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To file a criminal complaint: Procedures

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

By K.M.Barathkumar, III year B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.), SASTRA University

Most of the Indians are not aware of their legal rights. Many people didn’t have awareness about filing a criminal complaint. India has a poor result when it comes to reporting of criminal activity. Many crimes, especially crimes against the women are not reported. This is for a variety of socio-political reasons, but the misunderstanding of legal rights is the main reason. The detailed procedure for filing a criminal complaint has been mentioned in the Criminal Procedure Code. To file a criminal complaint the following procedures need to be followed:

Filling an FIR

Primarily, you should approach the Police. The police after receiving the information prepare a written document known as ‘First Information Report’ (FIR). After filing an FIR the police will direct it to the District Magistrate for further action. There are no charges for filing an FIR.

Remedies for non registered FIR

It is illegal to not register an FIR. The remedies for non registered FIR are as follows:

1. The affected party should meet the Superintendent of Police or other higher officials and bring his complaint to their notice.

2. The affected party can send a complaint via post to the Superintendent of Police or other higher officials.

3. He can file a complaint before the court

4. He can file a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission or the National Human Rights Commission.

Next step after filing an FIR

After filing an FIR the police will start their investigation. Once the investigation was started the police will record all their findings in a Challani or Charge Sheet. The police will submit the charge sheet before the court. During the investigation, if the police find that there is not sufficient evidence then they can close the case after justifying their reasons in the court. If the police decided to close the case they will inform the person who filed the FIR.

Zero FIR

The Zero FIR is required for crimes where immediate action is required, in case of murder, rape etc. The Zero FIR will file where the immediate investigation is required. The main idea of the Zero FIR is to urge the police to take the action.

The Plaint

The Plaint is a document submitted by the complaint to file a criminal complaint against an accused. The person who is filing an FIR was the ‘plaintiff’ and the person who is charged accused was the ‘defendant’. There are certain regulations provided under the ‘Limitation Act, 1963’ for filing of the plaint. There is a time limit for filing the plaint and the time limit will differ for different courts. According to the ‘Limitation Act, 1963’ the plaint should be filed within 90 days in the High Court from the date of the crime, the plaint filed after an unreasonable delay will not be accepted by the court.

The following details should be mentioned in the plaint:

  1. The name of the court

  2. The nature of the complaint

  3. The name and address of both parties.

The plaint must be typed in English.


This document is submitted by the advocate who is going to argue on behalf of the parties. Even an individual can file a Vakalatnama but the terms used are highly technical for a layman to understand so it is preferred to hire an advocate. The Vakalatnama contains the terms and conditions of the advocate’s authority and lists out the rights of the advocate. The terms and conditions mentioned in the Vakalatnama are as follows:

  1. The advocate will not be held liable for any decisions taken by him/her during the course of an investigation

  2. The advocate can charge the requisite fees as well as the fees for the court proceedings.

  3. The advocate can be detached at any time during the proceedings.

The main idea of the Vakalatnama is to engage an advocate to fight for the case in the court and to provide authority to him. The parties have not been charged for submitting a Vakalatnama, some courts demand a stamp ‘Advocate Welfare Stamp’ to be pasted on it.

Court fees

The clients are required to pay the court fees as per the guidelines provided under the Court Fees Stamp Act. The nominal court fee is charged by the court to the clients. The court fee will be varying from case to case.

Every citizen should be aware of their legal rights for filing FIR. They should know the remedy if the police refuse to register the FIR.


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