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The provision regarding Trial before Session Court

Initial steps in the trial

Initially, a Magistrate takes cognizance of an offence and thereafter as per Section 209, he will commit the case to the Court of Sessions. A Magistrate is empowered under Section 190 to take cognizance of an offence upon receiving a complaint; upon a police report; upon information received from a person other than a police officer; or upon his knowledge.

According to Section 193, Court of Session cannot take cognizance of an offence directly but the Court of Session is permitted to take cognizance of an offence without a case being committed to it if the Magistrate commits the case to it or if it acts as a special Court.

Under Section 207 and Section 208 the Magistrate is required to supply copies of documents like First Information Report, the statement recorded by the police or Magistrate, etc to the accused. Under Section 209, if it appears to the magistrate that the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he may commit the case to the Court of Session and send all the documents and records to it and either grant bail or remand the accused into custody and shall also notify the Public Prosecutor. The procedure for trial before a Court of Session is mentioned from Section 225 to Section 237. As per Section 225, every trial before a Court of Session is conducted by a Public Prosecutor.

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 favor 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:
    1. If frames a charge in writing, if the offence is exclusively triable by the Court of Session.
    2. If the offence is not triable exclusively by the sessions 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 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.

      In Rukmini Narvekar v. Vijaya Satardekar 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, 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 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, 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:
    1. On the date so fixed as above, the judge takes all such evidence is support of the prosecution.
    2. 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, 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 State of Kerala v. Rasheed 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 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, 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):

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Compensation awarded under sub sec. (4) shall be recovered as if it were a fine imposed by a magistrate.
    6. 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.
    7. The person who has been ordered under sub sec. (4) to pay compensation may appeal to the High Court.
    8. 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.

Conclusion
The above article outlines all the procedures relating to the sessions trial. 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.

References:
  • (2000) 1 SC 722
  • (2008) 14 SCC 1
  • (1897) ILR 19 All 119
  • IR 1928 Cal 775
  • AIR 1957 All 411, (1957) IILLJ 172 All
  • AIR 2019 SC 721
  • 1976 AIR 2386
  • AIR 1980 SC 898

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