There is a common confusion between a First Information Report (FIR) and a complaint. People often get puzzled as there lies a narrow difference between the two. In the Provision of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), the distinction is shown as below:
The complaint is made to a magistrate whereas an FIR is given to the Officer-In-Charge of a police station.
The complaint may relate to a cognizable or non-cognizable offence. On the other hand, an FIR only relates to the cognizable offence.
A magistrate may take cognizance of an offence directly on a complaint after examining the complainant and some witnesses. A magistrate cannot take cognizance directly upon the FIR, as on the basis of an FIR, there should be an investigation by the police.
A complainant lodges a complaint by going under oath. In the case of an FIR, no oath is administered to the informant. A complaint has been defined under Section 2(D), but FIR has not been defined in the code.
In the case of a complaint, if there is no sufficient ground, the magistrate may dismiss the same, but an FIR can not be rejected by the officer in charge of the police station.
If the complaint is given in writing, it must be accompanied by a copy. When an FIR is in writing, it does not warrant a duplicate, rather the Officer-In-Charge is given a copy.
A processing fee is required to be paid in the case of a complaint, but no fee is needed to file an FIR.