Procedures Prescribed for Criminal Trials
Depending on the nature of a crime and its gravity different trial procedures have been provided
in the code of criminal procedure. These trial procedures range from very simple summary trials
to more formal warrant trials of sessions cases. One of the advantages of providing for different
trial procedures is to reduce the life of certain trials and thereby keeping down the pendency list.
These trial procedures have been discussed in the paragraphs that follow:
(a) Summary Trials Procedure
Chapter XXI of the code of criminal procedure lays down the provisions relating to
summary trials. Under this chapter any chief judicial/metropolitan magistrate or first class
magistrate (especially empowered in this behalf by High Court) can summarily try all or
any of the following offences: (i.) Offences not punishable with death sentence or life
imprisonment or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.
(ii.) Offences under section 379, 380 or 381, 411 or 414 of Indian penal code where the
value of suit property does not exceed Rs.200.
(iii.) Offences under sections 454 and 456 of the IPC.
(iv.) Offences under sections 504 and 506 of the IPC.
(v.) Abetment of any of the foregoing offences.
(vi.) Any attempt to commit any of the foregoing offences, when such an attempt is an
(vii.) Any offence constituted by an act in respect of which complaint may be made under
section 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act. 1871. Under section 261 a second class magistrate
can also be empowered to adopt summary procedure of certain trials. It is important to
note that procedures of summary trials are same as for summons cases, except for the
provisions made under section 263 for record of summary trials.
(b) Summon Procedure
Some of the less serious offences can be disposed of by magisterial Courts by way of
summons trial procedure under chapter XX of the code of criminal procedure. Non-
cognizable crimes are not registered by the police in the FIR, instead are recorded in
Daily Diary. In such cases the accused is produced before the Court along with a police
report. No formal investigation report or challan as required in warrant trials is submitted.
In a summons case, the accused is asked either to plead guilty or to offer defence. But, it
is not necessary to frame a formal charge. Instead the accused is served with a notice.
Also, the evidence against the accused is recorded in substance. After recording of
evidence the magistrate may either acquit or convict the accused as the case may be. It
has been observed that summons cases taken relatively less time get decided, but not
(b) Warrant Procedure
Warrant trials are a little more complicated than summary trial or summons trials. Chapter XIX
of the code of criminal procedure deals with warrant cases by magistrates. In warrant cases after
police investigation a challan is prepared and presented to the Court under Sec.173. It is checked,
registered with the Court and accused summoned. On the day of first appearance of the accused
before the Court, he is supplied with copies of the police report, FIR and statements of witnesses
recorded under section 161 in compliance with the provisions of Sec.207, Cr.Pc. After
compliance with the provisions of section 207, the magistrate, if considered, necessary, can
give both the accused and the prosecution an opportunity of being heard and if he feels that
charge against the accused is groundless, he can discharge the accused. Otherwise, he may
proceed to frame charges. Once the charges are framed the accused is asked to plead guilty or to
defend himself. If the accused pleads guilty to the charge he is convicted. Otherwise, next stage
in the case, i.e… recording of prosecution evidence follows. When the recording of prosecution
evidence is concluded, again, the statement of the accused is recorded, if he has to say something
regarding prosecution evidence or if he wants to produce evidence in his defence. If the accused
wishes to present evidence in his defence, the witnesses (or other evidence is) summoned at his
request and deposition recorded. Thereupon the final arguments are heard from both prosecution
and defence and judgment is pronounced. Normally, in cases of conviction, the arguments on the
point of sentence are heard. Finally, in such cases the orders of sentence are passed in open
Court. The trial of a compliant does not differ much from that of a case filed by the police. The
only major difference is that after receiving the compliant, if the presiding officer thinks fit may
record some evidence to substantiate the compliant before taking any other step. Such evidence
in common parlance is called pre-charge evidence. This is applicable to a warrant trial or to a
summons case also. The difference between a session trial and trial by magistrates Court is that
of committal proceedings.
(D) Session Trial
Depending on the gravity of the offences and the punishment prescribed therefore,
criminal trial under the code of criminal procedure 1973 (Cr.Pc. for Short) has been
classified into two viz., magisterial trial and Sessions trial. The first schedule to the
Cr.Pc. is divided into two parts namely, Part I and Part II. Column I of the first part
of the first schedule enumerates the list of offences punishable under the Indian
Penal Code and column 6 thereof indicates the Court by which those offences are
triable. Those Courts are either the magistrate’s Courts or the Courts of session. The
second part of the first schedule deals with offences punishable under other laws. In the
absence of any specific provision under such other laws regarding investigation, inquiry
or trial, the procedure prescribed under the Cr.Pc. for the same shall be applicable by
virtue of Sec. 4 (2) of Cr.Pc. If under the special law the offence is punishable with
imprisonment for life or imprisonment for more than 7 years, then by virtue of the second
part of the I Schedule to Cr.Pc. the offence shall be triable by a Court of Session.
Chapter XVIII of Cr.Pc. starting with Sec.225 and ending with Sec.237 deals with
provisions governing the trial before a Court of Session. Section 225 Cr.Pc. enjoins
that in every trial before a Court of Session the prosecution shall be conducted by a
public prosecutor. Sec. 193 Cr.Pc. provides that except as otherwise expressly provided
by the Cr.Pc. or any other law, no Court of Session shall take cognizance of any offence
as a Court of original jurisdiction unless the case has been committed to it by a magistrate
under the Cr.Pc. There are statutes like the N.D.P.S Act.1985, wherein it is provided that
the special Court manned by a Sessions judge shall take cognizance of an offence under
the Act without the case being committed to it. In such cases it may be permissible for the
sessions Court to take cognizance of the offence without a committal of the case by the
magistrate concerned. But there are other enactments such as the Scheduled Castes, and
Scheduled Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act. 1989, which are silent regarding
commitment. Trial under those statutes is also to be conducted by a Court of Session. In
Gangula Ashok.v.State of A.P,2 the Supreme Court of India held that the mandate under
section 193 Cr.Pc. is applicable to the special Courts manned by sessions judges trying
offences under the SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act. 1989 and that those Courts
cannot take cognizance of the offences under the said Act without the case being
committed to them by the magistrates concerned. When the accused appears or is brought
before Court pursuant to the commitment of the case, the public prosecutor should open
the case by describing the charge brought against the accused and stating by what
evidence he proposes to prove the guilt of the accused. After considering the record of the
case and the documents submitted along with such record and after hearing the
submissions of the accused and the prosecution, if the judge considers that there are no
sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused
giving reasons for doing so. If, however, the judge is of the opinion that there is ground
for presuming that the accused has committed the offence he may frame the charge
against the accused in writing. At this stage the Sessions judge is entitled to consider only
the documents produced by the prosecution along with the charge sheet. The accused is
not entitled to produce or cause production of any document at this stage for the
consideration of the Sessions judge. The charges shall be read over to the accused and
explained to him and he shall be asked as to whether he pleads guilty of the offence
charged or whether he claims to be tried for the charge. If the judge is of opinion that
notwithstanding the conclusions of the police, the offence that is actually made out is not
one exclusively triable by a Court of sessions then he shall frame a charge against the
accused and transfer the case for.trial to the chief judicial magistrate who shall try the
case as if it were a warrant case instituted on a police report. Even though Sec.229 Cr.Pc.
gives discretion to the judge to convict the accused, in case he pleads guilty, the charge in
a Sessions case being for grave offences, it is desirable that the accused is not
straightaway convicted. The proper course would be to call upon the prosecution to prove
its case by adducing evidence. Where the accused does not plead guilty the Court shall
call upon the prosecution to adduce evidence in support of its case. Evidence for the
prosecution shall be taken on a day-to-day basis. After the conclusion of the prosecution
evidence, the accused is to be examined under Sec.313 (1) (b) Cr.Pc. with regard to the
incriminating circumstances appearing against him in the evidence for the prosecution.
After the examination of the accused the Court has to post the case for hearing under
Sec.232 Cr.Pc. If after hearing the prosecution and the defence the judge considers that
there is no evidence to indicate that the accused committed the offence with which he is
charged the judge can record an order of acquittal under Sec.232 Cr.Pc. This is a very
vital stage of the Sessions trial and observance of Sec.232 Cr.Pc. and Sec.233 Cr.Pc.
at the appropriate stage is mandatory.
After hearing under Sec.232 if the accused is not acquitted thereunder, the accused shall
be called upon to enter on his defence and to adduce any evidence which he might have
in support thereof. After the conclusion of the defence evidence, if any the case has to be
taken up for arguments. After hearing the arguments, the Court has to pass the judgment
in accordance with sections 353 and 354 Cr.Pc. If the judgment is one of conviction and
the judge does not proceed to invoke the benevolent provision of the Probation of
Offenders Act. 1958, he shall hear the accused on the question of sentence and then pass
a sentence in accordance with law. This in short is the procedure to be followed in the
ordinary murder trials before a Court of Session.