File a Criminal Complaint in India: A Step-by-Step Process


India has a poor reputation when it comes to reporting of criminal activity. Several crimes, particularly against women, go unreported. This is for a variety of socio-political reasons, but somewhere among them is also a misunderstanding of legal rights. India, in truth, has all the laws in place and understanding your rights is key to increasing reporting criminal elements in our society.

A detailed procedure for filing criminal complaints has been laid down in India, as per the Criminal Procedure Code. The following steps will clear any doubts you may have over filing a criminal complaint in India:

Filing an FIR

In case you are the victim of a cognizable offence, the first step you would take is to approach the police. The police, on receiving information, prepares a written document, known as a First Information Report (FIR). The duty of the police lies in hearing the aggrieved and directing him to the District Magistrate for further action. An FIR can be filed by you if you are the person against whom the crime has been committed or know about an offence that has been committed. There are no charges for filing an an FIR, it being a crucial document that sets the criminal justice system in process.

What can you do if your FIR is not registered?

It is illegal to not register an FIR. The remedies available are:
1. You can meet the Superintendent of Police or other higher officers like Deputy Inspector General of Police & Inspector General of Police and bring your complaint to their notice.
2. You can send your complaint in writing and by post to the Superintendent of Police concerned. If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied with your complaint, he shall either investigate the case himself or order an investigation to be made.
3. You can file a private complaint before the court having jurisdiction.
4. You can also make a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission or the National Human Rights Commission if the police does nothing to enforce the law or does it in a biased and corrupt manner.

What is the next step after filing an FIR?

The police conducts investigation, which may include arrests. Once the investigation has been concluded the police will record all their findings in a Challanï or charge sheet. If it is deemed that there is enough proof on the charge sheet the case goes to court.On the flipside, after their investigations if the police conclude that there is not enough evidence or proof that a crime has been committed they can close the case after justifying their reasons in court. If the police decide to close the case, they are bound to inform the person who filed the FIR of their decision.

What is a zero FIR and when should it be used?

A zero FIR is used for crimes such as murder,rape etc. where immediate investigation is required and time cannot be wasted in reaching the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime falls. The main idea of a Zero FIR is to initiate the investigation or urge the police to take their initial action. Once you have lodged a Zero FIR, make sure that your complaint is not transferred to the appropriate police station in your jurisdiction without any initial action or investigation.A zero FIR is necessary for crimes where immediate action is required,eg in case of murder,rape etc, or when the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime was committed is not easily accessible, eg in case of crimes while travelling

Criminal Complaint: The Plaint

It is a document submitted by the complainant to file a criminal complainant against an accused. In layman’s language, it is simply the written allegations of the complainant and it contains a summary of the facts of the case he seeks to present and the relief he seeks for the same.

If you are filing a plaint, you are the ‘plaintiff’ and the person whom you are filing against, is the ‘defendant’. There are certain regulations set by the ‘Limitation Act,1963’ for filing of plaints.

For instance, there is a time limit within which the plant should be filed, and it differs for different courts.
The Plaint, as per the Act, should be filed within 90 days in High court and within 30 days from the date of the crime that is being appealed against.

The details required to be mentioned in the plaint are:
A.The name of the court
B.The nature of the complaint
C.The name and addresses of both the parties.

All of this is normally typed in English, with double-line spacing.

It is also important to remember that it has to be filed within a certain time limit of the occurrence of the act in question as prescribed by the Limitation Act. A plaint filed after an unreasonable delay will not be entertained in the court of law. It should also contain a verification from the complainant with an assurance that all facts stated in the plaint are correct and true to his knowledge.

As the plaint procedure is simple, and if you have enough proof in hand, you can file them with the help of an expert in no time.

Criminal Complaint: Vakalatnama

This document is submitted by the complainant authorizing an advocate to argue the case on his behalf. Although an individual can file their Vakalatnama, the terms used are highly technical for a layman to understand, and respond in case of queries. Hence, a vakalatnama is a document that gives the advocate (who is appearing on your behalf) the authorization to fight for justice, and handle all court procedures on your behalf.

It contains the terms and conditions of this authorization, and lists out the rights of the advocate. The terms and conditions, mentioned in the Vakalatnama include:

1. The advocate will not be held responsible for any decisions taken by him/her during the course of an investigation, in the best interests of the clients.
2. The advocate will be paid the requisite fees as well as the fees for the court proceedings.
3. The advocate can be disengaged at any time during the proceedings, if the client wishes, and so on.

The basic idea of a Vakalatnama is to engage a lawyer to fight for the case in the court, and to provide him the authorization to do it with the permission of the plaintiff.

The vakalatnama is affixed with the plaint and submitted to the court by the advocate authorized to represent the case.
Although no fees are paid for submission, some courts demand a stamp ‘Advocate Welfare Stamp’ to be pasted on it.

Criminal Complaint: Court Fees

The plaints are required to pay the court fees, as per the rules and regulations set by the Court fees Stamp Act.
The nominal court fee is then paid by the Complainant as required by the Court Fees Stamp Act. The court fees usually amount to a nominal percentage of the value of a claim or the suit being made in the case filed and thus, differs depending upon the case.

The advocate authorized to carry on with the dealings of the case will be able to instruct about the procedures and also the court fees to be paid.

A lawyer with 14 years' experience, Vikram has worked with several well-known corporate law firms before joining Vakilsearch.


  1. This article help me to know start advocacy, I complete LLB in their 2005, presently after bra I think to start practice, I have no aspect to work under a senior add. Hamdur Rahman.

  2. sir, I have filed a criminal case on 5.2.2016 under section 420,467,468,471 and 406 and 120B in the District Court of Allahabad, since then 10 adjourments have given in my said case as well as no case bearing number has been alloted me so far, I have requested to my counsel to initmate me case bearing number, he replied me that there is no bearing number , can it possible in judicial system that without assigning the bearing number of the case, the same are bing adjourned during last 10 times and how can I know my case bearing number, please quide me, thank you.

    • Each and every case which is filled before the court must be registered. After registration of any suit a suit/case is provided which is unique. You can also find you case by search option which is available on allahabad district court site by using “seach by partys option.”

      Adv. Narendra Singh
      Panel lawyer of MCD & DLSA
      M. 9911004131

  3. file RTI to the PIO i.e usually Chief Admn Officer of the District Court with fees in cash , Bank dranft of Rs. 50 ask ask for the information desired within stipulated time , case number with full details alongwith the purpose fixed will be sent to you by post

  4. I want to know if I can file an FIR and a complaint thereafter in the court for sexual harrasment which happened eight years ago when I was 13 only!

    • Yes you can lodge an FIR before police. there is no limitation prescribed by limitation act to file a criminal complaint but you have to make them believe that you weren’t aware of the crime at the time when it was committed however and when it came to your knowledge.
      But delaying in filing complaint will have adverse effect.

  5. kindly let me know as per Crpc official of which rank of a public limited company is competent to file a criminal defamation case or would like to know the provisions similar to Order 29 Rule 1 of CPC in Crpc

  6. I contacted a lawyer to file PIL case in the chennai high court. I paid him
    Rs.70000=00.For seven months he has not filed a case.
    What should i do?

  7. Sir I received the following msg today – Filing number – trf/0017050/2017 with title STATE vs VISHAL has been registered. I don’t understand what this is in reference to. Please help