Criminal justice system
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This article is written by Nikhil Thakur, Manav Rachna University. Through this article, the author has covered The Trial Stage. In the previous part, the author has highlighted the position of the Pre-Trial Stage and had stressed on the importance of some bedrock principles.

Criminal trial

Trial stage

A trial is studied as the 2nd phase under criminal proceedings, and is not stipulated under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973. But, unambiguously it means a process of determining the guilt or innocence of a person via adjudication before the competent court.

Predominantly, there exist 3 different divisions of criminal trial in India:

  1. Warrant case– where punishment for an offence is 7 year or more.
  2. Summon case- where punishment for an offence is 2 year or less.
  3. Summary trial– where punishment for an offence is 6 month or less.

1. Warrant case

A warrant case is a case where the punishment for an offence is actionable with:

  1. Death- Punishment Exceeds 7 Years.
  2. Life Imprisonment- Punishment Exceeds 7 Years or the imprisonment for the offence is for more than 2 years or more.

A warrant case is instituted either upon the registration of FIR under the Section 154 of CrPC, 1973 or via filing of a Private complaint before the magistrate. If the Magistrate upon receiving the private complaint from the complainant is of the view that the offence committed by the accused is punishable with imprisonment for more than 2 years. If so, the magistrate shall transfer the case to the Session Court who is the appropriate authority to hear the matter.

Trial of warrant case chiefly involves two procedures:

  1. Trial of Warrant case instituted on Police Report. 

(Section 238- 243 of the CrPC, 1973)

2. Trial of Warrant case instituted otherwise than on Police Report.

(Section 244-247 of CrPC, 1973)

“POLICE REPORT” is a report in writing usually submitted by the Police Officer to the Magistrate accordant with Section 173(2) of CrPC, 1973.

1. Trial of warrant case instituted on police report 

After submission of Police Report before the Magistrate in conformity with Section 173 of CrPC, 1973 who is competent to grab the cognizance of the matter. Subsequently, the arguments proceed in the court of law before the magistrate who has grab the cognizance in respect to framing of the charges. Afterwards, the parties put forth their arguments in approval or against the charges framed.

If the Court after hearing the explanations/ Justification/Arguments in approval or against the charges framed, is of the opinion that no charges are made out, in that situation the court shall release the accused in compliance with Section 239 and acquit via Section 248(1) of CrPC, 1973.

If the Court after hearing the explanations/ Justification/Arguments in approval or against the charges framed, is of the opinion that charges are made out, in such a situation the court shall institute the Trial accordant with Section 240 of CrPC, 1973.

If a person who is not pleased with the charges framed, can file a Revision Petition before the Higher Jurisdiction in compliance with section 399 and 401 of CrPC, 1973 and can even invoke the inherent power of the High Court via Section 482 of CrPC, 1973 and plea for relinquish or insertion of charges as the case may be.

If a person who is charged wrongfully/ unlawfully or is not Pleased with the charges framed may file a discharge Application, but it shall be filed before the arguments takes place in the court in approval or against the charges framed. 

OR 

Can even file Discharge Application before framing of charges, if the judge appraises that there lay no reasonably certain ground to institute the proceedings.

In both of the above-mentioned cases, the accused is acquitted if the court is pleased that no reasonable grounds subsist and further relinquish the charges framed and release the person accordant with Section 239 of CrPC, 1973 or upon Discharge Application. 

  • Plea of guilty

Once, the charges are framed and the accused has acknowledged the same and desire to plead guilty, can carry out or implement the same via Section 241 of CrPC, 1973 and Plead Guilty before the court. It is the liability of the Magistrate/ Judge to ensure that the plea executed by the accused is voluntarily made and without any wrongful force/ coercion/ Undue pressure. If the accused plead guilty the court may directly convict the accused.

 

  • Evidence for the prosecution

If the accused refuses to plead guilty in front of the Hon’ble Court, and submit to be tried by the Court, the responsibility lay upon the Magistrate to fix a date for the purpose of examination of witnesses (Section 242 of CrPC 1973).

Further, it is the duty of the Magistrate to bestow beforehand the accused with a copy of statement of witnesses which were recorded during the investigation carried out by Police.

If the prosecution called for personal attendance of any witness/ witnesses before the court, the same may file an application before the Hon’ble Court to call for the attendance of such witness/ witnesses along with such other documents as asked for.

On the date fixed by the magistrate for the purpose of examination of witness under Section 242 of CrPC, 1973, the prosecution shall administer the Examination-in-Chief (Examination of the witness by the party who call it) of their witness/ witnesses in compliance with Section 137 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 

Upon conclusion of the Examination-In-Chief on behalf of the Prosecution, Subsequently the Cross-Examination (Examination of witness/ witnesses by the adverse party/ opposite party) is Conducted by the Defense upon the same witness/ witnesses as called by the Prosecution to challenge the authenticity, reliability and credibility via Section 137 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

  • Statement of the accused

Section 313 of the CrPC, 1973 gives an opportunity to the accused to be heard and propound his/her evidence and to uncomplicate the facts and the circumstances in front of the court. This examination is a mandatory examination of the accused by the Court.

The statement administered by the Accused shall not be taken on Oath accordant with Section 313(2) of CrPC, 1973. 

Further, if the accused admit or acknowledge anything in the course of his/ her examination such admission or acknowledgment may be used against him/ her. But if the accused do not answer to any question laid down before him/ her the same cannot be held liable for the punishment in compliance with Section 313(3) of CrPC, 1973. 

  • Evidence for the defense

After the completion of the above two steps, then the opportunity lay in the hands of the Defense side to conduct Examination-In-Chief of their Witness/ witnesses via Section 137 of INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT, 1872 and thereafter the opportunity to conduct Cross-examination lay in the hand of the Prosecution to cross-examine the witness/ witnesses presented by the defense in their favor. 

At this stage, the defense may produce either oral evidence or documentary evidence.

  • Conclusion of the trial/ judgment

It is the verdict given by the court as regards the conviction or acquittal of the accused.

After all the steps have been executed and oral arguments, evidence conclusion has taken place the final step Conclusion of the Trial arises. Upon which the court proceeds with conclusion that whether to Convict or Acquit the Accused (Section 248 of CrPC, 1973).                                                         

Acquittal

In case, the Accused is acquitted by the court, the prosecution may file an Appeal before the Higher Jurisdiction and may demand the reversal.

Conviction

Chiefly two scenarios are present in case the accused is convicted by the Court:

  1. Accused to appeal before higher Jurisdiction. 
  2. If the accused is pleased with the conviction. The arguments as to Quantum of punishment are determined.

Decision as to quantum of punishment

If the Accused is Convicted, thereafter both the parties came forth to argue in respect to quantum of punishment to be awarded in favor of accused. This opportunity is available only in those cases where the punishment for an offence is Life Imprisonment or Capital Imprisonment.

Upon hearing both the parties, the court determine the punishment to be accorded to the Accused. While deciding this, the court shall consider mitigating as well as aggravating factors (age, criminal background, gender, religion and etc.) and upon such factors the court conclude the type of punishment namely: 

  1. Restorative Punishment;
  2. Deterrent punishment;
  3. Reformative punishment;
  4. Rehabilitation;
  5. Incapacitation and etc.

In EDIGA ANAMMA V. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH, the Supreme Court held that it is pivotal to take care of the fact that while convicting anyone, social and personal factors shall be determined in order to maintain an equilibrium between reformation or deterrent role of punishment.

In the corresponding case, the Supreme Court further held that Life Imprisonment is more Humane in comparison to Capital Punishment. Moreover, Supreme court recommended some mitigating factor which shall be taken in consideration before pronouncing any sentence:

  1. Age of the offender.
  2. Accused labored under socio-economic, psychic compulsion which do not attract legal exception or which convert the offence into lesser one.
  3. Any general social pressure attracting lesser punishment.
  4. Whether co-accused awarded lesser punishment.
  5. Whether there is presence of Provocation or Instigation.

2. Trial of warrant case instituted otherwise than on police report or trial of warrant case instituted on private complaint

If a warrant case has been instituted otherwise than on police report, in such a situation the magistrate calls for the personal attendance of the Accused and fix the date for the purpose of his/ her examination.

Although there is no provision as to furnishing of a copy of statement of the witness/ witnesses to the accused, thus it does not stipulate that the accused is precluded from attaining those copies. As an elementary Principle of criminal proceedings, the copies of the statement shall be supplied/furnished to the accused because if it is not provided it would be difficult for the accused to challenge or make his/ her defense. 

Basically, if a warrant case is instituted on Private Complaint, the Magistrate can issue summons or warrant against the accused and along with the summons a copy of complaint shall be attested. (Section 204(3) of CrPC, 1973). 

  • Evidence for prosecution

On the date fixed by the magistrate for the accused to appear before the court on such appearance the Prosecution shall conduct Examination-In-Chief of all the witness/witnesses and put forth his/ her evidences in support (Section 244(1) of CrPC, 1973).

Subsequently, the opportunity is given to the Defense side to Conduct Cross-examination and challenge the authenticity, reliability of the evidences given in support by the prosecution.

  • Discharge of the accused

If the magistrate after hearing/ considering the evidences on behalf of the prosecution and is of the opinion/ view that there exists no reasonable ground or no case is made out against the accused in such a situation the magistrate shall discharge the accused in compliance with Section 245 of CrPC, 1973.

  • Framing of charges

If the magistrate upon hearing the evidences on behalf of the prosecution via Section 244 of CrPC, 1973 and upon considering the same is of the opinion/ view that there exist a reasonable ground against the accused in such circumstances the Magistrate shall frame the charges in writing against the accused accordant with Section 246 of CrPC, 1973.

After framing the charges, the charges are read out and explained to the accused by the Magistrate. Subsequently, the Magistrate asks the accused whether he is guilty or not. If the accused plead Guilty in compliance with Section 241 of CrPC, 1973 in front of the magistrate the accused is convicted but, if accused refuses to plead guilty he/ she has the right to make his/ her defense. 

  • Statement of the accused

Section 313 of the CrPC, 1973 allows an opportunity to the accused to be heard and put forth his/ her evidences and to uncomplicate all the facts and the circumstances in front of the court. This examination is a mandatory examination of the accused by the Court.

  • Evidence for the defense

Upon conclusion of evidences in favor of prosecution via Section 244 of CrPC, 1973 and mandatory examination under Section 313 of CrPC of the accused, if the Accused is not acquitted, the defense side shall conduct Examination-in-Chief of all the witness/ witnesses in their support. Subsequently, the opportunity is given to the Prosecution to conduct Cross-examination and challenge the evidences put forth by the defense in their support (Section 247 of CrPC, 1973).

  • Conclusion of the trial/judgment

After concluding all the steps, oral arguments, evidence the last stair Conclusion of the Trial arises. Upon which the court comes to verdict, whether to Convict or Acquit the Accused (Section 248 of CrPC, 1973).   

In case, the Accused is acquitted by the court, the prosecution may file an Appeal before the Higher Jurisdiction and may demand the reversal.

In the case, accused has acknowledged the conviction subsequently, the arguments as to Quantum of punishment are determined.

2. Summon case

Summon case is a case not being a warrant case. Basically, means that a case is said to be a Summon Case where the punishment for an offence is not:

  1. Death;
  2. Life imprisonment and the imprisonment for the offence does not exceed 2 years.

The procedure for the Trial of Summon Case by Magistrate has been enshrined under Section 251 till 259. There exist no difference between “Trial of Summon Case instituted on Private Complaint” or “Trial of Summon Case Instituted on Police Report”.

When the accused is brought before the court/ Magistrate, he/ she shall be made acquainted with the contents of the offence. After doing this, the accused shall be asked whether he/ she Plead Guilty or not via Section 251 of CrPC, 1973. 

If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate shall make it clear that the same was executed voluntarily and without any kind of pressure. After satisfy itself, the Magistrate convict the Accused (Section 252 of CrPC, 1973).

If the Accused upon receiving the summon from the court, desire to Pleads Guilty, he/ she shall make it in writing and submit the same before the Magistrate along with Fine as specified under the Summon (Section 253(1) of CrPC, 1973). 

The Magistrate after receiving the guilty pleading shall act accordingly and convict the accused accordant with Section 253(2) of CrPC, 1973.

When the magistrate do not convict the Accused or the Accused do not Plead Guilty in such situation the matter shall be adjourned till next date, where the prosecution initiates/ institute/  proceeds with giving supportive evidences in their approval or conduct examination of all its witnesses, subsequently the Court conduct examination of the Accused in compliance with Section 313 of CrPC, 1973 and finally the opportunity is granted to the defense to ground their evidences in support and conduct examination of their witnesses accordant with Section 254 of CrPC, 1973). Finally, Judgement of Conviction or Acquittal is followed (Section 255 of CrPC, 1973).

In Summon Case, parties are not required to argue against the quantum of Punishment. If the accused is convicted he/ she has the right to appeal and the same right is extended to prosecution in case the accused is acquitted.

3. Summary trial

Summary Trial is not stipulated under the CrPC, 1973. The Trial stage initiates after framing of the Charges and upon which the seriousness and gravity of the offence committed by the accused are determined. On basis of such determination, different forms of Trials are made applicable, the reason being is to enable speedy Disposal of the cases in order to reduce the pendency as well as huge burden of cases on courts.

The procedure for Summary Trial is enshrined within Chapter 12 from Section 260 till Section 265 of CrPC, 1973. In Summary Trial, the offence committed is basically not of a serious nature or are petty cases thus, these cases are disposed off summarily or speedily.  

The primary objective behind Summary Trial is to lower the burden on the courts so that they can invest more of their time in dealing with Complex cases.

For the purpose of Dealing with Summary Trial, the authorities which are empowered to take the matter and try the same summarily are

  1. Chief Judicial Magistrate;
  2. Metropolitan Magistrate; or
  3. Any other Magistrate of 1st class who is empowered by the High Court.

What all cases can be tried summarily

  • The punishment for the offence committed shall not be: 
  1. Death.
  2. Life Imprisonment and the imprisonment not exceeding 2 years.
  • Theft and the value of the property stolen shall not exceed 2000 Rupees.
  • Receiving and retaining Stolen property, and the value of the stolen Property shall not exceed 2000 Rupees.
  • Concealment or disposal of stolen property, the value of the property shall not exceed 2000 Rupees.
  • Offences under Section 454 and 456 of IPC, 1860.
  • Insulting someone with an intent to provoke and breach the peace and under Section 506 of IPC, 1860.
  • Offence of abetment.
  • Attempting to commit a foregoing offence (such an attempt is an offence in itself).
  • Complaint under Section 20 of Cattle Trespass Act, 1871.

Summary trial by magistrate of 2nd class

The High Court while exercising its power may empower the Magistrate of 2nd class to try the case summarily.

But, the punishment for an offence committed shall be restricted to:

  • Fine; or
  • An imprisonment not exceeding 6 months (with or without Fine); or
  • Abetment or attempt to commit crime.

In the abovementioned cases only, the magistrate of 2nd class is empowered to try the matter summarily. 

Predominantly, if the accused is convicted in summary case in such a situation the imprisonment shall not exceed 3 months.

In case, the accused plead guilty the magistrate shall pass the appropriate sentence. 

When the case is being tried summarily, and the accused refuses to plead guilty, in such a situation the Magistrate shall record the substances of evidence along with brief statement of the findings with reason. And all these records and Judgement passed shall be in the language of the court.


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