Difference between a criminal complaint filed under section 200 and 190 of...

Difference between a criminal complaint filed under section 200 and 190 of Cr.P.C.

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I have seen many lawyers juggling between Section 200 and Section 190 of the Cr.P.C. while filing a complaint case, but never received a convincing answer. What difference does it make while filing a complaint case under these two sections?

Answer: In fact, both these things would basically mean the same thing. Sections 190 and 200 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) are connected to each other, at least for a part of what is covered therein. A complaint which is filed under Section 200 of Cr.P.C. is also, in fact, a complaint under Section 190 Cr.P.C. though at a different stage of process, but Section 190 Cr.P.C. covers certain other things also. These two sections serve different purposes. Before I explain the difference between these two sections, let me reproduce these two sections for a ready reference:

190. Cognizance of offences by Magistrates.— (1) Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any Magistrate of the first class, and any Magistrate of the second class specially empowered in this behalf under sub-section (2), may take cognizance of any offence—

(a) upon receiving a complaint of facts which constitute such offence;

(b) upon a police report of such facts;

(c) upon information received from any person other than a police officer, or upon his own knowledge, that such offence has been committed.

(2) The Chief Judicial Magistrate may empower any Magistrate of the second class to take cognizance under sub-section (1) of such offences as are within his competence to inquire into or try.”

200. Examination of complainant.— A Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint shall examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any, and the substance of such examination shall be reduced to writing and shall be signed by the complainant and the witnesses, and also by the Magistrate:

Provided that, when the complaint is made in writing, the Magistrate need not examine the complainant and the witnesses—

(a) if a public servant acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties or a court has made the complaint; or

(b) if the Magistrate makes over the case for inquiry or trial to another Magistrate under Section 192:

Provided further that if the Magistrate makes over the case to another Magistrate under Section 192 after examining the complainant and the witnesses, the latter Magistrate need not re-examine them.”

As is seen from above, Section 190 Cr.P.C. lays down as to how cognizance of offences can be taken by Magistrates. It is by taking cognizance of an offence that the court machinery is set in motion in respect of criminal cases. Cognizance of an offence can be taken in one of the three ways mentioned in Section 190 Cr.P.C.:

(1)   On the basis of a complaint;

(2)   On the basis of a police report under Section 173 Cr.P.C. (which may be a charge sheet or, in fact, even a closure report);

(3)   On the basis of the Magistrate’s own knowledge or information received from any person other than a police officer.

Now, if the Magistrate is taking cognizance on the basis of (1) above, i.e., on the basis of a complaint (which is generally, but not always, a private complaint), then he has to proceed further in accordance with the provisions of Sections 200 to 203 Cr.P.C., and if needed, also under Section 204 Cr.P.C.

On the other hand, is the cognizance is being taken on the basis of the police report (filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C.), the magistrate may directly proceed to the action to be taken under Section 204 of Cr.P.C.

Thus, if a complaint is received by the Magistrate, the power to take cognizance on the basis of such complaint is under Section 190 of Cr.P.C. However, further action on such complaint has to be taken under Sections 200-204 of Cr.P.C. Under Section 200 Cr.P.C., the magistrate is required to record the statement of the complainant on oath, and also of other witnesses, if present. The objective sought to be achieved by Section 200 is that a large number of complaints are filed by private individuals, many of which may be frivolous complaints. Therefore, it is considered necessary to verify the details of such complaints by examining the complainant on oath under Section 200 of Cr.P.C. In certain “complaint” cases, action may have to be taken by the magistrate under the provisions of Section 202 Cr.P.C., i.e., an inquiry by the magistrate himself or an investigation by police, etc. After these steps, if the magistrate does not find sufficient ground to proceed further, he may dismiss the complaint under Section 203 of Cr.P.C.; on the other hand, if he finds sufficient ground to proceed, he may issue process under Section 204 of Cr.P.C.

Thus, in the overall scheme of things under Cr.P.C., in the case of the (private) complaint, while the power to take cognizance lies under Section 190 of Cr.P.C., the power to examine the complainant on oath (and, other witnesses, if any) for the purposes of verification of the complaint is laid down in Section 200 of Cr.P.C. Therefore, for the purposes of a complaint case, both these sections are interlinked. They provide for different steps or stages in a complaint case. Accordingly, in so far as a complaint case is concerned, both Section 190 as well as Section 200 of Cr.P.C. are relevant. Therefore, if it is a complaint disclosing commission of an offence, it does not matter much whether you refer to it as being one under Section 190 Cr.P.C. or under Section 200 Cr.P.C. Ultimately, in respect of a complaint case, both the sections refer to the same “complaint” which is defined under Section 2(d) of Cr.P.C. as under:

“(d) “complaint” means any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate, 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.

Explanation.—A report made by a police officer in a case which discloses, after investigation, the commission of a non-cognizable offence shall be deemed to be a complaint; and the police officer by whom such report is made shall be deemed to be the complainant;”

As mentioned above, Section 200 is relevant only for a “complaint”, the cognizance of which is taken under clause (a) of Section 190(1). Section 200 Cr.P.C. is not relevant when the cognizance is being taken under clause (b) of Section 190(1) on the basis of a “police report” which is filed by police under Section 173 of Cr.P.C. after completion of the investigation.

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