Feb 24, 2022

From complaint to charge sheet: What happens after you file an FIR with the Police?

The Supreme Court has asked the Maharashtra Police to place on record the second charge sheet filed in the case related to alleged lynching of three people in Palghar district last year. 


There are many steps and investigation procedures between registering an FIR and filing the charge sheet. According to the law of criminal procedure, the police have to file the charge sheet after completing an investigation. Let us look at the major steps involved in that process:


Step 1:


Forwarding report to the Magistrate (for a non-cognizable offence)

If the police officer receives information about a non-cognizable offence, they can record the information and refer the informant to the Magistrate. They cannot file an FIR or start investigating a non-cognizable case without the concerned Magistrate’s order.


Spot investigation (for a cognizable offence)

If an officer in charge of a police station suspects that a cognizable offence has been committed, they can file an FIR and immediately send a report to the concerned Magistrate, and personally go (or depute a subordinate officer to go) to the spot where the offence has been committed. They investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and if necessary, take measures for the discovery and arrest of the offender.


Step 2: Magistrate’s order

After receiving the report, the concerned Magistrate can: 

  • Direct an investigation; or 
  • Immediately proceed with a preliminary inquiry into the case; or 
  • Dispose of the case.


Step 3: Examining witnesses

While investigating a case, a police officer can order (in writing) a person who may know about the case to present themselves for questioning as a witness. However, the witness should be questioned at their residence itself, if they are:

  • A man below fifteen years or above sixty-five years
  • Woman
  • A person with a mental or physical disability.


The officer can orally question any person who could be familiar with the case. The witness must truthfully answer all case-related questions. 


The police officer can write down the witness statements. In this case, the officer should make a separate and true record of each witness statement. The witness does not need to sign the written statement recorded by the officer. 


The witness statement can also be recorded in an audio-video format. 


Step 4: Search

If an investigating officer reasonably believes that something necessary for the investigation may be found in any place within the limits of their police station, they can search for it there. 


The officer must believe that the search is necessary for obtaining the thing without undue delay. They must record in writing why they believe that the search is necessary, and the target of the search (as far as possible), before conducting the search.


Step 5: Filing a Charge sheet

As soon as the investigation is completed, the officer in charge of the police station will forward a final police report to the concerned Magistrate. This is the charge sheet, which contains details including: 

  • Parties involved in the case
  • Witness details
  • Whether any offence has been committed and by whom
  • Whether the accused has been arrested