Every charge under the code of criminal procedure, 1973 shall state the offence with which the accused is charged. The motive behind a charge is precisely and succinctly to let know the accused individual, the issue for which he is being charged. It is necessary to pass on to the accused absolutely clearly and with certainty what the prosecution has accused him of or what the prosecution has against him. The underlying principle of criminal law is based on the fact that it is the right of the accused to be informed about the exact nature of the charge levelled against him.

Under section 2(b) CrPc, 1973, ‘charge’ includes any head of charge when the charge contains more heads than one. Hence it can be interpreted that when a charge contains more than one heads, the head of charges is likewise a charge.

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’.

Thing in respect of which offense is committed

It is important for a charge to express the property in respect of which the offence is said to have taken place.

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.

Legal Provision of Charge:

It is under Chapter XVII of the criminal procedure codes, 1973 that charge has been mentioned.

Sections 211 to 217 iterate the form of charges and Sections 218 to 224 explains the joinder of charges.

Furthermore, sections 227, 228, 239, 240 and 464 of the code also talks about the various provisions related to charge which will be explained ahead.

Section 211 and 212:

Under Section 211 & Section 212, the content of charge and the particulars as to time and place of the alleged offence is stated, the person against whom the crime was committed or the thing in respect of which it happened and other information which is sufficient to charge the accused.

However what needs to be kept in mind is that in cases where charges are of criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of money or any other moveable property, specifying the gross sum or the dates between which the crime was committed or the movaple property in regard of which the offence was conducted, without specifying the particular items or the exact dates and hence it will be known as a charge in meaning of section 219. There is a condition that the time included between the first and last of such dates shall not exceed 1year.

Section 213

It shall be notes that the charge shall contain the particulars of manner in which the said offence has been committed in places where section 211 and 212 are not able to describe well the charge with which the accused is charged.

Section 214

Section 214 gives a standard for translating the words utilized in the charge: It gives that in each charge words utilized in portraying an offense will be regarded to have been utilized in the sense attached to them separately by the law under which such offense is culpable.

Section 215

Section 215,464 and 465 of the Code needs to be read together as all these deal with the same question. Section 215 enacts that no error or omission in the charge will be regarded as material unless it has occasioned a failure of justice.

In Tulsi Ram & ors. vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, under para 12, the court was considering these aspects of the matter and made it clear that a complaint about the charge was never raised at any earlier stage and the learned Judges came to the conclusion that the charge was fully understood by the appellants in that case and they never complained at the appropriate stage that they were confused or bewildered by the charge. The sad thing is true here. Therefore, the Court refused to accept any grievance relating to error in the framing of the charge.

Section 216

This section deals with alteration in charge. The object is to secure fair trial to the accused and it is the duty of the court to ensure that alteration or addition of charge has not caused prejudice to him. It must be exercised judiciously though the power is wide and extensive,. However, the court cannot alter the charge to the prejudice of the accused. Similarly, such power cannot be exercised after the accused is discharged of all the charges in as much as no charge exists against him and the provisions of Section 216 do not apply. 

Section 217

This section deals with the recalling or re-summoning and examining the accused in regard with such alteration or addition been made to the charge. Also in case any further witness needs to be called then that is also permitted.

Joinder of Charges (Section 218-222)

Under the criminal procedure, sections 218 to 222 speak about the provisions related to joinder of charges in one trial against the same accused. The only exceptions recognized are contained in Sections 219,220,221 & 223 of CrPC .Hence separate trial is the rule and the joint trial is an exception. The sections with state the exceptions are only enabling provisions. A court can order a separate trial even though the case is covered by one of the exceptions enabling a joint trial in its discretion.

In Chunnoo vs. State, same was held.

In section 223 joint trial against two or more accused persons are dealt with.

Section 218 deals with the basic rule which says that for every distinct offence there must be a separate charge and a separate trial for each such charge.

Conviction for minor offence when major offence is charged:

In cases where an accused is charged for a case consisting of a minor offence, he can be convicted of such minor offence. In the same way in situations where an accused is charged with an offence and facts are proved which direct it to be a minor offence, he can be convicted of such minor offence even though he is not charged with such offence.

On the contrary, no person can be convicted for a major offence if he is charged with a minor one.

In the cases of Mohinder Singh v. State of Punjab and Chandi Prasad v. State of U.P the same ruling was held.

No conviction for major offence when minor offence is charged:  

It is important to state that in case an accused is charged with a major offence then in that situation he can legally be convicted of a minor offence. However, vice versa is not true. Hence, if an accused is charged for a minor offence, he cannot be convicted for a major offence.

In the infamous case of Willie Slaney v. State of M.P., it was held by the honourable judges that ‘in case of charge for minor offence, no conviction for a major offence can be there’.

Withdrawal of Charges: 

It has been stated under Section 224 states that when an accused is charged for two or more offences and if he is convicted on one or more of them, the prosecution or the complainant in that case may then with the due permission of the court, withdraw the remaining charges. In situations where the court permits withdrawal of charges, the same would amount to acquittal on the charges which are left and they cannot be inquired into except if the court order’s to set aside the conviction. 

Discharge of the accused: 

Under section 227 it is provided for discharge of an accused. It has been explained here that the judge has the power to discharge the accused, assisted by reasonable reasons for doing so and by considering the cases and the submitted documents and after hearing the accused and the prosecution.  

This provision has been enacted with the intention of eliminating the possibility of harassment to the accused in situations when no prima facie case is against him. There is no need for mental judgement of the veracity and effect of evidence as the trail stage.  

If under Section 227 or Section 228, the scale as to the guilt or innocence of the accused are equal at the beginning stage of making an order then in such a scenario, normally the order will automatically have to be made under Section 228 (framing of charge) and not under Section 227 (discharge). Willie Slaney v. State of M.P and Ganesh v. State of Orissa and State of Maharashtra v. Salman Khan, are some crucial cases proving the above true.

Framing of Charge: 

The framing of a charge is a judicial act is not mere formality and hence application of mind is crucial. The basic motto of Section 228 is to ensure that the accusation made against the accused are not false and baseless and frivolous and that there is some material aspect to proceed. It becomes clear after reading section 227 and 228 together, that what the court has to see whether it is a prima facie case against the accused and he is in any manner connected with the incident leading to the prosecution. Certain rules are given below find out that is the case is prima facie or proper evidence against the accused.

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