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This article has been written by Shivani Chaudhary.

A trial is a process in which two parties are in dispute (the defendant and the accused), and it is determined by a judge or a jury whether the accused person is guilty or not. A trial happens when it is pleaded by the accused person, that he is not guilty. Under the Indian law, the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) states that there are four types of criminal trials, namely session, warrant, summons and summary trials. Being under a common head of ‘criminal trial’ we tend to forget that these are four distinct types of trials with different and dynamic processes involved in each. In the following article, the concept of summon trial and warrant trial is discussed, particularly dealing with the distinction between summon and warrant trial. 


A summon is a form issued by a Court, calling on a person to appear before the Magistrate to produce it. Section 61 of the Cr. PC specifies that summons given by a Judge, a duplicate second copy, signed by the President of the Judge and should also bear the court’s seal. Summons that do not have those elements are considered invalid, and the person to whom they are issued or addressed may refuse to accept them. The Court’s description, the place, date and time at which the summoned person must be present, should be clear. 

In the Case of State vs Driver Mohmed Valli And Ors., 1960, the court held that issuance of summons is quite different from merely making an order for issue of summons. Any summons must be served by a police officer, and if possible, one of the duplicates of the summons must be served personally on the person summoned. Unless after due consideration the person being summoned is not identified, the summons can be served, leaving a duplicate thereof with another adult male family member who lives with the person being summoned. If, in any case, the delivery of the summons cannot be compromised, then the serving officer must add a duplicate of the summons to any visible part of the house in which the person normally resides. The court may either announce that the summons was properly served after making the requisite enquiries in such cases, or it may order fresh delivery of the summons. In Hemendra Nath Chowdhury vs Sm. Archana Chowdhury, the court said that it should be shown that adequate efforts were made to find the person summoned, in order to justify service under section 64 of crpc. In Ramchandra Mishra vs state of Orissa 1995, the court said that temporary absence of a person from his home, to whom summons are issued, is not sufficient. 


A warrant is an order issued to a certain person that orders him to apprehend the accused and to bring him to justice. It is being executed on valid grounds only by a Magistrate. The warrant must bear the court seal, and a court presiding officer must sign the written warrant. A warrant remains valid until it is cancelled by the same court, whose seal it bears. The court has a right to state in a warrant that a person can pay a certain amount of security as assurance of producing himself before the court and thereby, avoid his arrest. If necessary, the immediate execution can be done by a person who is not a police officer. A Magistrate can execute a warrant on any person entering his territory and the person to whom the warrant is issued, can be anybody within his local jurisdiction. An arrested person should be notified about the cause of his arrest, and if the need be, the warrant can be shown to him.

Warrant can be authorised to a police officer outside the jurisdiction of the Judicial Magistrate, but this must be approved by the Executive Magistrate or by a police officer who is in charge of the police station.

Procedural differences 

Warrant case (sec 238-250) CHAPTER – 19 of Cr.PC

Summons case (sec 251-259) CHAPTER – 20 of Cr.PC

On institution of Police report (section: 238 -243) 

Otherwise than on Police report

(section: 244-247)

  1. Compliance with 

Section 207

  1. Evidence for prosecution (section 244)
  • When accused shall be discharged (sec 239)

2. when accused shall be discharged.

       (sec 245)

  1. Framing of charges (sec 240)

3. procedure where accused is not discharged (sec 246)

  1. Conviction on plea of guilt (sec 241)

4. evidence for defence (sec 247)

  1. Evidence for prosecution (sec 242)
  1. Evidence for defence (sect 243)

Section 248. Acquittal or conviction

Section 249. Absence of complainant

Section 250. Compensation for accusation without a reasonable cause.

  1. Substance of acquisition to be stated (sec 251)
  • Conviction on plea of guilt (sec 252)
  • Procedure when not convicted (sec 254)
  • Acquittal or conviction (sec 255)
  • Withdrawal of complaint (sec 257) 
  • Power to stop proceedings in certain cases (sec 258)
  • Power of court to convert summon cases to warrant cases (sec 259)
  • Absence of complainant (sec 249)
  • Non-appearance or death of complainant (sec 256)

The Code of Criminal Procedure prescribes two methods for the Magistrates court of a warrant case, namely, the case imposed on a police report, while the other, in the event, imposed not on a police report. In the summons court, however, only one process is used, whether it was imposed on a complaint or a police report.

Trial of warrant cases 

Warrant trial cases instituted on the police report

The accused appears or is brought before a Magistrate at the commencement of the trial, the Magistrate shall satisfy himself that he has complied with the provisions of section 207. If the charges against the accused are found to be baseless by the magistrate, then the accused is discharged. And if the magistrate finds the case triable, then a charge is framed against the accused. 

The charges are explained to the accused and he is asked whether he pleads guilty or not. If the accused pleads guilty then the magistrate can convict him. If the accused pleads Not guilty then the magistrate has to fix a date for examining the witnesses, whose statements have been supplied to the accused in advance. Summons can be issued to any of the witnesses by the magistrate. The accused shall then be called upon to enter upon his defence and produce his evidence. The magistrate should file in the records, any written statements given by the accused. 

Warrant trial Cases instituted otherwise than on police report

The accused appears or is brought before a Magistrate, the Magistrate proceeds to hear the prosecution and take all evidence which can be produced in the support of the prosecution.  Upon taking all the evidence referred to in section 244, if the Magistrate considers that no case against the accused has been made out, which would warrant his conviction, then the Magistrate shall discharge him. A Magistrate can also discharge a person at any initial stage of the case if he considers the charge to be baseless. 

If at any earlier stage of the case, the Magistrate is of the opinion that there is reason to presume that the accused has committed a triable offense, the Magistrate files an accusation against the accused in writing. If the accused pleads guilty after reading and understanding the charges, then the magistrate can convict him. If the accused does not plead guilty for any reason, he is required to state in the first hearing, if he wants to cross examine any witness or not. If he wishes the same then the witnesses named by him shall be recalled and they shall be discharged, after cross- examination and re-examination. And after that, the remaining witnesses are called and examined. The accused is then summoned to put forth his defence and produce his evidence; the provisions of section 243 are applied to the case.

The common stages in warrant cases (section 248 to 250)

If the charges are framed, and the Magistrate finds the accused not guilty, an acquittal order is recorded. But, if the magistrate considers the accused guilty, he imposes sentence upon him according to law, after hearing the accused on the matter of sentence. The magistrate has the authority to discharge the accused if the complainant is absent on the day of hearing of a non-cognizable offense. The accused is immediately discharged, where a case is instituted on complaint to a magistrate or police officer and the magistrate finds that the complaint against the accused person has no ground. 

Trial of summons case 

When the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate in a summons-case, he is informed about the details of the offense of which he is accused, and he is asked whether he pleads guilty or has any defence to make, but a formal charge is not filed. If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate can convict him. When summons are issued and the accused does not want to appear before the magistrate in case of petty offences, he has to send to the magistrate, a letter containing his plea and the amount of fine which was specified in the summons. Petty offense here means any offense punishable only by a fine not exceeding one thousand rupees, but does not include any offense so punishable under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1939 (4 of 1939) 103, or any other statute that allows for the prosecution of the accused in his absence on a plea of guilty.  

If the Magistrate does not convict the accused under section 252 or section 253, the Magistrate then would proceed to hear the prosecution case and would proceed to take all such evidence produced by the prosecution in support of their case. On the application of the prosecution or the accused, the magistrate can issue summons to any witness or direct them to produce any document or thing. After due consideration of evidence, if the magistrate thinks fit, he can record an order of acquittal. If the magistrate finds the accused guilty, then he can pass the sentence in accordance with the law. If the summons has been issued on complaint and on the day appointed for the appearance of the accused, the complainant does not appear including the possibility of death, the Magistrate acquits the accused unless for some reason he thinks it proper to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day. But if the magistrate thinks that the attendance of the complainant is not necessary, he can proceed with the case. The magistrate has the authority to permit the complainant to withdraw his complaint on sufficient grounds and also thereby, acquitting the accused person.  The accused will be discharged in any case of stoppage of proceedings. If in the course of a summon trial, it is realized or discovered by the magistrate that the sentence in case can exceed the period of 6 months, then the magistrate can re-hear the trial case as a warrant case. He can re-hear the witnesses and proceed in the manner in which warrant cases are executed. 

Takeaway points

Nature of cases: In warrant trials, the nature of cases is more serious as compared to summons trials. Less serious offences are covered under summons trial.


  • The summons case procedure is simpler and speedier. Whilst the warrant case process is complex and slower. Warrant cases deal more seriously with offenses than those in cases of summons. These cases cannot be tried in the same clear and timely manner as the summons cases. 
  • In a summons case, the accused can plead guilty by post after the summons has been issued without appearing before the Magistrate. Although, in a warrant case trial, there is no such provision.
  • The formulation of a formal charge is important in the warrant case. In a summon case, the framing of a formal charge is not necessary.

Term of punishment: Warrant cases are punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding 2 years

Framing of charges: Mandatory in warrant trial, but not in summons trial

Withdrawal of complaint: Can only happen in summons trial and not in warrant trial.

Addressed to: A summons addresses the suspect or victim, or any other person associated with the case, while the warrant addresses to the police officer.

Opportunity for defense: In warrant cases, it gives greater opportunities for defense. While it does not provide greater opportunities for defence in the summon case.

Importance of details like date and time: Particulars like date and time are important in summons as they do not remain valid after that. But Warrants remain valid till the objective is achieved. 

Cross-examination: In a warrant case, the accused gets more than one chance to cross-examine witnesses in the prosecution. While he gets only one chance to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses in a summons case.

Conversion: Under the Code, the Magistrate can be authorized to convert a summons case into a warrant case. Although, a warrant case can’t convert to a summons case.


  1. Criminal Procedure Code Bare Act.  
  2. Trial of Warrant Cases by Magistrates Under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, IPLeaders Blog, 
  3. Summons (section 61-69 of CRPC) THE FACT FACTOR
  4. Difference between Session trial and Warrant trial, IPLeaders Blog

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