Criminal law occupies a pre-dominant place among the agencies of social control and is regarded as a formidable weapon that the society has forged to protect itself against anti-social behaviour. The laws of criminal procedure are meant to be complementary to criminal law. It is intended to provide a mechanism for the enforcement of criminal law. The Code of Criminal Procedure of 1989 was repealed by the Code of 1973 to consolidate and amend the laws related to Criminal Procedures. It is an Act to strengthen and change the law relating to the procedure to be followed in apprehending criminals, investigating criminal cases and their trial before the Criminal Courts. This article talks about The Criminal Procedure Code: Criminal Courts and essential information related to the same.
Various Classes of Criminal Courts in India
Besides the Courts that are mentioned below, the Courts may also be constituted under any other law. The Supreme Court is vested with the appellate jurisdiction regarding criminal matters from a High Court in some instances as well. The following are the other major criminal courts in India.
• The High Courts
• The Courts of Session
• The Judicial Magistrates of the First Class, and, in any metropolitan area; the Metropolitan Magistrates.
• The Judicial Magistrates of the Second Class
• The Executive Magistrates
The Supreme Court of India
The highest form of a judicial forum and final court of appeal is the Supreme Court of India as stated under the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India is entrusted with the power of the judicial review. This Court is formed by the Chief Justice of India and a panel of 30 other judges who hold extensive capabilities in the form of original appellate and advisory jurisdictions. As the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the nation, it chooses to take up appeals primarily against the verdicts issued by the High Courts of various states. It safeguards the primary fundamental rights of the citizens and settles disputes between the governments of multiple countries. The laws declared by the Supreme Court binds the courts all around the country including the Union and State Governments. The President of India has to enforce the decrees of the Supreme Court as per the law.
The High Courts
The judicial system of India is formed by the 24 High Courts placed at the country’s state and union territory level along with the Supreme Court of India at the national level. Every High Court has the jurisdiction over a state, a union territory or over a group of states and union territories. The High Courts of India are considered the principal civil courts of the original jurisdiction in every state and union territory. A High Court exercises its original civil and criminal jurisdiction when the subordinate courts do not authorisation by law to try such cases. These courts may also have approval in first authority in some issues as explicitly designated in the federal or state’s laws.
Courts of Judicial Magistrate of First Class
The second lowest level of the structure that forms the Criminal Couts in India. As stated in the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, a State Government may establish a Court of Judicial Magistrate of the First Class with the consultation of the High Court of the respective state. The Judicial Magistrate is generally controlled by the Sessions Judge with the Chief Judicial Magistrate as a subordinate as stated in Section 15 of the Code. A Judicial Magistrate of First Class has the power to pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term that does not exceed three years, or of a fine that does not exceed Ten Thousand Rupees or of both.
Courts of Judicial Magistrate of Second Class
The lowest in the hierarchy that forms the Criminal Court structure in India is the Courts of the Judicial Magistrate of Second Class. As stated in Section 11 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, a State Government may establish a Court of Judicial Magistrate of the First Class with the consultation of the High Court of the respective state. A Judicial Magistrate of First Class has the power to pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term that does not exceed more than one year, or of a fine that does not exceed Five Thousand Rupees or of both.
The Executive Magistrates
The Executive Magistrate is an officer of the law who is vested with specific powers and duties as stated under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code. These officers do not hold power to accuse nor pass any verdict of sorts. An individual arrested on the orders of a court outside its local jurisdiction would be produced before the Executive Magistrate who may also set a bail amount for the arrested individual to avoid the custody of the Police depending on the warrant. This officer may also pass orders restraining individuals from entering a specific area and authorised to use force against people. A District comprises of the following Judicial Magistrates.
• The Chief Judicial Magistrate
• The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates
• The Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrates
• The Judicial Magistrates First Class
Power of the Courts
The powers of the Courts have been stated in Chapter III of the Criminal Procedure Code. One of these powers is to try offences. Offences are categorised into two majorly.
• Those offences that may be tried under the Indian Penal Code.
• Those offences under any other law.
According to Section 26 of the Criminal Procedure Code, any offence under the Indian Penal Code of 1860 may be tried by the High Court or the Court of Session or by any other Court. Such a crime is shown in the First Schedule to be triable. On the other hand, any offence under any other law shall be tried by the Court mentioned in that law. If it has not been mentioned, it may be tried by the High Court or any other Court by which such an offence is shown in the First Schedule to be triable.
Power of the Court to pass sentences
Sentences which the High Courts and Session Judges of India may pass
According to Section 28, a High Court in India may pass any sentence authorised by law. A Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge may pass any punishment permitted by the law, but any sentence of death given by any such judge shall be subject to confirmation by the High Court of India.
An Assistant Sessions Judge may choose to pass any sentence as authorised by the law except a sentence of death or one regarding imprisonment for life or of imprisonment for a term that exceeds ten years.
Therefore, Section 26 of the Criminal Procedure Code enumerates the types of Courts in India in which various offences can be tried and then under Section 28, it spells out the limits of the sentences which such Courts are authorised to pass.
Sentences of the Magistrates
Section 29 of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down the quantum of punishment which different categories of Magistrates are empowered to impose. The powers of the individual classes of the Magistrates to pass sentence are as follows.
• The Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate may pass any sentence as authorised by the law except that of a sentence of death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding more than seven years.
• The Magistrate of the first class may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding more than three years or of a fine not exceeding more than Five Thousand Rupees or of both.
• The Magistrate of the second class may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or of penalty not exceeding One Thousand Rupees or of both.
• The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate shall have all the powers of the Court of a Chief Judicial Magistrate and that of the Metropolitan Magistrate and the powers of the Court of the Magistrate of the First Class.
Sentence Imprisonment in Default of Penalty
When a fine is imposed on an accused, and it has not been paid, the law provides that the accused can be imprisoned for a term in addition to substantive imprisonment awarded to him, if any. Section 30 of the Criminal Procedure Code defines the limits of the Magistrate’s powers to award imprisonment in concern to the default of payment of the penalty.
It states that the Court of a Magistrate may impose such a term of imprisonment in default of payment of a penalty as is authorised by the law provided that the term is as follows.
• The term is not more than the powers of the Magistrate under Section 29.
• The term where the imprisonment has been awarded as a part of the substantive sentence. This term should not exceed 1/4th of the time in prison which the Magistrate is competent to inflict as a punishment for the offence than as imprisonment in concern to the default of payment of the fine.
Conviction of several offences at one trial
Section 31 of the Criminal Procedure Court relates to the quantum of punishment which the Court is authorised to impose where the accused is convicted of two or more crimes at one hearing.