Friday, March 12, 2010

How to use Magistrate’s Powers for Registering Criminal Complaint

Maharashtra, India

In my earlier article on the importance of exercising our right to have FIR registered, I extensively discussed approaching the police, but only cursorily mentioned approaching Magistrates.
(In case you haven’t read it, visit:

Some better-informed friends immediately wrote back, asking me to correct ambiguities and inaccuracies in this respect.

First, let me recap: We generally approach the police station first and try to get an FIR registered under Section Sec 154(1) of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). If the Senior Inspector in charge of the police station refuses to do so, then we have the option of approaching the Superintendent of Police u/s Sec 154(3) of CrPC. Also, we have other options, as below.

We may approach Magistrate for the below Reasons & Remedies:
The police have refused to register FIR, or they dilly-dally with pointless correspondence etc. Therefore we want the Magistrate to direct the police to do so u/s 156(3) of CrPC.


Even without approaching the police, we want the Magistrate to direct the police to register an FIR and investigate a crime u/s 156(3). We want to use this method to hold the police accountable for investigating.


We want the Magistrate to directly take cognizance of a criminal offence under his powers u/s 190(1)(a) or 190(1)(c), and commence the process of trial by summoning the accused and witnesses. In this case, we – the complainant – have the responsibility of leading evidence in the trial (which otherwise the police would have done).

If necessary, we may also approach the Chief Judicial Magistrate and invoke Sec 190(2) to empower a Magistrate of the Second Class to take cognizance of a criminal offence.

IMPORTANT Ifs-and-Buts:

Section 156(3) of CrPC empowers the Magistrate to direct police to conduct investigations. Actually, Magistrate will direct the police to register FIR, which mandates the police to conduct investigations. Then the police is expected to report their findings to the Magistrate.

Normally, Magistrate expects the citizen to exhaust their remedy of attempting to get an FIR lodged with the police u/s 154(1) before approaching Magistrate u/s 156(3).

Section 190 empowers the Magistrate to issue process, i.e. summon the accused to remain present before the court and face the trial. The Magistrate can issue process under three situations, namely on a “private complaint” by a citizen, on an Investigation Report (i.e charge-sheet) of the police, or on coming to know that an offense has happened in his jurisdiction (i.e. suo moto).

Read CrPC Sections 200 to 205 to understand what the Magistrate will do next:

There are numerous Magistrates’ courts in every city and district. You can find many of them through a google search. Mumbai activists may find these links useful for locating a Magistrate and getting an advocate for legal assistance:

A big thank-you to Milind Kotak, Convenor of Forum for Effective Accountability & Transparency (FEAT), for mentoring and guidance. Also, grateful thanks to Dr Arun Agarwal for promptly pointing out errors and omissions.

Column By:
Krishnaraj Rao

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