CHARGE UNDER CrPC by Gaurangi Kushwah @lexcliq

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.

Nature and Purpose of charge
It is a necessary characteristic of charge to be precise in its scope and particular in its details.

In V.C. Shukla vs. State, Justice Desai opined that, ‘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’.

Type of cases where charges are framed:
A charge is generally required to be framed in three types of cases:

1) SESSIONS CASES under section 228 of Cr.P.C.

2) WARRANT CASES triable by magistrate instituted on police reports under section 240 of Cr.P.C.

3) WARRANT CASES triable by magistrate instituted otherwise than on police report or instituted on the basis of private complaint under section 246(1) of Cr.P.C.

In trials of summons cases and in summary trials, charge is not framed, instead of charge plea is held.

Contents of Charge
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.

Error in Charge
In order to understand the provisions in case of an error in charge Section 215 and 216 must be read with Section 464 of the Code.

Effect of Error
According to Section 215 of the Code, any error in stating the offence or any error in stating the particulars required to be mentioned in the charge shall not be material at any stage of the case. In addition, any omission to state such offence or the particulars of the charge shall be immaterial. However, if such error or such omission has misled the accused or if it has occasioned the failure of justice, then such error or omission shall be considered material.

When Court Can Alter or Amend a Charge
Section 216 states the conditions under which the Court can alter or amend or add to any charge:

Before the judgement is pronounced, the Court can alter or amend any charge;
Such alteration or addition has to be read and explained to the accused;
If in the opinion of the Court, the addition or alteration to the charge does not prejudice the accused in his defence or the prosecutor in the conduct of his case, then the Court may alter or amend the charge and proceed with the trial according to its discretion;
But if the Court is of the opinion that the alteration or addition to the charge is likely to prejudice the accused or the prosecutor as aforesaid, then following the alteration or amendment, the Court may, at its discretion either direct a new trial or adjourn the trial for such period as it may consider necessary;
If the previous sanction is necessary to be obtained for the prosecution of the offence stated in the altered or added charge, then the Court shall not proceed with the case until such sanction is obtained.

The Criminal Procedure Code lays downs the basic rule of practice and procedure for framing of charge. Framing of charge is the most basic step of a case. Absolute duty of care must be exercised while framing of the charge as a failure of which may lead to the miscarriage of justice. Every person accused of an offence shall be informed of the charge specifically. It is important for a free and fair trial that the accused is made aware of the charge against him so that he can prepare his case.

The said charge shall be in the form and have the contents as mentioned in the Code so that the accused can understand the charge against him clearly. The Court has the power to alter or add to the charge at any time during the continuity of the case before the judgement is pronounced. But when the Judge or Magistrate is of the opinion that there is no prima facie evidence to establish a case against the accused, then the charge against the accused must be dropped and the accused must be discharged in accordance with the law.

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