How to File a Criminal Complaint in India?


The majority of Indians are unaware of their legal rights. This lack of awareness is one of the main reasons why reporting criminal activity in India is not a simple task. The public's perception of police officers is also unhelpful. However, it is necessary to report any crimes that you see.

When it comes to reporting illegal conduct, India has a bad reputation. Several crimes, especially those committed against women, go unreported. This is due to several socio-political factors, one of which is a misunderstanding of legal rights. In reality, India has all of the laws in place, and understanding your rights is critical to boosting the number of people who report criminal elements in our community.

A criminal complaint might be one of two types: a private complaint to a Magistrate or a First Information Report (FIR). Aside from these two types of criminal complaints, an individual can also register a police report. Unlike an FIR, which can only be filed for cognizable offences, a complaint under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, can be filed for both cognizable and non-cognizable offences.

Before learning how to register a police complaint, it's necessary to understand what a police complaint is, who can file it, when and where it can be filed, and the important factors to keep in mind while doing so.

What is a police complaint?

A police complaint is an official communication to the police department that requires legal involvement or some form of modification as a result of the occurrence of a certain event or situation. The filing of a police complaint is the first and most important step in starting criminal proceedings. In the end, a police complaint leads to the accuser or offender being prosecuted.

The complaint specifies the circumstances of the event or scenario, which assists the police department in taking the legal steps required to fix the issue. The complaint is kept on records for future reference, and it also serves as an official document that aids in the investigation of the reported situation.

The police report can be regarding misplaced items, any type of disruption, or an assault by another individual, among other things. If the complaint is approved, the police will file an FIR and begin an investigation into the matter so that the offender might be caught.

Who can file a criminal complaint?

Any person can register a police complaint if he or she has information about the offence that has been committed, even if that person is not personally interested or affected by that offence. There are several exceptions, such as instances involving defamation, marriage, and certain acts listed in subsections 195 to 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973.

As a result, only the aggrieved person doesn't have to register a complaint with the police department; anybody who is aware of the offence or may know the occurrence of such an offence can do so. Regardless of whether the complainant is the victim of the crime, the victim's friend, the victim's family member, or any witness to the crime committed, the complaint can be submitted by any individual or company who wants to report something that violated the general law.

Someone who makes a false complaint or provides false information to the police can be prosecuted under Section 203 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for giving false information about the crime.

When can a complaint be filed?

A police report should be filed as soon as possible after the crime or incident has occurred. Due to emotional trauma, women in some circumstances, such as rape, Mental Harassment, sexual harassment, and so on, may take some time to come forward and report the incident/crime. Even if the complainant is late, a police report might still be made in such circumstances.

If the police refuse to conduct an investigation or file an FIR, the aggrieved can seek redress under Section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, by applying with the concerned Magistrate, who is competent to order the police to proceed with the investigation and file the FIR if it is required by the case.

How can one file a criminal complaint?

The offence should be reported to the Station House Officer (SHO) or the officer in charge once a police complaint is made in the police station that has jurisdiction over the area where the act was committed. In the event of an emergency, a police complaint can be submitted at any police station for cognizable offences (severe offences), and the police officer would promptly register a Zero FIR.

If the officer on duty at the police station is unavailable, the most senior officer available at that station assists in the filing of the complaint or the FIR. If the Inspector or the Station House Officer (SHO) is not present, the officer in command will be the Head Constable or the Sub-Inspector, who will hear a complaint or file an FIR as appropriate.

How to file a complaint?

A police complaint can be filed both offline or online without having to attend the police station. A police complaint can also be made via e-mail, courier, fast post, or even a phone call to the police station, and is considered valid under the law.

Offline Mode

  • Inform the police of the crime/incident by going to the police station.
  • The complainant can either write the complaint beforehand and take it to the police station, where they will be informed that a complaint needs to be filed, or the complainant can go to the police station and give them the information orally, which will be written down by the police.
  • It is sufficient to file a complaint based on oral information; no documents are required.
  • Knowing the identity or information of the accused against whom the complaint is being filed is not required. The complainant can recall as much about the accused as he or she can. If the complainant is unsure about the particular specifics, approximate figures should be provided.
  • Before submitting the complaint, the complainant should read it again carefully to verify the facts and then sign it.
  • The police will stamp the complaint and issue a 'Complaint Number' to the complainant.
  • After that, the police will issue a xerox copy of the complaint, which must be signed and stamped.
  • If the complaint is for a non-cognizable offence, the police will direct the complainant to file a complaint with the Magistrate.

Online Mode

The process for filing an online complaint varies across the state. If the city or state offers the option of filing complaints online, you can do so. The concerned individual can go to the website and follow the instructions there. The following are the basic processes for filing a complaint or an FIR using the online mode, which is generally available on the official website:

  • Go to the concerned police department's official website.
  • On the home page, select the 'Service' option.
  • Choose a category from the drop-down menu and file your complaint.
  • You'll be taken to a new page. Fill out the registration form with the information required. When making a complaint, the complainant must include their working e-mail address and/or WhatsApp number.
  • Double-check all of the information before submitting the form.
  • Following the submission of the complaint, a copy of the complaint/FIR in PDF format will be delivered to the complainant's e-mail address.

Points to keep in mind while filing a criminal complaint

  • The complaint should be filled out as soon as possible.
  • An oral complaint should be written down and read aloud by the officer, who should also explain it to the complainant.
  • The complaint should be specific. 
  • It must be written in the first person.
  • Avoid using complex phrases, superfluous details, and terminologies.
  • The complainant's arrival and departure times should be recorded in the police station's daily diary.
  • It is sufficient to describe the incident to the police; the complaint is not required to present legal provisions or laws.
  • A police complaint can be filed in any language and against any number of people.


What should be included in a police complaint?

The police complaint is divided into three sections:

The incident's specifics are presented in the first section: In brief and crisp language, the complainant should describe the incident that occurred or one that they are aware of. It should begin with the event's date as well as the time it occurred.

The second section is made up of the events that occurred after that: The wrongdoing that prompted the complainant to register a complaint must be stated by the complainant. The type of loss that occurred, whether it was a monetary loss, physical damage, or the loss of important objects or possessions, must all be documented. It's worth noting that a complaint's nature isn't tainted just because a wrong section was specified.

The third section contains the prayer as well as the following information about the complainant: Here, a request clause should be included, in which the complainant's desired action should be made known to the police official/station house officer (SHO). This section must include the complainant's entire information, such as an address, phone number, and so on.

What’s next after filing FIR?

An investigation is carried out by the police, which may result in arrests. Once the investigation is complete, the police will write all of their findings in a Challan, or charge sheet. The matter is taken to court if the charge sheet has adequate evidence. If the police decide there is insufficient evidence or proof that a crime has been committed as a result of their investigations, they can close the case after proving their case in court. If the police decide to close the case, they must inform the person who originally filed the FIR.

What are the types of criminal complaints?

here are two main types of criminal complaints:

  1. FIR (First Information Report) to the Police: This is a formal report lodged with the police to initiate an investigation into a criminal offense. It is usually filed by the victim, a witness, or someone with knowledge of the crime.

  2. Private Complaint to Magistrate: In this case, an individual directly approaches a magistrate (a legal authority) to report a criminal offense.

Can a criminal case be filed directly in court without going to the police first?

Yes, in India, a criminal case can be filed directly in court through a process known as a "Private Complaint" or "Criminal Complaint." This means that instead of filing a First Information Report (FIR) with the police, an individual can approach the court directly to report a criminal offense.

Who can be a complainant in a criminal case?

In a criminal case, a complainant is a person who brings forth the allegation or accusation against the accused, essentially initiating the legal proceedings. The complainant can be the victim, a witness, or any third party who has knowledge about the incident.

What is a private complaint to the magistrate under crpc?

A private criminal complaint refers to a legal process where an individual directly approaches a court or magistrate to report an alleged criminal offense. Unlike the conventional route of filing a First Information Report (FIR) with the police, a private criminal complaint bypasses the police and goes directly to the court.

What is a zero FIR and when is it used?

A zero FIR is used for crimes like murder, rape, and other crimes that require immediate investigation and cannot wait for the police station whose jurisdiction the offence falls under. The basic goal of a Zero FIR is to start an investigation or persuade the police to take action right away. Make sure your complaint is not transmitted to the proper police station in your jurisdiction without any initial action or investigation once you've filed a Zero FIR. A zero FIR is required for crimes that demand immediate action, such as murder, or rape, or when the police station whose jurisdiction the crime occurred is not easily accessible, such as offences committed while traveling.