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WARRANT TRIALS BEFORE MAGISTRATES

Introduction

A trial is defined as the examination of the facts of a case in a court of law to determine whether a person is guilty of a crime or responsible for the injury of another person. Crimes that carry the death penalty, a life sentence, or a sentence of more than two years are included in warrant cases. The process for warrant cases is the topic of the current article. The trial of warrant cases is covered under Chapter XX of CrPC; they are divided into two categories.

  1. A trial based on the police report.
  2. A trial based on other than a police report.

Investigations based on a police report

Sections 238 to 243 of CrPC cover warrant cases initiated based on a police report.

Compliance with section 207[1]

Section 238[2]: In the Brojendra Nath Kolay case[3], the learned Judge stated that an accused person is entitled to get free copies of the police report and any other papers the police have sent to the Magistrate under section 207.

When the accused will be released: In the Ekdasi Gur case[4], the learned Judge discharged ten of the accused under section 239[5], because the charges against them appeared to be baseless after reviewing the police report and all other documents submitted along with the police report.

Framing of Charge: The examination of the accused could only be conducted with the aid of the documents referred to in Section 173[6]. The examination becomes necessary when some facts and documents are against the accused. After reviewing the documents, if the Magistrate believes there is reason to believe the accused committed an offence, the Magistrate shall frame a charge against the accused in writing. They shall be read and explained to the accused under section 240[7]. Once a person is charged with an offence, he must be convicted or acquitted, but the Judge cannot drop the proceedings[8].

Conviction on plea of guilty: According to Section 241[9], if the accused enters a guilty plea after being presented with the accusation and having it explained to him, he shall be convicted. Convicting the defendant based only on his admissions would be against the law[10].

Procedures for the prosecution’s evidence presentation

Establishing a date for the witness examination: Under section 242(1)[11], after filing the charge sheet, the Magistrate should fix a date for the examination of prosecution witnesses[12].

Prosecution Witnesses Examination: In the case of Mangilal Ram[13], the learned Judge stated that it is the prosecution’s responsibility to produce its witnesses, but if they fail to do so, they can seek the court’s assistance in issuing summonses to such witnesses to appear in court under section 242(2)[14].

Record of the Evidence: In State vs Baikunthanath Mohanta case[15], the learned Judge stated that under section 242(3)[16], the prosecution could present a new witness or piece of evidence throughout the course of the trial even without providing the accused with notice or a copy of it, since the accused is given an opportunity for cross-examination.

Procedures for the defence’s evidence presentation

Defence Witnesses Examination: Under section 243(2)[17] the defence could produce its own witnesses, but if they failed to do so, they could request the Magistrate to issue a summons compelling any witness to appear for examination or cross-examination[18].

Expenses of Defence Witnesses: In the Jit Singh Rattan Singh case[19], the learned Judge has issued an order under section 243(3)[20], that witnesses can be summoned only if the accused has deposited funds with the court to cover their reasonable travel expenses.

Cases initiated without a police report

The trial case’s preliminary hearing: When the accused is brought before the Magistrate, the Magistrate examines the accusations and determines whether they are valid or not. If the Magistrate believes the allegations are without merit, he will dismiss the case and release the accused. If the Magistrate believes that the accusations have some merit, he may order a trial.

Prosecution’s Evidence:  Under section 244[21], the procedure for the Prosecution’s Evidence in case of warrant cases based on other than police report is the same as the procedure for the Prosecution’s Evidence in case of warrant cases based on police reports under section 242.

When Accused shall be discharged: Under section 245[22], after hearing from the complainant’s witnesses and documenting all the facts in writing, if the Magistrate determines that the claims against the accused are baseless, then the accused shall be discharged[23].

Framing of charge: In the Verendra Kumar case[24], Justice Bilal Nazki stated that a charge could be framed when the evidence obtained under Section 244 reveals the commission of an offence, or else if the Magistrate determines that there is cause to believe the accused has broken the law under section 246[25]

Procedures for the defence’s evidence presentation: Under section 247[26], the procedure for the witness examination of the accused is the same as the rules laid down under section 243, which we discussed earlier.

Judgement of acquittal or conviction:

In the case of Harihar Chakravarty[27], the Presidency Magistrate concluded that the accused acted on the complainant’s instructions and that there was no criminal breach of trust on the part of the complainant. As a result, the accused is acquitted under 248(1)[28].

Hearing of Accused before passing sentence:

Section 248(2)[29] states that the Judge must give the accused a chance to be heard before imposing a sentence. If the accused was not present on the day the Judge imposed the sentence, the accused is entitled to get a free copy of the judgement [30].

Acquittal of accused when the Complainant is absent:

In the Kanhei Pradhan case[31], since the complainant was not present and the case was not cognizable, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate discharged the accused by using his authority under Section 249[32].

Compensation for accusation without reasonable cause:

In the Jamnaprasad Sarju Tiwari case[33], the complainant filed a lawsuit against four officers of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, but he never turned up for the proceedings. Subsequently, all the four of them were acquitted. Later on, the complainant made an appeal against the previous order and failed to turn up for the proceedings. Aggrieved by the complainant’s negligent behaviour, the learned Judge imposed compensation of Rs.5000 against the complainant under section 250[34].

Conclusion

The Magistrate has the power to begin the proceedings when the court determines if the complainant’s allegations have merit. After both sides have made their cases, the Magistrate renders a decision. In addition, if the accused is found not guilty of the allegations, the case is dropped; however, the prosecution may appeal the court’s ruling. However, if the defendant is found guilty, all sides are free to express their reasons regarding the severity of the sentence that should be imposed on the convicted party.

Author(s) Name: Shiva Boora (Osmania University, Hyderabad)

References:

[1] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 207

[2] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 238

[3] Brojendra Nath Kolay And Anr. vs The State of West Bengal (1993) 1994 CriLJ 1194

[4] Ekdasi Gur And Ors. vs Diptendra Mukherjee (1970) 1971 CriLJ 102

[5] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 239

[6] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 173

[7] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 240

[8] Kisan Seva Sahakari Samiti Ltd. vs Bachan Singh (1992) 1993 CriLJ 2540

[9] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 241

[10] State vs Banshi Singh (1959) AIR 1960 MP 105

[11] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 242(1)

[12] State Of U.P. vs Babu (1990) 1991 CriLJ 991

[13] State vs Mangilal Ram And Anr (1973) 1974 CriLJ 221

[14] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 242(2)

[15] State vs Baikunthanath Mohanta (1959) AIR 1960 Ori 150

[16] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 242(3)

[17] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 243(2)

[18] Habeeb Mohammad vs The State Of Hyderabad (1953) 1954 AIR 51

[19] Jit Singh Rattan Singh vs The State (1961) AIR 1963 P H 143

[20] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 243(3)

[21] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 244

[22] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 245

[23] Smt. Yashodabai Keshav Thakur … vs Bhaskar Moreshwar Kamat And Anr (1972) 1973 CriLJ 1007

[24] Verendra Kumar vs Aashraya Makers And Anr. (1999) CriLJ 4206

[25] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 246

[26] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 247

[27] Harihar Chakravarty vs The State Of West Bengal (1953) AIR 1954 SC 266

[28] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 248(1)

[29] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 248(2)

[30] Sankarasetty Pompanna vs State Of Karnataka And Anr. (1977) CriLJ 2072

[31] Kanhei Pradhan vs Basanti Khati (1980) 1981 CriLJ 266

[32] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 249

[33] Jamnaprasad Sarju Tiwari vs Saban K. Dhone And Others (1991) 1992 (1) BomCR 403, 1993 CriLJ 1470

[34] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, s 250