Trial in Summons Cases

By | October 11, 2017


The Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 is, as is clearly indicated by its title, a comprehensive enactment laying down the law relating to criminal procedure. But it is worth mentioning that the code is not a pure adjective law of procedure; there are some provisions in it which take the nature of substantive law. For instance, chapters VIII, X and XI which deals with ‘prevention of offences’ and chapter IX that deals with ‘maintenance of proceedings’. As per the Code, criminal trials can be divided into three categories namely: warrant cases, summons cases and summary trials. The focus of this article shall be summons cases.

Summons Cases

The term “summons cases” has been defined, in a negative sense, under Section 2(w) of the CrPC as “a case relating to an offence, not being a warrant case”. On the other hand, a “warrant case” means a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years[1].

The two definitions, thus, lead to the conclusion that the basis of classification between summons case and warrant cases is the seriousness of the offence. This classification becomes applicable while determining the type of trial procedure to be adopted in a case. The trial procedure provided for summons cases is devoid of much formality and technicality as in warrant cases since the former is relatively less serious in nature. Chapter XX (Ss. 251-259) of the Criminal Procedure Code delineates the procedure for trial of summons cases.

The following are the stages to be followed in respect of procedure relating to the trial of summons case:

1. Substance of accusation to be stated to the accused

When in a summons cases the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate, the particulars of the offence of which he is accused shall be stated to him, and he shall be asked whether he pleads guilty or has any defence to make, but it shall not be necessary to frame a formal charge.[3] It is necessary that the accused should have a clear statement made to him as to the particulars of the offence of which he is charged.[4]An accused may not be convicted even on his admission of guilt if the prosecution report does not make out an offence under a statute.[5]

2. Conviction on plea of guilty

If the accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate shall record the plea as nearly as possible in the words used by the accused and may, in his discretion convict him thereon.[6] If the accused admits some or all of the charges alleged by the prosecution but pleads “not guilty”, the court is bound to proceed according to law by examining the witnesses of prosecution and defence.[7]

3. Conviction on plea of guilty in absence of accused in petty cases

Section 253 of CrPC provides an even simpler procedure for disposing of petty cases without the presence of accused in the court. Where the accused wants to plead guilty without appearing in the court, the accused is supposed to send Rs.1000/- by post or through a messenger (pleader) to the Magistrate. The Magistrate can on his discretion convict the accused.

4. Procedure when not convicted by the Magistrate—

[Hearing the Prosecution and Defence case]

If the Magistrate does not convict the accused under Section 252 or Section 253, the Magistrate shall proceed to hear the prosecution and take all evidence as may be produced in support of the prosecution, and also to hear the accused and take all such evidence as he produces in his defence.[8]

The Magistrate may, on the application of the prosecution, issue summons to any witness directing him to attend or produce evidence.[9] The Magistrate is bound to examine all the witnesses and he is not empowered to limit the number of witnesses.

The Magistrate may, before summoning any witness on such application, require that the reasonable expenses of the witness incurred in attending for the purposes of trial be deposited in court.[10]

5. Acquittal or conviction

If the Magistrate after considering evidence finds the accused not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal.[11] He may also decide to release the offender after admonition, or on probation of good conduct after under Section 360, or under Probation of Offender Act,1958 after considering the nature of offence, character of offender and circumstances of the case.[12] A Magistrate may convict the accused of any offence (amenable to the trial in a summons case) which from the facts admitted or proved the accused appears to have committed.[13] This can only be done if the Magistrate is satisfied that it would not prejudice the accused.[14]

If the Magistrate, while discharging or acquitting the accused, thinks that there was no reasonable ground for making accusation against the accused person, he may call upon the person making such accusation to show cause as to why he should not pay compensation to the accused person after which the Magistrate may, for reasons to be recorded, make an order fixing the compensation to be paid by such person to the accused.[15]

6. The court can convert a summons case into a warrant case

Section 259 of the CrPC provides that if in the course of the trial of a summons case relating to an offence punishable with imprisonment exceeding six months, it appears to the Magistrate that in the interests of justice, the offence should be tried in accordance with the procedure for trial of warrant cases, he may proceed to re-hear the case in the manner provided by the Code for the trial of warrant cases and may even recall any witness who may have been examined.

The words “re-hear the case” indicate that the Magistrate should commence the proceedings from the very start or de novo.[16]

Contributed by – Shivam Singh

Unity Law and Degree College

[1] Section 2(x) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[2] (1996) 4 SCC 127

[3] Section 251

[4] Acharjee Lall (1878) 3 CLR 87

[5] Purushottam Sabra v. State of Orissa, 1992 Cri LJ 1417 (Ori).

[6] Section 252

[7]  Somabhai, (1907) 9 Bom LR 1346

[8]  Section 254(1) of CrPC 1973

[9]  Section 254(2) of CrPC 1973

[10]  Section 254(3) of CrPC 1973

[11] Section 255(1)

[12] Section 255(2)

[13] R.V. Kelkar, “Lectures on Criminal Procedure”, Fourth Edition, 2006.

[14] Section 255(3)

[15] D.M. Seth v. Ganeshnarayan R. Podar, 1993 Cri LJ 1899(Bom)

[16] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, “The Code of Criminal Procedure”


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