Process Of Criminal Trial By Magistrate Or Sessions Court

The trial in the warrant case initiates after filing an FIR in the police station or filing a complaint to the magistrate. After the whole process, a final report is submitted to the magistrate by the police as the chargesheet for the commencement of trial. Our experts guide clients on pre-trial procedures and trial procedures.

Stages of Trial:

  1. Framing of charges
  2. Plea of guilty
  3. Evidence of prosecution
  4. Statement of accused
  5. Defense evidence
  6. Final Arguments
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In a criminal trial, the judge examines the evidence for deciding the guilt or innocence. Chapter XVIII of the Criminal Procedure Code describes the procedure of Trial before a Session Court. When a District Court exercises jurisdiction relating to criminal matters under the Code of criminal procedure 1973 it is referred to as Sessions Court. Based on the gravity of the offense, criminal cases are categorized into summons cases and warrant cases. In this article, the types of a trial conducted before the Sessions Court and Courts of Magistrate has been discussed.

This article also describes the procedure followed by the Sessions Court in the criminal trial procedure. Further, the procedure of criminal trial by the Courts of Magistrate has been also discussed in the final part of the article.

Types Of Trial

Warrant cases are triable both by the Court of Session and Magistrates. When an offense committed is of serious nature, such a case is triable by the Court of Session. Whereas, offenses committed are less serious in nature are triable by the Courts of Magistrates. Generally, cognizance of the offense is taken by the Magistrate and analyzed whether it is triable by the Court of Session. If the Magistrates finds such a case to be triable by the Court of Session, shall commit the same to the Court of Session.

Criminal Trials can be categorized into four types.
  1. The trial before the Court of Session- when an offense committed is punishable with seven years of imprisonment or life imprisonment or with death, a trial of such offense is conducted before the Court of Session. As the Court of Session has no power of taking cognizance of the offense, the Magistrate taking cognizance of the offense will commit the same to the Court of Session.
  2. Trial of warrant cases by Magistrates- Warrant cases are cases where the offense committed is punishable with imprisonment exceeding two years, life imprisonment, or the death penalty. Trial in warrant case begins with the filing of FIR or by filing before Magistrate.
  3. Trial of Summons cases by Magistrates- An offense punishable with imprisonment of fewer than two years is known as a summons case. The trial of these cases is also done by the Magistrate.
  4. Summary Trials- In this trial, there is speedy disposal of the cases by following a simple process and recording the trial summarily. The trial involves petty cases.

Process Of Criminal Trial Before Court Of Session (Section 225- 237)

As mentioned earlier, criminal matters are dealt with by the Sessions Court at the district level. As the Court of Session does not have the power to take cognizance Magistrates take cognizance of the offense and on examining commit or forward the same to the Court of Session. The process of trial before the Court of Session is given from sections 225 to 237.

  • The opening case for the prosecution- The trial before a Court of Session is to be conducted by a Public Prosecutor. The Prosecutor then presents his/her case by opening statements where he/she must explain the charges of the offense against the accused. The prosecutor is also required to state the evidence based on which he/she wishes to prove the guilt of the accused.
  • Discharge- The judge if thinks fit that no sufficient ground exists to proceed against the accused shall discharge the accused. The Court shall discharge after examining the documents and records and hearing the accused as well as the prosecution. In-State of Karnataka v. L. Muniswamy it was held that reasons for discharging the accused must be given by the Judge which will enable the apex court for examining the correctness of the recorded reasons.
  • Framing of Charge- The judge can proceed to frame the charge if examining the documents, records, and analyzing the statements given by both the prosecution and accused finds sufficient grounds for proceeding. Further, if the Judge shall frame charge when such offense is triable by the Court of session exclusively. If the case is found to be out of the jurisdiction of the Court, then such Judge can frame charges and transfer the case by order to such Chief Judicial Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate First class. In Kanti Bhadra Shah & Anr v. State of West Bengal, it was held that there is no requirement of record reasons for framing charges by the Judge.
  • Explaining the charge- Charges framed against the accused by the Judge are read and explained to the accused and asked if he wants to plead guilty or not.
  • Conviction on plea of guilty- The accused can plead guilty or not plead guilty. If the accused does not plead guilty and claims to be tried, a date shall be fixed by the Judge for examining the witness and issuing a process to compel the attendance of the witness.
  • Evidence for prosecution- In the trial of the accused, evidence is taken in the presence or in the absence of the accused. However, if the court has dispensed with the presence of the accused, evidence can be taken in the presence of his pleader.
  • Examination of witness- After taking evidence the Judge proceeds to examine and cross-examine any witness or recall any witness for cross-examination
  • Record of the Evidence- Evidence given by each witness is to be recorded by the Judge.
  • On examining the accused and the statements given by the prosecution, if the defense of the accused fails, the accused shall be held guilty and if the prosecution fails to prove the case the accused will be acquitted.

Process Of Trial Of Warrant Case By Magistrates (Section 238-250)

Chapter XIX section 23-250 deals with the Trial of Warrant case by the Magistrates. Warrant cases are categorized into two types-

  1. Case instituted by the police report 
  2. Case instituted other than police report (Private Complaint)
Following the process of trial in warrant cases before the Magistrates-
  1. Compliance with Section 207 by supplying a copy of the police report to the accused
  2. Discharge of accused if no sufficient ground exists to proceed against the accused. On receiving the report and such other documents Magistrate examines and convenes a hearing where both the prosecution and accused are given an opportunity for presenting their case.
  3. If the Magistrate thinks that there exist sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused shall frame the charges of the offense committed by the accused. 
  4. If a private complaint has been made to the Magistrate, then the prosecution is required to satisfy itself with evidence and issue summons to witnesses for attending the court or producing any document.
  5. If no such ground is found by the Magistrate to proceed against the accused on such a private complaint, the court shall discharge the accused.

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FAQs On Criminal Trial

Criminal Trial is the process where accusations made against an accused are resolved either by proving his or her guilt or by proving innocence.
There are four types of Criminal Trial, namely Trial before the Court of Session, Trial of warrant cases by the Magistrate, Summon Trial by Magistrate, and Summary Trials.
When offence committed by the accused is of serious nature and punishable with imprisonment for life or with death penalty of imprisonment more than seven years are triable by the Court of Session.
When offence committed by the accused is punishable with imprisonment exceeding two years, life imprisonment or with death penalty is triable by the Magistrate.
No, a person cannot be put under the criminal trial twice for the same offence. This causes double jeopardy which the Constitution of India does not allow.
The seven stages of Criminal Trial are, proceedings before the Court, framing of charges, prosecution evidence, statement of the accused, defence evidence, final arguments and judgement.

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