Section 2(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code defines charge as any head of a charge when the charge contains more heads than one.
The legal definition mentioned in the code is not inclusive enough for a layman to decipher. However, the definition could simply be interpreted to mean as an “accusation”. It is the concrete accusation as recognised by the Magistrate or the Court, based on the prima facie evidence adduced against the accused.
Purpose of Charge
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, an accused should be informed of the offence of which he is charged. The basic purpose of the charge is to let the accused know of the offence that he is charged with so that he can prepare his defence. The accused should be informed of the charge against him at the very beginning. Every accused has the right to know what the prosecution has against him.
The underlying principle of the criminal law on informing the accused of the charge against him is to provide an equal opportunity to each and every individual to prepare his defence and avail justice. It must be noted that in case of serious offences, the statute requires the charge to be reduced to writing precisely and clearly and must be read to the accused and explained with precision and clarity.
In the case of V.C. Shukla vs. State, Justice Desai, while delivering the conclusive judgement opined, “the purpose of framing a charge is to give intimation to the accused of clear, unambiguous and precise notice of the nature of the accusation that the accused is called upon to meet in the course of a trial.”
Types of Cases Where Charges are Framed
The question of framing a charge against the accused arises only when the accused is not entitled to a discharge under Section 277 and 239 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Contents of Charge
The initial requirement under the code for a free and fair trial is to inform the accused precisely and accurately, of the offence he is charged him so as to give him a fair opportunity to prepare his defence.
Section 211 and 212 of the Code prescribe the forms and contents of the charge. However, when the nature of the case is such that the offence in question cannot be described properly by the particulars as mentioned in the aforesaid sections, so as to give the accused sufficient notice of the offence with which he is charged, then the manner in which the offence was committed by the accused shall also be contained in the particulars of the charge.
This shall be considered sufficient for the purpose of providing sufficient notice to the accused of the offence with which he is charged.
According to Section 211 of the Criminal Procedure Code, every charge under the code shall include the following:
- The offence with which the accused is charged;
- If any law gives the offence any specific name, then the description of that charge by that name only;
- The definition of the offence, under the law that does not give any specific name to the offence, so as to give notice of the matter to the accused of which he is charged;
- The law and the section of the law against which the offence is said to have been committed.
Illustration (a) of this Section explains the above as follows:
If A is charged with the murder of B, it means that the offence is equivalent to the statement that the act of A fell within the meaning of the definition of Murder which is mentioned in Section 299 and Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). It also means that the act of A did not fall within any of the General Exceptions which are mentioned in the Indian Penal Code. It also means that it did not fall in any of the five exceptions to Section 300 or that, if it did fall within Exception 1 or one or more than one of the three provisions to that exceptions applied to it.
This means that when a charge is framed against an accused, then it is equivalent to the statement that the accused while committing the said offence has fulfilled every legal condition required to constitute the said offence in the particular case. Also, the said charge shall be written in the language of the Court.