Trial of Criminal Cases

The criminal case starts with the lodging of FIR under section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898. The trial is the judicial adjudication of a person’s guilt or innocence. For the purposes of trial, the offences are divided into two categories in Criminal Procedure Code, 1898:

  1. Magistrate Trial
  2. Session Trial
  3. Summon Case
  4. Warrant Case

Magistrate Trial

Proceedings are initiated by the Magistrate under section 190 of the Cr.P.C. 1898 which specifically empowers a Magistrate to take cognizance of a case. If the Magistrate finds that the charge against the accused is groundless, he has the power to discharge the accused by recording reasons. If the Magistrate has reasons to believe that there is ground to proceed further, then a charge is framed against the accused which is read and explained to the accused and the accused is asked whether he pleads guilty of the offence or not.

If the accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate may convict the accused and proceed further to question the accused about the quantum of sentence. The Magistrate may thereafter award a sentence. If the accused pleads to be tried, the magistrate proceeds to examine the witnesses of prosecution, hearing of prosecution and examination of the accused. The accused shall also be called upon to enter defense and produce his witnesses if any.

Session Trial

The trial of the most serious offences punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years, is conducted in a Session Court where they are referred to by a magistrate. The Magistrate may take cognizance if such an offence and commit the case to the Session Court for trial. A Session Court cannot directly take cognizance of the offence itself. On appearance by the accused before Sessions Court, the Judge hears the public prosecutor regarding the case.

If the Judge considers that there is no sufficient ground to proceed further, he can discharge the accused. Otherwise, he proceeds to frame the charge and examines the accused about the charge. If the accused pleads guilty, the judge convicts the accused, asks about the quantum of sentence and awards sentence by way of judgment.

If the accused wishes to be tried, the Judge shall fix dates for examination of prosecution witnesses and shall hear prosecution arguments and then call upon the accused personally to explain any circumstances against him in evidence. If no case is made out, the Judge shall record an order of acquittal.

If the Judge does not think it fit to acquit the accused, he shall thereupon ask the accused to enter on his defense. The accused can also file a written statement explaining the circumstances of his involvement in the case. On hearing the prosecution and the accused, the Judge shall give a judgment. In case, the accused is convicted, he shall be heard about quantum of sentence. The award of sentence follows thereupon.

Summons Case

A summons case consists of all cases relating to offences punishable with imprisonment not exceeding two years. In respect of summons cases, there is no need to frame a charge. The court gives substance of the accusation, which is called summons, to the accused when the person appears before the court. The court has the power to convert a summons case into a warrant case, if the magistrate thinks it in the interest of justice. If the accused pleads guilty, he is convicted or otherwise trial follows.

Summary Case

The Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 under Section 260 empowers the concerned to summarily try an offence. The High Court may empower magistrates of first class to try certain offences in a summary way. Second class magistrates can summarily try an offence only if it is punishable with a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months. In a summary trial, no sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding three months can be passed in any conviction. The particulars of the summary trial are entered in the record of the court. In every case tried summarily in which the accused does not plead guilty, the magistrate records the substance of the evidence and a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for the finding.