Difference Between Complaint and FIR (With Table)

The terms “Complaint” and “FIR” are quite related to each other and may seem to be two different confusing terms. But according to the agencies of Law Enforcement, those are two different terms to be used under various situations

Complaint vs FIR

The main difference between Complaint and FIR is that the cognizable nature of the offence, commissioned. The offence need not be cognizable, to be filed as a complaint. Whereas, an FIR can only be filed for cognizable offences.

Complaint vs FIR

A complaint can be made either orally or as a written statement to the magistrate. The police may need an arrest warrant, if the offence was filed as a complaint. Such an offence where warrant is necessary for arresting the accused is non-cognizable offence.

But an FIR can only be filed if the offence is cognizable. Legal authorities can arrest someone without an arrest warrant under a cognizable offence. An FIR should be made by the legal authority in a written format under the intimation of the complainant. The complainant has the right to ask for the information recorded by the legal authority as FIR.

Comparison Table Between Complaint and FIR

Parameter of comparisonComplaintFIR
Section under CrpCSection 2(d) in CrpC defines complaintSection 154 in CrpC defines FIR.
Handed over toThe MagistrateIncharge police officer of the police station
Nature of offenceNon-cognizable offencesCognizable offences
InvestigationBy magistrate or by the officers as directed by the magistrateBy the police officer

What is a Complaint?

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrpC) under the Section 2(d), “complaint means any 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 section adds that the disclosure of report of the commission of non-cognizable offence after an investigation made by the police officer is called a complaint and the officer, who filed the complaint is called as a complainant.

After filing the complaint, the Magistrate investigates the complaint to the complainant which is provided under Section 200, CrPC. The magistrate examines the witnesses if any, before writing up the complaint. Once the complaint is written, then it should be signed by the complainant and by the witness to get proceeded further.

Under Section 202, CrPC, the Magistrate can directly involve himself to inquire the accused or direct the inquiry to the police officers to do the same.

In the absence of sufficient material, the complaint can be banished by the Magistrate under Section 203, CrPC. The Magistrate has to provide a brief record on banishing the complaint too.

The Magistrate must direct some cases to the Court of Session if needed. The complaint can be written by anyone irrespective of connection to the scene of offence.

If there is enough evidence to the complaint, the Magistrate may take further actions against the accused by issuing the summon notice or an arrest warrant through police officers.

The person who complains about the offence need not be worried about the law which has been violated.

What is FIR?  

Under Section 154, CrPC, if the information concerning the commissioned cognizable offence is provided to the officer-in-charge of the police station, it should be written down by the concerned legal authority or under his directions. The written information should be verified with the informer by orating it to him. The information written as a report is called an FIR.

As directed by the State Government, the written information should be entered in the allotted book as well for further references.

Under Section 154(2), CrPC, a copy of the written information known as the FIR copy is provided to the informant of the offence for free of cost.

The FIR is abbreviated as First Information Report. As the name suggests, it is a report written by the legal authorities about the committed cognizable offence. Further actions in the case will be taken based on information recorded in the FIR.

Being the first report of the offence, the FIR doesn’t include thorough facts about the offence, however, includes the date and time of occurrence, name of the accused, etc. Proof-less comments like gossip or rumors are not taken into the account of FIR

The FIR once recorded can never be reverted, so the information provided in it should be sufficient enough. Anyone, who is aware of the commissioned crime can volunteer himself/herself to file an FIR even if he/she has no contact with the incident. Under some specific cases such as abuse against women, a woman official investigates in that regard.

Section 207, CrPC says that the accused should also be given a free copy of FIR along with the reports made by the police and the eyewitness lists

The filing of FIR shouldn’t be delayed, as the evidence may fade as time fades away. The legal authorities should start their investigation on the case, as soon as they file an FIR.

Main Differences Between Complaint and FIR

  1. A complaint involves the Magistrate, to whom the information of the offence should be provided either orally or in written format by the informer.
  2. An FIR should be written by the officer in charge of the police station based on the information provided by the person.
  3. Cognizable and non-cognizable offences can be filed under a Complaint.
  4. Cognizable offences can be filed as an FIR.
  5. The Magistrate can directly involve himself in inquiring about the case or can guide the police officials to do the equivalent.
  6. The Magistrate can remain non-engaged with the case once the FIR is filed by the police official. The Police can themselves directly explore the case.


On the declination of the registration of FIR unwarrantedly by the police, one can seek the Superintendent of police or the Commissioner of Police and file a complaint on the case. If he/she finds that the case is valid, then he can instruct the police officials to file an FIR and commence the investigation for the same.
One can also access Judicial Magistrate if the FIR gets refused to be filed by the police. On dismissal of FIR by Judicial Magistrate, the complainant can ask for a review.


  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/lcp13&section=6
  2. https://academic.oup.com/bjc/article-abstract/40/3/480/441966
  3. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/abstractdb/AbstractDBDetails.aspx?id=70031