Meaning, Roles and Functions of a Public Prosecutor

June 03, 2019

This article is written by Richa Goel of Banasthali Vidyapith. In this article, she has discussed the concept of Public Prosecutor along with its provision and its important case laws.


A Public Prosecutor is considered as the agent of the state to represent the interest of common people in the criminal justice system. The prosecution of the accused is the duty of the state but not individually the duty of the aggrieved party. They are appointed in almost all countries. The Public Prosecutor is defined in Section 24 of Cr.P.C. They serve as the basic principle of Rule of Law i.e. auld alteram partem (no person shall be condemned unheard).


Section 2(u) of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines Public Prosecutor.

“A person who is appointed under Section 24 of CrPC and it also includes any person who is acting under the directions of Public Prosecutor.”

In the case of Babu vs State of Kerala,

The Court observed that Public Prosecutors are ministers of justice who is duty bound to assist the judge in the administration of justice.


The functions of the Public Prosecutor differ according to their designation.

The objective of establishing a Directorate of Public Prosecutors is to supervise and scrutinise the functions relating to various prosecution agencies at Assistant Session level and Session level except at High Court.

Reasons for the Appointment of Public Prosecutor

Whenever any crime is committed against a group or individual, it is assumed that it has been committed against society. It is the duty of the state to provide justice to any group of society or person who is affected by the crime. In India, it is necessary that the criminal justice system should function within the limits of the Indian Constitution, which means that it is necessary for the Public Prosecutor to act in accordance with the principles of:

Role of Public Prosecutors

It is divided into two parts:

Role of the Public Prosecutor in the investigating process

Role of Public Prosecutors at the time of trial


Other Important Roles

Provision Under Cr.P.C

Hierarchy of Public Prosecutor according to Section 24:

Section 24 of Cr.P.C  talks about the appointment of Public Prosecutors in the District Court and High Court by the state government and central government respectively.

Sub-section 3 states that the Public Prosecutor needs to be appointed for each district and may also appoint Additional Public Prosecutor.

Subsection 4 states that the District Magistrate in consultation with Session judge needs to prepare a panel of names which is considered as fit for such an appointment.

Subsection 5 states that the person can’t be appointed as a Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor by the State Government in a district unless his names are on the panel prepared under subsection 4.

Subsection 6 explains that in a  case where a state has a local cadre of prosecuting officers, but there is no suitable person in such cadre for an appointment the appointment must be made from the panel prepared under subsection 4.

Subsection 7 states that person can be appointed as Public Prosecutor only after he has been practised as an advocate for the minimum period of 7 years.

Section 25 of Cr.P.C  states that the Assistant Public Prosecutors is appointed in the district for the purpose of conducting prosecution in Magistrate Court. The court may appoint one or more Assistant Public Prosecutors for the purpose of conducting a case.

If there are no Assistant Public Prosecutors then District Magistrate may appoint any other person to act as the Assistant Public Prosecutors.

Section 321 permits the Public Prosecutor or Assistant Public Prosecutor to withdraw from the case or prosecution with the permission of the court at any time before the judgement is pronounced. The power of the prosecutor is derived from the statute itself and they must act in the interest of the administration of justice.

Judicial trend

In the case of Vineet Narain vs Union of India,

Facts– the offence involves high political dignitaries. CBI failed to investigate properly.

The court stated that there are no limitations or restrictions as to launching of prosecutor or initiation of investigations.

In the case of Jitendra Kumar @Ajju vs State (NCT OF Delhi)

The High Court of Delhi stated that “the Public Prosecutor acts on the behalf of the state. They are the ministers of justice who play a pivot role in the administration of criminal justice”.

In the case of Zahira Habibullah vs State of Gujarat,

This case is known as “Best Bakery Case”.

Facts– burning down of construction in the city of Vadodara results in the death of 14 persons This matter came up before the Supreme Court for consideration.

The Supreme Court stated the “Public Prosecutors acted more as the defence rather than focusing on presenting the truth before Court”.

In the case of Thakur Ram vs State of Bihar,

The reason behind the establishment of the office of Public Prosecutor is that no private person can use the legal apparatus to wreak private vengeance anyone.

In the case of Tikam Singh vs State & Ors,

There is no dispute related to the office of the Public Prosecutor but there is a public element attached to it. He acts as the representative of the state but not a complainant. The role of the Public Prosecutor is distinguished from the role of private counsel.

In the case of Sandeep Kumar Bafna vs State of Maharashtra & Anr,

The court stated that “a Public Prosecutor is not expected to show a thirst to reach the case in the conviction of the accused somehow or other irrespective of the facts of the case. The attitude of the Public Prosecutor must be fair towards the investigating agencies and as well as towards the accused.”

In the case of Radheyshyam vs State of M.P & Ors,

The court stated that a special Public Prosecutor can be appointed when the administration of justice is required. They cannot appoint only on the request of the complainant. His remuneration is paid by the state because if it will be paid by the private party, then his ability or capacity to perform his role as a Public Prosecutor will be endangered. The government cannot appoint Special Public Prosecutor on such terms, directing him to receive his remuneration from any private individual.

In the case of Kunja Subidhi and Anr vs Emperor,

The duty of the Public Prosecutor is to place before the court all the relevant evidence whether it is in favour or against the accused and to leave upon the court to decide the matter.

Recent illustrations

In the year 2018, The Government of Delhi appointed senior lawyers, Rebecca Mammen John and Vishal Goshen as special Public Prosecutors in the murder case of Ankit Saxena Murder Case for the purpose of the rial.

In the year 2019, Arvind Kejriwal ordered for the appointment of a special Public Prosecutor in the Soumya Vishwanath’s case.

Present scenario India

There is no uniformity in the structure of the public prosecution in India. There is no boundary created between the investigating agency and the prosecution in a number of states. This affects the impartiality of Public Prosecutor since police control the prosecutions. When the prosecution is headed by a senior police officer, the boundary collapses completely.

Although the Law Commission in the year 1958 suggested the establishment of Directorate of prosecution with its own cadre, such a recommendation was not accepted in Cr.P.C. Some states have Directorate of Prosecution while others do not.  



A Public Prosecutor is an officer of the court helping in the administration of justice. It is clear from the fact that the main duty of the Public Prosecutor is to help the court in finding the facts of the case. The Public Prosecutor must be impartial, fair and honest. He must act on the directions of the judge. He should not believe in the conviction of accused by hook or crook. The guiding principles of any public prosecution must be equity, justice and good conscience.


  1. https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/144597/8/chapter%20iv.pdf
  2. https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/role-of-public-prosecutor-in-magisterial-courts-by-rakesh-kumar-singh/
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