A Complaint and First Information Report (FIR) are the first processes to follow to form a criminal lawsuit. However, both concepts are totally different.
A victim, or any person who witnessed the commission of a crime, can formally go to the Police and report that a crime has been committed.
Once the information is tabled before the police, the designated officer writes down the information in the prescribed format. This prescribed format, or formal document, is called the First Information Report.
After the FIR is prepared, the contents are read out to the informant. The informant also signs the FIR, verifying the content of the document. The informant is also given a copy of the FIR.
The FIR contains the following:
- Name of the informant
- Address of the informant
- Facts of the crime committed
- Date of the crime
- Time of the crime
- Place of the crime
And any other relevant detail.
Once the FIR is lodged, the police is empowered to begin investigations into the reported case.
FIR is not prepared for all cases. They are only prepared in respect of cognizable offences (i.e. offenses which the police can arrest the suspect without a warrant).
A Complaint is an accusation made to a Magistrate, by a complainant, informing the magistrate that a crime has been committed. They are lodged under the Criminal Procedure Code.
Unlike FIR which is lodged in respect of only cognizable offences, Complaints are lodged in respect of both cognizable and non-cognizable offences.
There is no prescribed format for lodging a Complaint. As such, a complaint can be made orally.
Although complaints are peculiar to criminal cases, they can also be made in a civil lawsuit. A complaint made in a civil lawsuit is called a ‘Plaint’.
Apart from defamation cases, and marriage cases, a complaint can be made by ay person other than the aggrieved person.
What distinguishes a complaint from a FIRS is that a complaint does not involve any police report. So, even if a police investigation has been conducted, and it is revealed that a crime has been committed, the police officer will verbally inform the Magistrate of this fact.
The key differences between an FIR and a Complaint are in:
- The format in which they are lodged.
- Offences for which they are lodged
- Authority to whom they are lodged