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Trial Before A Court Of Session Under Code Of Criminal Procedure 1973

District court referred to as sessions court when it exercises its jurisdiction on criminal matters under Code Of Criminal Procedure 1973. As per section 9 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the State government establishes court for every session division. The court presided over by a Judge, appointed by the High Court of that particular state. The High Court may also appoint Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges in this court. In India, the Sessions Court has responsibility for adjudicating matters related to criminal cases.

The court takes the responsible for cases relating to murders, theft, dacoity, pick-pocketing and other such cases. Trial is an important process to determine whether the accused is guilty of an offence. Basing on the seriousness of the offence, criminal cases are categorized under two heads viz:
  1. Summons cases; and
  2. Warrant cases.
Among warrant cases, the cases which are more serious in nature are triable by the Court of Session, while less serious cases are triable by the Courts of Magistrate. A Court of Session cannot take cognizance of any offence, though it is triable by it. A competent Magistrate takes cognizance of any offence and commits the case for trial by a Court of Session. Trial of Criminal cases may be explained with reference to the following heads:
  1. Trial (of Warrant-Cases) before a Court of Session.
  2. Trial of Warrant-Cases by Magistrates.
  3. Trial of Summons-Cases by Magistrates.
  4. Summary Trials.

Trial before a Court of Session:

The code lays down the procedure for trial before a court of session as follows:

  1. Parties (sec. 225): In a trial before a court of session, the prosecution shall be conducted by a public prosecutor. The accused has a right to engage a counsel of his choice. If he cannot afford to engage the defence counsel, the court engaged at the state expenses. Before commencing the trial, the accused in supplied with the copies of documents like police report, F.I.R etc.
     
  2. Opening the case (sec. 226): The public prosecutor opens the case by describing accusation against the accused. He states briefly by what evidence, he proposes to prove the guilt. The prosecutor duty is not to secure a conviction but simply to lay the facts of the case before the tribunal, which is to judge.
     
  3. Discharge of the accused (sec. 227): After hearing from both the parties if the court considers that there is no sufficient ground to proceed against the accused, discharges him and records the reason for doing so. There is no scope for examination of any witness but there is scope for both sides to argue their case in favour of framing charge or discharge.
     
  4. Framing of charge (sec. 228): After hearing from both the parties if the court presumes that the accused might have committed the offences:
    i) If frames a charge in writing, if the offence is exclusively triable by the Court of Session.

    ii) If the offence is not triable exclusively by the session’s court, it frames charge and transfers the case to the Chief Judicial Magistrate. It was held in Kanti Bhadra Shah & anr v. State of West Bengal {1}while exercising power under Section 228 CrPC, the Judge is not required to record his reasons for framing the charges against the accused.

    While framing charges, only the prima facie case has to be seen. At this stage, the Judge is not required to record a detailed order necessary to see whether the case is beyond reasonable doubt as held by the Supreme Court in Bhawna Bai v. Ghanshyam & Ors.(2)

    In Rukmini Narvekar v. Vijaya Satardekar {3} it was ruled by the Court that the accused cannot produce any evidence at the stage of framing of charge and only those materials can be taken into consideration which is specified in Section 227 at the time of framing charges.
     
  5. Explaining the charge and enquiry about plea (sec. 228(2)): The contents of the charge have to be explained to the accused as to enable him to plead guilty of the offence or claim to be tried. In Banwari v. State of UP, {4} the Court held that default in reading out or explaining the charge to the accused would not vitiate the trial unless it has been shown that non-compliance with Section 228 has resulted in prejudice to the accused.
     
  6. Conviction on plea of guilty (sec. 229): If the accused pleads guilty, the judge shall record the plea and may in his discretion convict him thereon. It was held in Queen Empress v. Bhadu {5} that the plea of guilty must be in unambiguous terms otherwise such a plea is considered as equivalent to a plea of not guilty. Section 229 states that if an accused pleads guilty then the Judge shall convict him as per his discretion and shall record the same. The Court cannot convict an accused on the basis of the plea of guilty where the offence is of a nature in which the punishment is death or imprisonment for life. In Hasaruddin Mohommad v. Emperor,{6} the Court held that it will be reluctant for the Court to convict a person accused of an offence in which the punishment is death or life imprisonment on the basis of his plea of guilty. The right of appeal of the accused is curtailed by Section 375 If the accused is convicted on the basis of his plea of guilty.
     
  7. Date for prosecution evidence (sec. 230): If the accused refuses to plead or does not plead or claims to be tried or is not convicted under sec. 229, the judge shall fix at date for the examination or witness or may order for compelling appearance of any witness or production of a thing/document.
     
  8. Evidence for prosecution (sec.231):
    It consists of two points:
    i) On the date so fixed as above, the judge takes all such evidence is support of the prosecution.
    ii) The judge may in his discretion, permits the cross examination of any witness to be deferred until any other witness have been examined or recall any witness for further cross examination.

    In Ram Prasad v. State Of U.P , {7} The Supreme Court was held that, if the court finds that the prosecution had not examined witness for reasons not tenable or proper, the Court would be justified in drawing an inference adverse to the prosecution.

    The Court observed in Statep of Kerala v. Rasheed {8} that a balance must be struck between the rights of the accused and the prerogative of the prosecution to lead the evidence while deciding an application under Section 231(2). The following factors must be considered:
    1. The possibility of undue influence,
    2. Threats,
    3. That non-deferral would enable subsequent witnesses giving evidence on similar fact to tailor their testimony to circumvent the defence strategy,
    4. Loss of memory of the witness whose examination-in-chief has been completed.
     
  9. Arguments of the prosecution (sec. 314(2)): The prosecution after the close of witnesses submits a memorandum of his oral arguments. A copy of the same if is supplied to the opposite party.
     
  10. Examination of the accused: It is to be made without administering oath. It is to give an opportunity to him to explain the circumstances alleged against him by prosecution.
     
  11. Acquittal (sec. 232): After hearing from both the parties if the judge considers that the accused has not committed the offence, record an order acquitting the accused.
     
  12. Entering upon defence (sec. 233): If the accused is not acquitted, he shall be called upon to enter on his defence. The court may summon or examine at any stage any person as court witness.
     
  13. Arguments (sec. 234): After recording defence, the prosecutor sums up his case and the accused or his pleader shall be entitled to reply. The prosecutor may be allowed to make his submission in case any law point is raised by the defence.
     
  14. Judgment of acquittal or conviction (sec. 235): After hearing arguments from both the sides, the court delivers judgment of acquittal or conviction. On this point, the Apex Court in Santa Singh v. State of Punjab {9} held that the Judge should first pass a sentence of conviction or acquittal. If the accused is convicted he shall be heard on the question of sentence and only then the Court shall proceed to pass a sentence against him.

    In Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab, {10} it was ruled by the Court that this Section provides for a bifurcated trial and specifically gives to the accused person a right of pre-sentence hearing which may not be strictly relevant to or connected with the particular crime under inquiry but may have a bearing on the choice of the sentence.
     
  15. Previous Conviction (sec. 236): In a case where a previous conviction is charged under the provisions of sub Sec. (7) of Sec. 211, and the accused does not admit that he has been previously convicted as alleged in the charge, the judge may take evidence in respect of the alleged previously conviction and shall record a finding there on:
    Provided that no such charge shall be read out by the judge not shall the accused be asked to plead thereto nor shall the previous conviction be referred to by the prosecution or in any evidence adduced by it unless and until the accused has been convicted under sec. 299 or sec. 235.
     
  16. Procedure in cases instituted under sec. 199(2) (sec. 237):
    i) A Court of Session taking cognizance of an offence under sub sec. (2) of sec 199 shall try the case in accordance with the procedure for the trial of warrant cases instituted otherwise than on a police report before a court of magistrate.

    ii) Every trial under this section shall be held in camera if either party thereto so desires or if the court thinks fit so to do.

    iii) If, in any such case, the court discharges or acquits all or any of the accused and is of the Opinion that there was no reasonable cause for making the accusation against them or any of them, it may try its order of discharge or acquittal, directs the person against whom the offence was alleged to have been committed to show cause why he should not pay compensation to such accused or to each or any of such accused, when there are more than one.

    iv) The court shall record and consider any cause which may be shown by the person so directed and if it is satisfied that there was no reasonable cause for making the accusation, it may make an order that compensation to such amount not exceeding Rs.1000 it may determine, be paid by such person to the accused or to each or any of them.

    v) Compensation awarded under sub sec. (4) shall be recovered as if it were a fine imposed by a magistrate.

    vi) No person directed to pay compensation under sub sec (4) shall be exempted from any civil or criminal liability 1n respect of the compliant made under this section.

    vii) The person who has been ordered under sub sec. (4) to pay compensation may appeal to the High Court.

    viii) When an order for payment of compensation to an accused person is made, the compensation shall not be paid to him before the period allowed for the presentation of the appeal has elapsed, or if an appeal is presented, before the appeal has been decided.

Trial Of Warrant Cases By Magistrate:

Trial by magistrate in court may be sub-categorized under three parts as detailed below:

a) Trial of warrant cases instituted on a police report:

Sec. 2(1) of the code defined police report as “police report” means a report forwarded by a police officer to a magistrate under sub sec. (2) of sec. (173) of the code. The trial of cases instituted on police cases may be explained as follows:
  1. Supply of Copies to the accused: (sec. 238) When an accused to brought before the Magistrate for trial the copies of FIR statements of persons recorded during investigation etc. are required to be supplied to him. The magistrate shall satisfy that the provisions under sec. (207) are complied with.
     
  2. Discharge of accused: (sec. 239) after hearing from the both sides if the magistrate considers the accusation against the accused is groundless, he shall discharge the accused and record reasons for so doing.
     
  3. Framing of charge: (sec. 240) After considering the matters, if the magistrate presumes that the accused has committed the offence and magistrate is competent to try it, frames in writing a charge against the accused. The contents of the charge are to be read over and explained to the accused. He shall be asked whether he pleads guilty or claims to be tried.
     
  4. Conviction on plea of guilty: (sec. 241) If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate shall record the plea and convict him.
     
  5. Examination of witness: If the accused does not plead or refuses to plead or claims to be tried, the magistrate shall fix a date for examination of witness and may issue summons to that effort.
     
  6. Evidence for prosecution: (sec. 242) the prosecution has to submit a memorandum of oral arguments and the accused shall be examined under sec. 313(12) (b).
     
  7. Evidence for defence: (sec. 243) After completion of the above, the accused is required to produce his evidence the magistrate if necessary may order of acquittal and if the accused is found guilty, he is convicted-according to law.

b) Cases instituted otherwise than on a police report:

The procedure in respect of cases instituted otherwise than on a police report is explained below:
  1. Evidence for prosecution (sec. 244): When the accused appears or is brought before a magistrate, the magistrate shall take all such evidence as may be produced in support of prosecution.
     
  2. Discharge (sec. 245): Sec. 245 makes provisions as to when the accused shall be discharged. The magistrate may discharge the accused even before the prosecution evidence if he finds the case groundless.
     
  3. Explaining charge and the plea of the accused (sec. 246): Sec. 246 lays down the procedure, where the accused is not discharged. If a prima facie case is made out by the prosecution that the accused has committed an offence, the court frames charge against the accused.
     
  4. Choice of accused to recall prosecution witness (sec. 246 (4 and 5)): Later, the accused is called upon to produce his defence evidence. The court may also order production of persons as witness or things if required.
     
  5. Acquittal or Conviction: After hearing from both the sides, if the magistrate finds the accused not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal and if the accused if found guilty he is convicted according to law.

c) Common provisions regarding conclusion of Trial:

Sec. 248 to 250 of the code provide for common provisions regarding conclusion of Trial:
  1. Acquittal or conviction (sec. 248): In every case, where charge has been framed if the magistrate finds the accused not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal. If he finds the accused guilty, passes sentence according to law.
     
  2. Previous conviction: Where the accused does not admit previous conviction, the magistrate after convicting the accused, takes evidence in respect of alleged previous conviction.
     
  3. Absence of complaint (sec. 249): When the proceedings have been instituted upon compliant and on any day fixed for the hearing of the case, the compliant is absent and the offence may be lawfully compounded or is not a cognizable offence, the magistrate may in his discretion, not withstanding anything here In before contained, at any time before charge has been named, discharge the accused.
     
  4. Compensation for accusation without reasonable cause (see. 250):
    Sec. 250 empowers the magistrate to award compensation to the accused where accusation is made without reasonable cause; the magistrate may acquit or discharge him and may also order such person making the accusation to pay compensation. The amount of compensation shall not exceed the fine which the magistrate is empowered to impose. In case of default, such person has to undergo simple imprisonment for a period not exceeding 30 days.

Trial Of Summons Cases By Magistrate Sections 251-259

See. 2(w) of the code defined summons case as summons case means a case relating to an offence and not being a warrant case. Chapter XX containing see. 251 to 259 of the code of criminal procedure 1973, lays down the provisions relating to procedure for trial in a summons ease.

The procedure contains the following stages:

  1. Explaining the substance of accusation (sec. 251): In a summons case, when the accused appears or in brought before the magistrate, he shall be informed of the particulars of the accusation. It is not necessary to frame a charge. Omission to state particulars of accusation amounts to irregularity and is punishable under sec. 313. The court, then asks the accused to plead guilty or claim to be tried.
     
  2. Conviction on plea of guilty (sec. 252): If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate may convict him.
     
  3. Conviction m the absence of accused m petty cases (see. 253): If the accused pleads guilty in respect of a petty offence, the magistrate may impose fine even in his absence and the same may be communicated through messenger or by post.
     
  4. Hearing of the prosecution and defence on procedure when not convicted (see. 254): If the accused does not plead guilty, the magistrate does not convict and hears:
    i) Prosecution evidence.
    ii) Evidence produced for the defence and may summon the appearance of witness if necessary.
     
  5. Acquittal or conviction (sec. 255): After hearing from both the sides, if the magistrate finds the accused not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal, if the accused is found guilty, the magistrate passes a sentence according to law. In other words, the magistrate may convict the accused upon the proof of facts.
     
  6. Non-appearance or death of complainant (sec. 256): The complainant shall appear before the court/magistrate on the date fixed for his appearance. If he fails to appear, the accused should be acquitted. In case of death of the complainant, the accused may be acquitted or the hearing may be adjourned.
     
  7. Withdrawal of complaint (sec. 257): According to see. 257, a magistrate has a discretionary power to allow withdrawal of complaint. The complaint may be permitted to withdraw his complaint at any time before a final order is passed under this chapter XX.
     
  8. Power to stop proceedings in certain cases (see. 25 8): In any summons case instituted than upon complaint, a magistrate of the first class or with the previous sanction of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, any other Judicial Magistrate, may, for reasons to be recorded by him, stop the proceedings at any stage without pronouncing any judgment and where such stoppage of proceedings is made after the evidence of the principal witness has been recorded, pronounce a judgment of acquittal and in any other case, release the accused and such release shall have the effect of discharge.

    i) Conversion of summons cases into warrant cases (sec. 25 9): Sec. 259 empowers the magistrate to convert a summons cases into a warrant case if:
    i) The offence is punishable with imprisonment for more than 6 months.
    ii) He is of the opinion that it would be in the interest of justice to try such case in accordance with the procedure for the trial of warrant cases.
     
  9. Compensation for wrongful accusation: The compensation under sec. 250 of the code is applicable to summons cases also.

Summary Trials

Summary trial means speedy trial or without any delay of formal proceedings i.e. in an informal manner.

Chapter XXI containing sec. 260 to 265 of the code of criminal procedure I973 lays down the provisions relating to summary trials as stated below:

  1. Magistrate competent to try summarily (sec 260(1)): According to see. 260(1) of the code the following magistrates can try summarily:
    i) Any Chief Judicial Magistrate.
    ii) Any metropolitan magistrate.
    iii) Any magistrate of first class specifically empowered in this behalf by the High court.
    iv) Any magistrate of the second class empowered by the High Court in this behalf may try summarily any offence punishable with fine or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months with or without tine and any abetment of or any attempt to commit any such offence.
     
  2. Offences triable summarily (sec. 260(1)): According to see. 260(1) of the code the following offences are triable summarily:
    i) Offences not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding 2 years.
    ii) Theft under sec. 379, sec. 380 or see. 381 of the IPC where the value of the property stolen does not exceed Rs. 200.
    iii) Receiving or retaining stolen property under sec. 411 of I.P.C where the value of such property does not exceed Rs. 200.
    iv) Assisting in the concealment or disposal of stolen property under sec. 414 of the IPC where the value of such property does not exceed Rs. 200/-.
    v) Offences under sec. 454 and 456 of I.P.C.
    vi) Insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, under sec. 504 and criminal intimidation under sec. 506 of IPC.
    vii) Abetment of any of the foregoing offences. . viii) An attempt to commit any of the foregoing offences, when such attempt is an offence. ix)'Any offence constituted by act in respect of which a complaint may be made under sec. 20 of the cattle Tresspass Act 1871.
     
  3. Procedure for summary trials (sec. 262(1)): The procedure for summary trial shall be the same as in summons cases except in so far as it is modified by the provisions of this chapter XXI.
     
  4. Punishment (sec. 262(2)): The punishment under summary trial shall not exceed 3 month imprisonment.
     
  5. Record in summary trials (sec. 263): In summary trial, a formal charge is not framed nor is the evidence of the witness recorded. The magistrate must himself write these particulars in the register. He cannot depute that duty to his clerk. Further he is not authorized to affix his signature to the record or judgment by a stamp. The record should be made at the time of trial and afterwards.
     
  6. Judgment (sec. 264): Sec. 264 provides for judgment in cases tried summarily.
     
  7. Language of record and judgment section 265: section 265 prescribes the language and record of judgment in respect of summary cases.

Conclusion:
The Code of Criminal Procedure provides an opportunity for the accused for fair trial and makes an effort to avoid any delay in investigation or trial. The Judge in every case ensures that the accused is given a fair opportunity of hearing and defending his case. The Code also provides for legal aid to an indigent accused who is unable to engage a lawyer in compliance with the constitutional requirements and also as required by Section 304 so that any person accused of committing an offence is not wrongly convicted and justice is served.

Reference:
  1. R.V Kelkar, Lectures on Criminal Procedure Code,(Eastern Book Company, 6th Edn., 2017).
  2. Ratanlal And Dhirajlal, The Code of Criminal Procedure, (Wadhwa & Company Nagpur, 17th Edn. 2004).
  3. Basic elements of Criminal Procedure Code-Sessions Trial.
  4. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Act No. 22 of 2018, Act of Parliament, 1973 (India).
  5. https://blog.ipleaders.in/trial-before-a-cour-of-session/.

End Notes:
  1. (2000) 1 SC 722.
  2. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1820 OF 2019. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/84480745/.
  3. (2008) 14 SCC 1.
  4. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/141023791/.
  5. (1897) ILR 19 All 119.
  6. AIR 1928 Cal 775.
  7. AIR 1957 All 411, (1957) IILLJ 172 All.
  8. AIR 2019 SC 721.
  9. 1976 AIR 2386.
  10. AIR 1980 SC 898.

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