Kinds of Trials under the Code of Criminal Procedure

The trial is a crucial point in any criminal proceeding. The CrPC does not provide for any specific definition of a ‘trial’. In the basic sense, it means the judicial adjudication of a person’s guilt or innocence. 

Sec. 190 of the CrPC talks of the conditions that need to be fulfilled before proceedings can be initiated by the Magistrate (it specifically empowers a Magistrate to take cognizance of a case). It is the exclusive power of the Magistrate under Sec 204 of the CrPC to refer or reject a case from entering the stage of trial.[1]

There are 4 kinds of Trials as provided by the CrPC:

  1. Session Trial (sec. 225-237)
  2. Warrant Trial (sec. 238-250)
  3. Summon Trial (sec. 251-259)
  4. Summary Trail (sec. 260-265)

1. Sessions Trial

The trial before a Sessions Court initiates with a committal under section 209 of the Code. A trial basically consists of arguments, collection of evidence, and cross examination of the witnesses and the Accused.

The Session Trial begins with the Public Prosecutor opening the case by describing the charges proposed to be framed against the Accused, based on the material collected during the period of investigation, as given under Section 225 and 226 of the Code.

Thereafter, the Court shall examine the Public Prosecutor and the Accused, personally or through defence counsel, and the material placed on record before the Court. The examination at this stage is neither on oath and nor is any evidence taken at this stage. As provided by Section 227, the Court is not bound by the charges framed by the Public Prosecutor, rather it has to apply its own mind to determine whether any charge can be framed against the Accused or not on the basis of the material placed before it. If the court comes to a conclusion that there is no offence made out against the Accused, it shall discharge him/her. The matter can be taken up again if in case sufficient material becomes available at a later stage.

However, if after such consideration, the Court finds that there is sufficient ground to proceed, it shall make out the charges and thereafter determine whether the matter is exclusively triable by the Court of Session. If not, the case is transferred to the appropriate Court.

If the matter is exclusively triable by the Court of session, it will then proceed to take the Plea of Guilt. If in case, the Accused pleads guilty, the Court may or may not convict the Accused on the basis of the Plea of Guilt. A pre-requisite for taking the plea of guilt is that the Accused shall be explained the implications of the Plea and it shall be ensured that it has been well received by the Accused. (Section 228)

If the Accused does not plead guilty or remains silent, or prefers trial, or his plea is not clear and unambiguous, it becomes compulsory for the matter to be taken up by the Court for further proceedings to take place that is, examination and collection of evidence as per Section 230.

Thereafter, comes the last stage of the trial where the Accused is either convicted or acquitted.

Under Section 232 of the Code, an accused can be acquitted if the Court after hearing both the parties and considering all the evidence, considers that there no evidence which proves the commission of the alleged offence by the accused. If the accused is not acquitted then the Judge calls upon him to enter on his defence. This provision is mandatory. An omission on the part of the Judge to do so occasions failure of justice.[2]

A Court after hearing the arguments shall pronounce the judgment under Section 235 of the Code. An accused may be either acquitted or convicted. The acquittal will be done as per the procedure embodied under Section 232 but the judgment for conviction will be pronounced in accordance with Section 235. A judge shall pass the sentence of conviction according to law.

2. Warrant Trial

For the purpose of the Act, a Warrant case is a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a tern exceeding two years.[3] All other petty cases would come under summons case. Cases tried under the Court of Session are all warrant cases except defamation cases under Section 237.

Warrant cases are further divided into two main categories depending upon the nature of the complaint:

  1. Cases instituted on a Police Report (section 238 – 243)
  2. Cases instituted otherwise than on a Police Report (section 244 – 247)

Sections 248 – 250 deal with the procedure for the conclusion of trial which is common to both these categories.

2.1 Cases Instituted on a Police Report

Under Section 238, when in a Warrant Case instituted on a Police Report, the Accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate, the Magistrate has to satisfy himself that he has been supplied all the necessary documents submitted with the charge sheet.

Thereafter, as per Section 239, if the Magistrate, after considering the charge sheet filed u/s 173 CrPC, considers the charge to be groundless, he would discharge the Accused and record the reasons for the same. Otherwise, if on examination of the Accused, he comes to the conclusion that there is ground for proceeding with the trial, he shall proceed to frame the Charge.[4]

If the accused pleads guilty to the offence, then the Magistrate shall record the plea and use his discretion to convict him under section 241. If the accused doesn’t plead guilty then the Magistrate may fix a date for examination of witnesses and issue summons to witnesses according to Section 242.

Section 243 provides for the opportunity to the defence to present his side of the case and defend himself against the accusations of the prosecution, as mentioned under Section 247. A written statement may be put forwarded and the Magistrate shall record it. The accused can issue an application requesting the Magistrate to summon witnesses or the production of any document or thing with relevance to the case and the Magistrate may or may not comply with the same upon his own discretion.

2.2 Cases Instituted Otherwise than on a Police Report

The preliminary step in these cases is that the prosecution opens the case by presenting the charges and presenting evidence in support of them. (Section 244)

If the Magistrate reaches the conclusion that no prima facie case is made out against the Accused, he shall discharge the accused u/s 245 and record his reasons for doing so. Otherwise, if it appears on the contrary, the Magistrate shall proceed to frame the charges u/s 246.

The charges thus framed by the Magistrate shall be explained to the Accused and he shall be asked if he pleads guilty or not. If the Accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate shall acquit or convict, if he deems it fit to do so. If the Accused does to the contrary, the Magistrate shall take up the evidence and arguments of the Defence as per Section 247.

Acquittal or conviction:  As per Section 248, if after taking up the evidence of both sides, the Magistrate find out that the Accused is guilty, he shall Convict him and pass the sentence as he deems fit.

3. Summon Trial

In the trial for a Summon case, the first step when the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate, is that the particulars of the offence of which he is accused shall be read out to him, and he shall be asked if he pleads guilty or if  has any defence to make, but it shall not be necessary to frame a formal charge as given under Section 251.

In case if the Accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate must record his statement and may convict him or acquit him on his own discretion under Section 252. To the contrary, if he does not plead guilty or the Magistrate does not convict him on a plea of guilt, the Magistrate shall proceed with hearing the Arguments of both the sides.

If the Magistrate finds the accused not guilty, he shall pass an order for acquittal. He may also decide to release the offender on good conduct or any such ground after considering the character of offender and circumstances of the case. A Magistrate may convict the accused of any offence which from the facts admitted or proved the accused appears to have committed. This can only be done if the Magistrate is satisfied that it would not prejudice the accused. [5]

4. Summary Trial

Summary Trial implies speedy disposal. By summary cases, it is meant a case which can be tried and disposed off at once. And it is not intended for a contentious and complicated case which necessitates a lengthy trial.

In general, it applies to offences not punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding 2 years. It also applies in cases of specific offences mentioned in clauses (ii) to (ix) of sub-section (1) to Section 260.

The Magistrate is empowered to try these cases are Chief Judicial Magistrate, Metropolitan Magistrate, Magistrate of first class and Magistrate of second class especially empowered by the High Court. The procedure followed in a Summary Trial is the same as in a Summon Trial. In case of a conviction in a Summary Trial, no sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding 3 months can be passed.

Landmark Judgements

  1. In the case of Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal[6] the SC observed that “the test to determine a prima facie case would naturally depend upon the facts of each case and it is difficult to lay down a rule of universal application. By and large however if two views are equally possible and the Judge is satisfied that the evidence produced before him while giving rise to some suspicion but not grave suspicion against the accused, he will be fully within his right to discharge the accused. And in exercising his jurisdiction under Section 227 of the Code the Judge which under the present Code is a senior and experienced court cannot act merely as a Post Office or a mouthpiece of the prosecution, but has to consider the broad probabilities of the case, the total effect of the evidence and the documents produced before the Court, any basic infirmities appearing in the case and so on. This however does not mean that the Judge should make a roving enquiry into the pros and cons of the matter and weigh the evidence as if he was conducting a trial.”
  2. In case of Union of India v. major General Madan Lal Yadav[7], it was held that the trial commences only when a General Court Martial assembles to consider the charges and examines whether the Court Martial would proceed with the trial. The preceding preliminary investigation is only part of investigation to see whether a charge could be framed and placed before the competent authority to constitute a General Court Martial.
  3. In the case of Inspector of Police, Chennai v. S. Selvi & another[8] it was held that  in an application filed for discharge of the accused, it is not permissible for the court to appreciate the entire material on record as if the court is trying the criminal case and the duty of the court is only to find out whether or not a prima facie case has been made out.

[1] Essays, UK. (November 2018). Different Kinds of Trial Under CRPC Law Essay. Available at: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/law/different-kinds-of-trial-under-crpc-law-essay.php?vref=1

[2] Imam Ali Khan, (1895) 23 Cal 252

[3] Section 2 (x) of CrPC

[4]  Law times journal, what are the different kinds of trials under CrPC? Available at: http://lawtimesjournal.in/what-are-the-different-kinds-of-trials-in-criminal-procedure-code/#_edn3

[5] R.V. Kelkar, “Lectures on Criminal Procedure”, Fourth Edition, 2006

[6] (1979) 3 SCC 4

[7] (1996) 4 SCC 127

[8] AIR 2018 SC 81

Riya Sharma from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

“A law student, eager to look for opportunities to learn and grow. I believe in taking life as it comes

Editor: Sanskriti Sood

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