With regard to civil disputes, individuals file lawsuits against each other and the courts adjudicate the dispute. The procedure is the same all over the world, except that in US the dispute is resolved by a jury of peers and in India it is done by a judge.
In India, the process begins with the prosecution/police filing a First Information Report (FIR), which is merely an investigation tool and a notice of such investigation. FIR is similar to a target notice that is sent by investigators/prosecutors in US.
The difference is this: in India, unlike in US, FIR is routinely enough to deny liberty to an individual. The courts have done so. Based on the evidence presented in FIR, the Courts have acceded to the prosecution requests to incarcerate the individual. Rarely, very rarely can a person be denied his/her liberty based on target notice in US – it is almost impossible.
This makes for a damning situation, which is often politicized in India. FIRs, however flimsy and unreasonable, taint the individual with guilt and have de facto become criminal complaints/lawsuits though the investigation itself has just begun. Several respectable organizations such Association for Democratic Reforms in India and major media outlets count FIRs as if they were criminal indictments. This element of the Indian criminal justice system requires consideration and reform. At the least, the evidentiary bar for filing a FIR has to be substantially higher.
In India, a Court frames charges – often months, sometimes years later – after filing of FIR or simply drops the charges. Framing of charges is equivalent to indictment/true bill issued by a grand jury in the US.Based on the formal charges, a trial is held. In US, the decider of facts is a jury of peers and in India, it is a judge.
Another important difference between US and India is that prosecutors readily offer a potentially reduced punishment to the alleged offender of a crime if he/she were to plead guilty to the crime or part of the crime. That is the prosecutor and the offender can come to an agreement, which has to be finally approved by a Judge who rarely rebuffs such agreements. This is called “plea deal.” Such a process does not exist in India, and, in fact, such process is seen as coercion and/or intimidation by the prosecution.