Complaint to the Magistrate

Author: Vishwendra Prashant, The ICFAI University, Dehradun

*Author has written this article while pursuing training program on article writing by



The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays down the procedures for filing a complaint to the Magistrate. In a general sense, a complaint means a formal allegation against a party. Chapter XV of this code deals with Complaints to the Magistrates. Under Section 190(1), a Magistrate is empowered to take cognizance of any offence based upon:

  • Acquiring a complaint that describes the facts for such an offence, or
  • A police report stating such facts, or
  • Receiving the information from any other person excluding a police officer, or
  • His knowledge of the commission of such an offence. Here, no complaint is required.

But one question comes to our mind that what is the meaning of the term “to take cognizance of an offence”? The meaning of this term is “to take notice or get aware about the alleged commission of an offence”. Before determining whether an accused person is guilty of the offence or not, a Magistrate takes cognizance of that offence. Thus, taking cognizance of an offence is the sine qua non for trial.

This article mainly deals with the complaints to the Magistrate.


Section 2(d) of CrPC, 1973 defines a complaint as “it is an allegation made verbally or in written form before a Magistrate”. A complaint is made with the object that the Magistrate should take action under this Code against the person who has committed an offence. Here, this person can be known or unknown.

There is no particular format for a complaint.[1] It contains allegations that some offences have been committed and ends with a prayer stating that the offender should be convicted properly.

In general, any person can file a complaint. But, in case of offences relating to marriage, defamation and offences specified as per sections 195 to 197 of IPC, only the aggrieved party can file a complaint. The person who lodges a complaint is known as a ‘complainant’.

A charge sheet submitted by the police can not be regarded as a ‘complaint’.[2] A police report[3] is deemed to be a ‘complaint’ only in the case where after investigation it reveals that the alleged offence is non-cognizable.


These are some necessary conditions for a complaint:

  • A non-cognizable offence must be committed.
  • There must be some allegation against a known or unknown person.
  • Such allegation must be in verbal or written form.
  • It must be made before a Magistrate.
  • It must be made with the object that the Magistrate should take action.


As per Section 200, CrPC, a Magistrate, after taking cognizance of an offence, examines both the complainant as well as the witnesses on oath. The objectives of such examination are:

  1. To establish whether the case against the person (who is being accused in the complaint) is actual.
  2. To find out whether the complaint is reasonable or is lodged just for harassing the person by a false allegation.

This section provides further that the facts obtained from such examination should be condensed to writing along with the signature of the complainant, the witnesses and the Magistrate.

This section also provides some conditions in which a Magistrate is not supposed to examine the complainant and the witnesses.

 These conditions are as follow:

  1. If a public servant (e.g. police officers) or a court has made a complaint, or
  2. If a Magistrate has transferred the case to some other competent Magistrate for inquiry or trial as per section 192 of CrPC, 1973.[4]


  1. X saw from his window that there were three persons namely A, B and C outside his house. And, they were stabbing Z with a knife multiple times that caused death to Z. After that those three persons ran away from the place of occurrence leaving the dead body of Z lying on the ground.

Then, X goes to the police station and files a complaint against A, B and C to a police officer. Here, a Magistrate shall not examine the complainant (X). The police officer can start an investigation without any order.

  • A, a Chief Judicial Magistrate transfers a case to Z, a competent Magistrate for trial as per section 192. Here, A shall not examine the complainant (let’s say C). Z will examine C.


As per Section 201, if a complaint is lodged before a Magistrate who has no jurisdiction to deal with the case, then he can do any one of the following things:

  1. Where the complaint is in written form, he is required to return it to the appropriate court for presentation along with approval for such effect.
  2. Where the complaint is not in written form, he should direct the complainant to the appropriate court.


As per Section 202 (1), a Magistrate may postpone an issue of process to compel the appearance of the person complained against or order the police officer to investigate for deciding whether there is a satisfactory reason for proceedings. Instead of ordering an investigation by the police, the Magistrate himself can also inquire into the case or order another person (whom the Magistrate thinks fit) to investigate. This can be done in the following conditions:

  • On receiving a complaint for which the Magistrate has jurisdiction over the case, or
  • Where the Magistrate has transferred the case to another Magistrate as per Section 192, or
  • Where the accused is living in an area in which the Magistrate is not authorized to exercise his jurisdiction.[5]

This section further provides that the Magistrate can not order for an investigation in the following cases:

  • Where the offence is specially triable by the Sessions Court, or
  • Unless he has examined the complainant and the witnesses on oath as per Section 200.

Section 200(2) provides that if a Magistrate finds that the offence is specially triable by the Sessions Court, then he can summon the complainant along with all the witnesses to take the evidence on oath.

Section 202(3) limits the power of the person excluding a police officer investigating in that he is not permitted to take someone into custody without a warrant.


Section 203 provides that after taking the statements of the complainants and all the witnesses, and the outcome of the investigation as per Section 202, into consideration if a Magistrate finds that there is no satisfactory reason for proceedings. Then he is authorized to dismiss the complaint by recording appropriate reasons for doing so.

These are the effects of dismissal of a complaint:

  • Such dismissal does not permit the accused to compensate as per Section 250 of the code.[6]
  • But he can act against the complainant for a false accusation under Section 211 of IPC.[7]


Here, the second complaint means a fresh complaint.

The Supreme Court has observed that after the dismissal of the first complaint, a fresh complaint having the same facts is maintainable only under exceptional circumstances.[8]


A complaint is a mode by which a Magistrate takes cognizance of an offence. He examines the complainant as well as all the witnesses present as per Section section 200, CrPC. If a Magistrate has no jurisdiction over the case then he may transfer the case to the proper court under Section 201. He may postpone the issue of process under Section 202.

As per Section 203, a Magistrate has the power to dismiss a complaint if he finds no reasonable grounds for further proceedings. In such an instance, the complainant has to file a fresh complaint again.



  • Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 383-397 (23rd Edition, 2020).

Case Laws

  • Mohd. Yousuf v. Afaq Jahan, AIR 2006 SC 705 (India).
  • Surajmani Srimali v. State of Orissa, CrLJ 363.
  • Md. Abdullah Khan v. State of Bihar, 2002 CrLJ 3875 (Pat).
  • Bhagwan Singh v. Harmukh, (1906) 29 All 137 (India).
  • Surjya Hariani v. King Emperor, (1901) 6 Cal WN 95 (India).
  • Poonam Chand Jain v. Fazru, AIR 2010 SC 659 (India).


  • Blog Ipleaders, (last visited July 28, 2021).
  • Law Times Journal, (last visited July 30, 2021).

[1] Mohd. Yousuf v. Afaq Jahan, AIR 2006 SC 705 (India).

[2] Surajmani Srimali v. State of Orissa, CrLJ 363.

[3] Section 2(r), CrPC 1973, the word ‘police report’ means a report forwarded by a police officer to a Magistrate as per Section 173(2), CrPC, 1973.

[4] Md. Abdullah Khan v. State of Bihar, 2002 CrLJ 3875 (Pat).

[5] Ins. By CrPC (Amendment) Act, 2005, Section 19.

[6] Bhagwan Singh v. Harmukh, (1906) 29 All 137 (India).

[7] Surjya Hariani v. King Emperor, (1901) 6 Cal WN 95 (India).

[8] Poonam Chand Jain v. Fazru, AIR 2010 SC 659 (India).