Informant & Complainant; Distinction Between – Explained

The Supreme Court of India in Ganesha Vs. Sharanappa, AIR 2014 SC 1198 : (2014) 1 SCC 87 : 2013 (12) SCR 400 : 2013 (14) Scale 59 : 2014 (1) SCC (Cri) 8 : JT 2013 (15) SC 163 : 2014 AIR (SCW) 615 explained that the person giving information, which leads to lodging of the report under Section 154 of the Code of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is the informant and the person who files the complaint is the complainant.

No distinction is made while using the words ‘informant’ and ‘complainant’. A bench comprising of Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad and Justice Kurian Joseph observed this common error creeping in many of the judgments including the present one.

In many of the judgments, the person giving the report under Section 154 of the Code is described as the ‘complainant’ or the ‘de facto complainant’ instead of ‘informant’, assuming that the State is the complainant. These are not words of literature.

In a case registered under Section 154 of the Code, the State is the prosecutor and the person whose information is the cause for lodging the report is the informant. This is obvious from sub-section (2) of Section 154 of the Code which, inter alia, provides for giving a copy of the information to the ‘informant’ and not to the ‘complainant’. However the complainant is the person who lodges the complaint.

The word ‘complaint’ is defined under Section 2(d) of the Code to mean any allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate and the person who makes the allegation is the complainant, which would be evident from Section 200 of the Code, which provides for examination of the complainant in a complaint-case. Therefore, these words carry different meanings and are not interchangeable.

In the instant case, on the basis of a report given by the informant (PW-2) alleging that when he made a protest as the accused persons were grazing their cattle in his land and thereby damaging the crop, the appellant assaulted him with a stick, an FIR was registered against the appellant and other accused persons. The trial court acquitted all the accused.

However, in revision, the High Court set aside the order of acquittal of the appellant and convicted him u/s 324 IPC and sentenced him to six months simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs.5000/-.

In the instant appeal, it was contended for the appellant that the High Court in revision could not convert a finding of acquittal into one of conviction.

While allowing the appeal, the Apex Court also held that the High Court while exercising the powers of revision can exercise all those powers which have been conferred on the court of appeal u/s 386 but, in view of sub-s. (3) of s. 401, while exercising such power, High Court cannot convert a finding of acquittal into one of conviction