What Is Criminal Complaint?
The code of criminal procedure defines the term ‘complaint' as any allegation
made orally or in writing to a Magistrate. It's done 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.
Cognizance By Magistrate Section 190:
‘‘Cognizance'' in general meaning is said to be knowledge or notice',
and taking cognizance of offences means taking notice, or becoming aware
of the alleged commission of an offence. The dictionary meaning of the word cognizance is judicial hearing of a matter. The judicial officer will have to
take cognizance of the offence before he could proceed with the conduct of the
trial. Taking cognizance does not involve any kind of formal action but occurs
as soon as a magistrate as such applies his mind to the suspected commission of
an offence for the purpose of legal proceedings. So, taking cognizance is also
said to be the application of judicial mind.
It includes the intention of starting a judicial proceeding with respect to an
offence or taking steps to see whether there is a basis for starting the
judicial proceeding. It is trite that before taking cognizance that court should
satisfy that ingredients of the offence charged are there or not. A court can
take cognizance only once after that it becomes functus officio.
If a magistrate involves his mind not for reason of proceeding as mentioned
above, but for taking action of some other kind, example ordering investigation
under Section 156(3) or issuing the search warrant for the purpose of the
investigation, he cannot be said to have taken cognizance of offence.
The term ‘Cognizance of offence' has not been defined in the Criminal Procedure
Code. Section 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, and 199 deals with
methods by which and the limitations subject to which various criminal courts
are established to take cognizance of offences. However, the meaning of the term
is well defined by the Courts. Taking cognizance is the first and foremost steps
towards the trail. The judicial officer will have to take cognizance of the
offence before he could proceed to conduct or trail.
In Section 190, Any Magistrate of the first class and the second class may take
cognizance of any offence:
Upon receiving a complaint of facts related to
offences. Upon police reports of facts. Upon information received from a person
(other than a police officer), or upon his own knowledge. Section 200-203 talks
about complaint to magistrate.
Examination Of Complaint Section 200:
A Magistrate with whom compliant filed, shall examine the complainant and also
witnesses on oath. The contents in the compliant shall also examined and reduced
in writing in a report. The report shall have signature of complainant,
witnesses and also the Magistrate. Provided that, when the complaint made in
writing, the Magistrate need not examine the complainant and the witnesses:
- if a public servant acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his
official duties or a Court has made the complaint; or
- if the Magistrate makes over the case for inquiry or trial to another
Magistrate under section 192:
Provided further that if the Magistrate transfers the case to another
Magistrate under section 192 after examining the complainant and the witnesses,
the latter Magistrate need not re-examine them.
The procedure has been enunciated in Section 200 of Code of Criminal Procedure
Act, 1973. For the purpose of explain the main points in a nutshell for
practical use, I'll state them in bullet points:
- The complaint has to be filed with the magistrate who has the
jurisdiction to try the offence complained of. However, in cases where the
complaint is accidentally filed with the magistrate not having the
jurisdiction, the magistrate is duty bound to return the complaint to be
presented to the appropriate magistrate by stating the necessary details
- The complaint may be made orally or in writing. However, it is always
better to furnish it in writing.
- Unlike the filing of the FIR, where after the police straightaway
proceed to investigate the offence complained of and arrest the suspects, in
case of the complaint the magistrate will not proceed with it without
examining the complainant and witnesses (note-only the witnesses who are
present at the time of filing such complaint).
- Thereafter the magistrate will make a written report of the examination
and sign it himself as well as get it signed by the complainant and the
- Thereafter if the magistrate is satisfied that the complaint coupled
with the examination discloses an offence, he shall proceed with taking cognizance of the offence (which simply means that he would summon the
accused suspects for the purpose of trial)
- However, if the magistrate is not satisfied that the complaint (and
examination) discloses any offence, he may take one of the two options
available to him: he may either dismiss the complaint or he may order the
police to undertake some further investigation under Section 202 of the
- After the police officer reports back to the magistrate his findings the
magistrate may proceed with either of the steps stated in point 5 and point
6 (minus the investigation order, of course, which has already been given).
Section 201 of CRPC Procedure by Magistrate not competent to take cognizance
of the case:
If the complaint is made to a Magistrate who is not competent to take cognizance
of the offence, he shall:
- if the complaint is in writing, return it for presentation to the proper
Court with an endorsement to that effect;
- if the complaint is not in writing, direct the complainant to the proper
Section 202 of CRPC Postponement of issue of process:
- Any Magistrate , on receipt of a complaint of an offence of which he is authorised to take cognizance or which has been made over to him
under section 192, may, if he thinks fit, postpone the issue of process against
the accused, and either inquire into the case himself or direct an investigation
to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fit, for the
purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding:
Provided that no such direction for investigation shall be made:
- where it appears to the Magistrate that the offence complained of is triable exclusively by the Court of Session; or
- where the complaint has not been made by a Court, unless the complainant
and the witnesses present (if any) have been examined on oath under section
- In an inquiry under sub-section (1), the Magistrate may, if he thinks
fit, take evidence of witnesses on oath:
Provided that if it appears to the Magistrate that the offence complained of is
triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he shall call upon the complainant
to produce all his witnesses and examine them on oath.
- If an investigation under sub-section (1) is made by a person not being
a police officer, he shall have for that investigation all the powers
conferred by this Code on an officer in charge of a police station except
the power to arrest without warrant.
Section 203 of CRPC Dismissal of complaint
- If, after considering the statements on oath (if any) of the complainant
and of the witnesses and the result of the inquiry or investigation (if any)
under section 202, the Magistrate is of opinion that there is no sufficient
ground for proceeding, he shall dismiss the complaint, and in every such
case he shall briefly record his reasons for so doing.
If the Magistrate does not satisfy that there is sufficient ground to issue
process, then he shall dismiss the complaint under section 203 of the CrPC.
How to challenge the complaint:
When the Magistrate issued the process against the accused, he cannot take it
back. The Code of Criminal Procedure does not provide the power of review so the
Magistrate could not review its process or cancel the summon or warrant.
If the court has issued the process, then you cannot file any recall application
under section 203 CrPC. In Adalat Prasad v. Rooplal Jindal, (2004) 7 SCC
338 the Supreme Court held that if the Magistrate did not dismiss the complaint
and issued process, then the accused cannot approach the court under section 203
CrPC for dismissal of the complaint because the stage of section 203 has already
Hence, you cannot challenge the complaint under section 203 of the CrPC. The
court does not hear the accused at the stage of section 203. The accused has no
role at this stage (Bholu Ram v. State of Punjab, (2008) 9 SCC 140)
In the absence of the review power, you can challenge the complaint under
section 482 CrPC. You may invoke the inherent power of the High Court under
section 482 CrPC to do justice in your case (Iris Computers Ltd. v. Askari
Infotech (P) Ltd., (2015) 14 SCC 399).