then be read to the person informing the officer about the offence and then signed by him. This report is generally called the First Information Report or FIR.

True to its name, an FIR is the first information given to the police regarding an offence being committed and it is on the basis of this information that further action will be taken.

Since it is the first report it need not be in great detail and only the bare essentials such as the facts, time and place of commission, etc. are required.

However, the information given should not be vague and the commission of a cognizable offence must be established. An FIR should not be filed on the basis of baseless rumors or gossip.

An FIR can be filed by any person who is aware that an offence was committed even if he has no direct interest in the matter.

It can be an eyewitness or the victim or even the accused if he comes forward to confess. Section 154(2), CrPC, also lays down that the informant has to be given a free copy of the information once it is put into writing.

In cases of sexual assault against a woman where the complaint is being made by the woman in question, it is necessary that a woman officer be present to take down the information.

Upon receiving this information, the police can begin investigating the matter. No permission from the Magistrate is required and after investigation, a charge sheet should be filed in accordance with Section 173, CrPC.

Once the proceedings have been initiated against the person accused in the case, the accused must be given a free copy of the FIR and all other relevant documents like the police report, list of witnesses, etc. as laid down in Section 207, CrPC.

Time is of great importance for filing an FIR. It must be filed as quickly as possible so that the information is authentic without much time for embellishment.

There are of course cases where a concession is given if the prosecution can prove that there was a legitimate reason for the delay.

FIR is a legal complaint
FIR is a legal complaint

Main Differences Between Complaint and FIR

  1. A complaint is a piece of information given orally or in writing to a Magistrate about an offence committed by a person.
  2. An FIR or First Information Report is the information given to a police officer in charge of a station regarding an offence being committed and it must be reduced into writing.
  3. Complaints can be filed for both cognizable and non-cognizable offences.
  4. Only cognizable offences can be reported through an FIR.
  5. Upon receipt of a complaint, the Magistrate can inquire into the matter himself or direct a police officer to do so.
  6. After filing an FIR the police officer may commence the investigation without any prior permission from a Magistrate.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Complaint and FIR

  1. What is the process of FIR?

    FIR stands for “first information report”. It is a document that is prepared by the police when an individual wants to report about something which is not right. This information first reaches the police. That is why it is known as FIR.

    The process is: Visit the nearest police station and verbally explain the whole scenario. One officer will write down all the details and read it back to you for proofreading. Thus, the process is complete now.

  2. What is a police complaint?

    A complaint is a grumble or a problem that a person has suffered from. It can be in the form of theft, kidnapping, bribe, accident, etc.

    When this complaint of an individual is taken to the nearest police station present in that jurisdiction, then it is known as a police complaint.

  3. Is a police report the same as a criminal complaint?

    No, police reports and criminal reports are not the same. When a complaint of an individual is taken to the nearest police station present in that jurisdiction, then it is known as a police complaint and the report formed is the police report.

    While a criminal complaint is when a person comes to the police reporting something suspicious about any other person who has done something illegal.

  4. What is the time prescribed for filing an FIR?

    As such, there is no time limit which is prescribed for filing an FIR. A person can file an FIR even after several days of the incident but he/she should have a valid explanation about the pause which he/she has taken to file this particular FIR.

    But it should be filed without any undue delay.

  5. What happens if FIR is filed against me?

    If an FIR is filed against you, then you will receive a call from the police station stating the same. They will tell you to report to the police station on time.

    They will brief you about the scenario under which you have been booked for an FIR and by whom the FIR has been lodged.

  6. Can FIR be taken back?

    Yes, an FIR can be withdrawn back. This can be done by the person who in the first place lodged the FIR.

    The person just needs to go back to the police station and tell them that he is willing to withdraw the same by stating a valid reason to the police.

  7. Do all police reports get investigated?

    All the police reports, after the process of getting recorded, goes through a process of authenticity check.

    If the report and the information are found out to be authentic then the police proceed further for the investigation of the same. Otherwise, the report is canceled in front of the person who reported it.



If the registration of an FIR is refused without any legal reason for the same such as the offence is a non-cognizable one, the informant can approach the Superintendent or Commissioner of Police and file a written complaint before them.

They may also approach a Judicial Magistrate regarding the same.

On the other hand, if a complaint filed before the Magistrate is dismissed, the complainant may file a review petition as a remedy.


Word Cloud for Difference Between Complaint and FIR

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Complaint and FIR. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Complaint and FIR
Word Cloud for Complaint and FIR



  1. https://kanoon.nearlaw.com/2018/01/10/complaints-magistrates/
  2. https://www.lawaudience.com/complaint-to-magistrates-sections-200-to-203-the-code-of-criminal-procedure-1973/
  3. https://lawtimesjournal.in/first-information-report-fir-under-crpc/