Criminal Trial

Types of Criminal trials

According to Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 criminal trials are divided into three categories viz. warrant cases, summons cases and summary trials. In this article we shall discuss the procedure as prescribed by law in all the three cases separately.

What is a warrant case?

According to Section 2(x) of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 a warrant case is one which relates to offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. The trial procedure in warrant cases is given from Section 238 to Section 250 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In India a warrant case is tried in two manner viz. those instituted by the police report and those instituted upon a complaint.
Important features of a warrant case are:                         
Framing of charges is mandatory.
The accused must be present during the trial.
Cases which are tried as a summons case can later be tried as a warrant case and it is not termed as an irregularity by the court.
A warrant case cannot be converted into a summons case.
The accused can be given the opportunity to examine and cross examine the witnesses more than once.
The magistrate should ensure that the provisions of Section 207 are complied with. Provision of Section 207 include supply of copies such as police report, FIR, statements recorded or any other relevant document to the accused.
Procedure followed in a warrant case when instituted by police report.

Filing of an FIR
An FIR or First information report is lodged under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This section provides the manner in which it is to be recorded. The main aim of an FIR is to set the criminal case in motion. An FIR is basically the information given by whomsoever to the police relating to the commission of a cognizable offence.

Investigation

The next step after filing of FIR is investigation by the investigating officer. An investigating officer makes an effort to reach to the conclusion by ascertaining facts and circumstances, collecting evidence, examining various persons and taking their statements in writing and all the other steps necessary for completing the investigation and reaching the conclusion. The end result of an investigation is filing of a police report to the magistrate. The investigating officer either files a charge-sheet or a closure report.

Framing of charges

If after considering the police report and other important documents the accused is not discharged the next step taken by the court is framing of the charges in pursuance to begin the trial. In a warrant case the charges should be framed in writing. These charges should be read and explained to the accused and he shall be asked whether he pleads guilty of the offence charged or claims to be tried.

Plea of guilty

Section 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 talks about plea of guilty, after framing of the charges the accused is given an opportunity to plead guilty and the responsibility lies on the judge to ensure that the plea of guilt was voluntary made. The judge may upon its discretion convict the accused.

Prosecution evidence
After the charges are framed and the accused pleads guilty then the court requires prosecution to produce evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. The prosecution is required to supplement their evidence with statements from its witnesses (PW).This process is called examination in chief. The defence counsel has the right to cross examine the witness and find any discrepancy in the witness to undermine the case of the prosecution. The magistrate has the power to issue summons to any person as a witness or order him to produce any document.

Statement of the accused

Section 313 of the Criminal procedure code gives the accused an opportunity to be heard and explain the facts and circumstances of the case. His statement is not recorded under oath and can be used against him in the trial. The accused has the right to refuse to answer any question put forward.

Defence evidence

In case the accused has not been acquitted then the defence is given the opportunity to support his case. The defence can produce both oral and documentary evidences. The defence witnesses can be cross examined by the prosecution. In India, since the burden of proof is on the prosecution the defence in general is not required to give any defence evidence.

Judgement
A judgement is a final decision of the court with reasons given in support of the acquittal or conviction of the accused. When the accused is acquitted, the prosecution is given time to appeal against the order of the court. When the person is convicted then both sides are invited to give arguments on the punishment which is to be awarded. This is usually done when the person is convicted for an offence whose punishment is life imprisonment or capital punishment.

Procedure followed when case is instituted by private complaint

After filing of the complaint, the court will examine the complainant and its witnesses on the same day or any other day to ascertain whether any offence is made out against the accused person.
After examination of the complainant the Magistrate may order an enquiry for the matter and submit a report for the same.
After examination of the complaint and the report the court may come to the conclusion whether the complaint is genuine or whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence against the accused named. If the court does not find any sufficient material through which he can convict the accused then the court will dismiss the complaint and record its reason for so.
After examination of the complaint and the report, if the court thinks that the prosecution has a genuine case and there is sufficient material and evidence with the prosecution to charge the accused then the Magistrate may issue a warrant or a summon depending on the facts and circumstances.
The other steps will depend on whether the Magistrate ordered for a summons case or a warrant case as there are different procedures given for both of them.

What is a summon case?
According to Section 2(w) of Code of Criminal procedure, 1973, a summons case means relating to an offence, and not being a warrant-case. A summons case is tried with much less formality and the method of preparing the evidence is less elaborate. In summon cases offences punishable not exceeding two years are dealt with. The trial procedure is given from Section 251 to Section 259 of the Code of Criminal procedure.

Important points about summons case
A summons case can be converted into a warrant case.
The person accused need not be present personally.
The person accused should be informed about the charges orally. No need for framing the charges in writing.
The accused gets only one opportunity to cross examine the witnesses.
All cases which are not punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or for more than two years are summons cases.
Procedure followed in a summons case

Pre-trial
Sections 251 to Section 259 rule the procedure to be followed for a summons case. The pre trial process such as filing of an FIR and investigation is the same.

Filing of charges
In summons trials formal charges are not framed. The accused appears before the court or is brought before the court; the Magistrate would state the particulars of the offence he is charged with.

Plea of guilty
The Magistrate after stating the particulars of the offence would ask the accused if he pleads guilty or has any defence to support his case. If the accused pleads guilty the Magistrate records the statement in the words of the accused as far as possible and may convict him on his discretion.

Plea of guilty and absence of the accused
In petty cases, where summons is issued and the accused wants to plead guilty without appearing to the court, the accused is supposed to transmit Rs.1000/- by post or through a messenger (lawyer) to the Magistrate. The absentee should also send a letter containing acceptance of guilt and the amount of fine provided in the summons. The Magistrate can on his discretion convict the accused.

Prosecution and defence evidence
In summons case, the procedure followed is very simple and elaborate procedures are eliminated. If the accused does not plead guilty then the process of trial starts. The prosecution and the defence are asked to present evidence in support of their cases. The Magistrate is also empowered to take the statement of the accused.

Judgment

When the judgement is pronounced in summons case, the parties need not argue on the amount of punishment given. The sentence is the sole discretion of the judge. If the accused is acquitted the prosecution has the right to appeal. This right to appeal is also extended to the accused.


What are summary trials?

These are fast track proceeding in which the case is usually resolved in one sitting. The summary trials are reserved for petty offences to reduce the burden on courts and to save time and money. The trial procedure is provided from Section 260 to Section 265 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 260(2) of the code lists certain offences which may be tried summarily by any Chief Judicial Magistrate, any Metropolitan Magistrate or any Judicial Magistrate First Class. A First class Magistrate must first be authorized by the respective High court to that effect before he may try cases summarily under this section.

Procedure followed in summary trials

The procedure followed in summary trial is similar to summons-case.
Imprisonment up to three months can be passed.

In the judgement of a summary trial the judge should record the substance of the evidence and a brief statement of the finding of the court with reasons

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