Criminal Law

Trial of Warrant Cases by Magistrate

By Chanchal Kumawat

When a person is charged with life imprisonment, death, or imprisonment for up to two years, then that case will be known as a Warrant Case. It is defined under section 2(x) of the Criminal Procedural Code, 1973. The definition of Trial is not given in any section or sub-section of CrPC, but it can be defined as a procedure in which the accused person is identified as a guilty person or an innocent one. It is a formal examination of evidence by the judges in a court of law. The trial is divided into the following parts on the basis of the time period of the punishment announced to the accused.

I. Trial of Warrant Cases by Magistrates

We have Warrant trials mentioned in Chapter XIX of the CrPC. The sole motive of introducing trials for warrant cases was to ensure speedy trials and decrease the cases where the accused is being prejudiced when the case initiates after the filing of a police report under the concerned officer. It can begin after filing a complaint directly to the Magistrate too. It involves cases with the punishment of more than two years of imprisonment or death. The complete procedure has been mentioned in sections 238 to 250 of the CrPC.

II. Sessions Trial

Cases that have a tenure of punishment of more than ten years, in that case, they will have their trial in Session Courts. Section 225 to 239 deals with session trials. According to section 225 of CrPC, a public prosecutor carries on the prosecution. Then as per section 226, the case is opened by the prosecution side. They simply just state the facts of the case and present the evidence he has on behalf of which he is going to prove that the accused is guilty of the offense. The court then hears the case from both sides, if it presumes that the offense is being committed by the accused it will see whether the case is triable in session court or not. In case of framing of charge in writing, it will be triable, and if not then it will be transferred to the Chief Judicial Magistrate. In order to let the accused plead guilty, the charges and grounds of the case should be well explained to him, section 228(2). In the case law, Banwari vs State of UP it was observed that unless and until the non-telling of some facts results in prejudice towards the accused it will not be considered as non-compliance against section 228(2). 

III. Summons Cases Trial

In summon cases the tenure of the punishment announced by the Magistrate is less than two years. In summon cases it has been observed that there is no framing of charges instead the Court issues a summon. The court will provide the accused with a notice upon his appearance and act as per the summon issued. The sections of CrPC that deal with Summon Cases are sections 251 to 259. 

The option of pleading guilty or taking any sort of defence is being given to the accused as per section 251. When he appears, the particulars of the case are being read to him and made sure he understood and then exercise his options. According to section 252, if the accused pleads guilty then the Magistrate will be recording his statements in almost exact same words which are uttered by the accused and will be convicted. 

Section 253 lists the situation which can be said to be an exception to the normal case. As per this section, a third person or a messenger can come to court on behalf of the accused, and the Magistrate will sign a Conviction on a plea of guilty for the accused. It is only for the cases where offence is punishable only with a fine, that is, some petty cases.

Section 254 of CrPC maintains the balance, herein, the Magistrate hears the prosecution when the accused is not convicted and takes defence. He also hears the accused and takes defence if he feels any exists. This gives rise to two possibilities, one Magistrate finds the accused not guilty, and second, he finds him guilty. In the first case, the accused will be set free and in the second case according to section 255, the Magistrate will pass a sentence.

IV. Summary Trials

The main objective of these trials is to get done with the trials with speed. It is discussed in Chapter XXI of the CrPC in Sections 260-265. Its objective is to speed up the trial cases. 

The procedure which we follow in the Summons cases should be followed here as well, the procedure for Summary trials is laid down in section 262. In summary trials, the sentence of imprisonment should not exceed three months, as per section 262.

As per section 264 of the CrPC, The Magistrate is required to keep up with the record of the evidence he received during the trial and when he passes the judgment it should comprise of a brief summary of the reasons for the same for every case in which the accused pleads himself guilty.

The procedure for trial is not elaborative here, the reason being, that the summary trial deals with petty cases. If a fine of fewer than two hundred rupees has been imposed, there is no right of appeal in such a case. However, an application for modification to the High Court is possible.

CASES STARTING WITH THE FILING OF A POLICE REPORT

Section  238 to 243  of  CrPC deals with provisions related to cases that start with the filing of a police report.

How the trial initiates

The first step here is filing an FIR in a police station. Once the FIR is filed the investigation of the case will take place which helps us in gathering the facts, circumstances, and all the relevant details related to the case. Once the officers get over with the investigation a charge sheet will be filed by the respected officers and all the documents will be forwarded to the Magistrate for further hearing. The steps which are followed in a warrant case initiated upon filing a police report are being listed below

Supply of the copies to the accused- Sec 207 [Sec 238]

Because of this provision in the procedure, the accused gets a complete picture of the case filed against him even from the start of the investigation, so that he may cross-examine witnesses on whatever defense he sets up and prevent delays.

  1. Upon baseless accusations, the accused is discharged [Sec 239]

The Magistrate will consider each and every report once he receives them from the police and also provides them to the accused. Both the accused and prosecution are provided with equal opportunity to present their case. If the magistrate finds it necessary the accused is being examined by him. Discharge of the accused takes place as per section 239. He is being discharged if the charges put against him by the prosecution are found to be lacking grounds.

  1. Charges Framed- Sec[240(1)]

     It has been explained that after examining the police report by the officials and hearing both sides of the parties if the magistrate has the viewpoint that there is sufficient evidence or grounds that indicate that the accused is the one who committed the crime. If the crime is triable in the court then as per this section the Magistrate can frame corresponding charges.

  1. Charges are being explained to the accused – Sec 240(2)

In this section, it has been explained that the charges which have been framed by the magistrate should not only be read out but also ensured to explain the charges to the accused properly so that he can understand and should be asked if the accused wants to plead guilty or challenge the order.

  1. When pleading guilty, the accused is being convicted – Sec 241

If the offender submits a plea agreement, the judges should note it and, at his discretion, denounce him.

  1. Setting a date for the witness examination – Section 242 (1)

Here in this section, it is explained that if the accused refuses to plead guilty or does not plead, or the magistrate does not convict the accused then the magistrate is responsible for fixing a date for the examination of witnesses but here the magistrate cannot record the evidence of the witnesses on the same day as it would render the proceedings as illegal.

Evidence from the side of the Prosecution

Witness Examination – Sec 242 (2)

It has been explained in this section that as per the date fixed for the examination of witnesses, the magistrate should proceed by undertaking all such evidence produced in the sustenance of the prosecution. Here, the prosecution is not obligated to call all of the witnesses listed in the complaint FIR, only the witnesses necessary for the particular unfolding of the story are needed. Here, sec 242[2] provides the Magistrate to issue a summons for the witness of the prosecution on the application of the respected prosecution. Sec 243[3] says The magistrate is obligated to take all evidence presented by the prosecution on the scheduled day.

Evidence Recorded – Sec 275

Sec. 275(1) says that in all the warrant cases tried under a magistrate, the evidence of each witness be recorded either written by the magistrate himself or orally dictated in the court and written by the officer present for recording at that time due to some physical incapacity.

Sec. 275(2) says that if the magistrate causes the evidence to be taken down, he shall mention that the evidence could not be taken down on his own due to the mentioned reasons.

Sec. 275(3) says that evidence will be taken down in the form of narratives but the magistrate may, at his discretion, make changes if there is questionable evidence.

Sec. 275(4) says that evidence is taken down be duly signed by the magistrate and to be kept as a record.

Evidence from the side of the Defendant

Sec. 243 explains the procedure regarding collecting and presenting the evidence in the defence of the accused.

  1. Examination of the witness

sec 243[1] says that The accused will be summoned to register or enter his defense and provide his evidence once the prosecution evidence has been completed, the prosecution arguments have been submitted, and the accused has been examined.

If the accused, after entering upon his defense, applies to the magistrate compelling him to make the witness again mark his attendance, the magistrate may approve this process unless this process isn’t delaying or vexing, or defeating the purpose of justice. Sec. 243[2] says that the magistrate may before summoning the witness on an application may require that the reasonable expenses incurred for the purpose of trial attendance of the witness be deposited in the court timely. However, if the magistrate thinks that the witness isn’t needed for the purpose he can also deny the application for attendance application of witness by the accused.

  1. Written statement by the accused- Sec 243[1]

Here if the accused puts in any written statement, the magistrate should attach it to the record. Also, sec 313[1][b] gives privilege to the accused to some extent such that he can also plead that his examination didn’t give him full opportunity to elaborate on all aspects.

  1. Recording of the evidence

Here criminal procedure act explains that any witness or evidence material should be submitted in the record by the magistrate.

CASE LAW- Mrs Kalyani vs Mrs. M.S Sampoorna, here, the supreme court held that sec 243[2] is clear that the magistrate who conducts an investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code in relation to an offence that is triable by him does not exceed his authority under section 243[2].

  1.  Steps followed
  1. Court witness- as per the rule, the court of law can at any stage, summon and examine any person as a part of the witness if his evidence seems to be important from the point of view of the case.
  2. Arguments to be submitted in place of the defense- after the closure of the evidence, the defence is allowed to submit an oral argument and also a memorandum to the court. Here the court can also neglect the arguments which seem to be unrelated to the case and were a waste of time and cause a delay in the delivery of justice.
  3. Judgment – the magistrate holds the power to judge the evidence provided and if he finds that there is certain irrelevancy in the evidence he can take the decision to neglect such opinions or facts of the case.

OTHERWISE INITIALIZED CASES ON THE BASE OF A POLICE REPORT

A warrant case initiated in any other case than on a police document starts whilst a complaint is filed at once with a magistrate. The accused is added or appears earlier than a Justice of the Peace. The magistrate starts the court cases of the case by starting up the hearing technique and documents all the proof obtained with the record. Sections 244, 245, 246, and 247 of CrPC unites the manner of a warrant case instituted in any other case than on a police report and taken at once to a Justice of the Peace through submitting a grievance. First, a complaint is filed in front of the magistrate. Then the accused of the case presents himself voluntarily in front of the court or is brought before the magistrate. 

Initial steps in the trial

First of all, a complaint is filed in front of the magistrate. After filing the complaint to the magistrate, the accused in the case is brought before the magistrate or he comes voluntarily. In order to determine the cause, a hearing is conducted. Then, the party of the prosecution begins proving that the accused is liable beyond doubt. In the court of law, the defense gets the chance to take necessary steps for challenging the grounds of accusations imposed from the side of the accusation and to prove that he is not liable for the offense he has been charged for. The steps which are followed in the trial of warrant cases in the absence of police report are as follows:-

Hearing 

The first step of proceeding is the preliminary hearing of the prosecution case after the accused is brought before the Magistrate or after he appears himself in front of the Magistrate. Then, the Magistrate finds the base of those accusations and decides whether any case can be brought against the accused. This gives birth to two possibilities, one, if the Magistrate finds any base in the complaint by the complainant or prosecution, and second if Magistrate finds out that the accusations imposed on the accused are baseless and lack character. In the latter situation, the case will stand dismissed by the Magistrate and in the former case, further procedure will be followed.

When the accused is discharged

It has been stated under section 245 of CrPC that the accused shall be released if the Magistrate finds zero grounds in the complaint filed by the prosecution, against the accused. Nothing will stop the Magistrate from discharging the plea against the accused and setting him free, only if he finds the ground of that complaint baseless.

Charge Framing and the charge explanation to the accused

When all the evidence is being handed over to the Magistrate and they are being scrutinized and the Magistrate finds relevant grounds and the fact that the accused is proficient in conducting the crime then the charge is framed against the accused and a fair trial starts. In the court of law, the accused has been provided with all the rights to defend himself. Under section 246(1) of CrPC, the court in the case law, Ratilal Bhanji Mithani vs The State Of Maharashtra, 1978, found that there were relevant foundations to prove the fact that the accused had committed the crime so The trial instituted with the Magistrate refusing the dismissal. This is a very important section, Section 246(2) which follows the principle of natural justice and states that whatever charges are being framed against the accused by the prosecution side should be stated and explained to him. And, the accused is being provided with two options, first, whether he wants to plead guilty to the charges, meaning, accept the charges being put by the prosecution side, and second, go against the charges and proceed with a fair trial.  When the accused decides to plead guilty in court, Section 246(3) provides him with this possibility. The authority to record the guilty plea, convict, and announce the punishment equivalent to the crime is being held by the Magistrate. and if the accused decides not to plead guilty in the court then a fair trial will be granted by the Magistrate. In the case of cross-examination, the Magistrate may state in writing the reasons he thinks fit for recalling any witnesses, and also which witness from the prosecution side, whose evidence will be recorded. Accused also have the choice to recall prosecution witnesses as per subsections 5 and 6 of section 246. 

Choice of the accused whether he wants to recall the prosecution witness or not

Section 246 and its sub-sections (5) and (6) allow the accused to summon any witness mentioned by him for the purpose of interrogation before being dismissed. The prosecution’s additional witnesses will be released after the cross-examination and re-examination if required. Varisai Rowther And Anr. V. Unknown, 1922., is a good example of this.

Evidence for prosecution and steps involved to present a prosecution

Evidence is taken as per section 138 of the evidence act. In cases here, where the warrant case has been filed otherwise than on a police report and instead directly to the Magistrate. The accused is presented before the Magistrate and the Magistrate begins the trial by summoning the witnesses named by the prosecution and taking account of all the evidence produced. The process is written in Section 244 of CrPC. Until and unless the prosecution produces evidence relevant to the case, the accused can’t be charged by the Magistrate. The magistrate identifies the relevance of the claim of the charge in the case presented by the prosecution, the evidence is collected after the witness is examined and Magistrate finds grounds. It was seen in Gopala Krishnan V. State Of Kerala that the case will proceed only when all the evidence is collected and the prosecution names all its witnesses. As observed in Parveen Dalpatrai Desai v. Ganga Vishindas Raja Ram Bajaj, the prosecuting party is responsible for soliciting with the Magistrate to obtain the summons of witnesses who must appear in front of the court on a certain date and time.

Summoning Witnesses

As observed in Jethalal V. Khimji, the prosecution makes an application to the Magistrate to summon any of the witnesses, and the Magistrate orders to summon and witness or object or produce any document. The Gauhati High Court observed in the case of P.N. Bhattacharjee V. Shri Kamal Bhattacharjee, 1994 since the complainant was going out of his way to get a summons for the witnesses, that it was the Magistrate’s responsibility to get a summons for all witnesses before issuing an order of dismissal only for the reason that the witnesses did not show up. By opposing the appeal, the Magistrate can also refuse to question witnesses whose names were not on the categories of information by the prosecution at the commencement. However, as observed in Jamuna Rani versus S. Krishna Kumar, 1992, a second application can be filed to call additional witnesses not listed in the list, and the Court is required to issue summonses to them.

Absence of Complainant

Section 249 provides that where proceedings are commenced on petition straight with the Magistrate, and the petitioner is unavailable on the timestamp of the proceedings fixed by the Magistrate, and the offence is compoundable and non-cognizable, the Magistrate may dismiss the accused at any time before charges are made against him. The Magistrate has the option to either release the offender or continue the case. However, such a release is not regarded as a judgment, as stated in the case of Banta Singh v. Gurbux Singh in 1966. Despite the complainant’s failure to appear, the accused cannot be dismissed when the allegations against him are filed. If the complainant dies during the trial, the Magistrate is not required to release the accused but must instead continue the trial.

Witness’ Examination

After summoning the witnesses, the Magistrates interrogate them. The accused has the right to cross-examine or reexamine any witnesses called by the prosecution once the accusations against him are filed. The witness statements are cross-examined, and the Magistrate collects testimony and evidence and organizes it according to their importance in the case. The Magistrate has the authority to dismiss any unfounded or irrelevant testimony or evidence and to re-examine any witness deemed essential for the administration of justice.

Record of Evidence

The Magistrate enters into the record any relevant evidence presented before the court that can link the accused to the crime committed beyond a reasonable doubt, or any evidence that leads to his acquittal. Recorded evidence is kept safe from parties who may want to tamper with it in order to obtain an advantage and hinder the implementation of justice.

Evidence for defense

​​As noted in Section 247, the defense has the chance to present its case and defend itself against the prosecution’s claims. A statement may be composed and submitted and recorded by the Magistrate. The accused may ask the Magistrate to summon witnesses or provide any documents or materials relevant to the case. And then the Magistrate is required to issue such summonses unless he perceives that they are frivolous, inapplicable, or intended to vex and delay the administration of justice. The Magistrate must record in writing the grounds for the application’s denial. Any witness who has previously been cross-examined by the law or witness or anyone who has had the opportunity to be cross-examined by the accused cannot be summoned again unless the Magistrate determines that it is necessary for the administration of justice.

Trial Concludes

The accused can only be convicted or acquitted at the end of the trial. A ruling is the Court’s determination on whether an accused should be convicted or acquitted. If the accused is set free of the crime, the prosecution is granted time and an option to appeal the acquittal ruling to the Court. If, after reviewing the evidence, the accused is found to be guilty of committing the offense, both parties are given the opportunity to argue about the appropriate sentence. This is common in circumstances of life imprisonment or the death penalty conviction.

Judgment

Section 248 specifies that the judgment is rendered after the judgment is decided after the Magistrate considers the evidence. In cases where an accused is found not guilty, the Magistrate shall enter an order of acquittal under Section 248. (1). If the accused is indicted, the Magistrate might sentence him after hearing him if he does not follow the provisions of Section 325 or 360. And, in compliance with Section 248, this conviction order must be recorded (2).

Compensation

Section 250 deals with the procedure in circumstances when a case is started on the basis of a filing an FIR by the police or a complaint filed by the Magistrate, but there has been no evidence found against the accused by the Magistrate. The accused will be released right away. The complainant will be called to defend his claim and explain why he should not be required to compensate the person who is the subject of the complaint. If the Magistrate determines that the reasons for bringing the complaint are unfounded and without merit, he may order the accused to reimburse him with a certain amount of compensation not to exceed the sum of the fine. If there are many defendants, the Magistrate will order the complainant to compensate all of the defendants. The Court stated in the case of Abdur Rahim V. Syed Abu Mahomed Barkat Ali Shah, 1927, that the sum of compensation shall be paid exclusively to the accused and not to his family or anybody else. Non-fulfillment by the complainant to pay the compensation sum will result in simple incarceration of not more than 30 days. Sections 68 and Section 69 of the IPC will be enforced if the individual is already imprisoned. A person who has been ordered to pay a compensation sum is also immune from criminal or civil responsibility in connection with the complaint. As demonstrated in the case of A.M. Pereira versus D.P. Demello, 1924, a complainant was instructed by the Magistrate(II Class), to pay compensation of over one hundred rupees as per Sub-section (2). The compensation sum will not be paid until the appeal time has expired or the Court has issued its ruling on the appeal. In circumstances where there is no connection to the appeal, the money will be paid one month after the order is issued.

Conclusion

Criminal trials are divided into three categories under the CrPC, each with its own set of procedures: warrant, summons, and summary trials. Warrants issued on the basis of a police report are now quite different from warrants issued on the basis of a complaint. The latter does not provide copies to the magistrate and the process might be delayed, whereas the former does provide copies and the process is issued once the magistrate has taken cognizance. The Court judges if the complainant’s allegations are true, and the procedures are started at the Magistrate’s discretion. Furthermore, we covered how the prosecution and defense evidence and witnesses are critical in assessing the facts of the case and making a decision. After all, parties have presented their reasons, and the Magistrate renders a decision. If the accused is found not guilty, the case is dropped, but the prosecution can seek a retrial to overturn the court’s judgment. However, if the case is turned to be where the accused is guilty, both parties are given the opportunity to offer their reasons regarding the severity of the sentence to be imposed on the prisoner. The Magistrate, however, has the final say on the penalty.

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