TRIAL OF SUMMONS CASES BY MAGISTRATE

INTRODUCTION

Summon is a legal document which is issued by the court that notifies or commands a person to whom it is served to show his/ her presence in the court in order to answer the questions raised upon/to that person.

A summons case signifies a case concerning to an offence not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. The trial procedure prescribed for summons cases is mainly contained in sections 251 to 259 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. These cases are tried with much less formality than warrant cases, and the manner of their trial is less elaborate.

STEPS IN THE TRIAL PROCEDURE

Chapter XX of CRPC deals with Trial of summons cases by Magistrates.

Section 251: explaining the substance of the accusation to the accused.

“When in a summons case a 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.”[1]

The section only dispenses with a formal charge in a summons case but is does not dispense with the statement of particulars of the offence for which accused is to be dealt with. The purpose of questioning the accused under this section is to appraise him of the charge against him. The accused should have clear statement made to him:

  • That he is about to be put on trial
  • The offence or facts constituting the offence with the commission of which he is accused.

The record must show the facts which were stated or explained to the accused by the magistrate.

Section 252: 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.”[2]

When guilty is pleaded by the accused, it is imperative that the magistrate shall record the plea of guilty as nearly as possible in words used by accused. The requirement of section 252 is not merely empty formality but is a matter of substance intended to secure proper administration of justice, because the right to appeal of the accused depends upon circumstance whether he pleaded guilty or not. It is because of the reason that the legislature requires the exact words used by accused in hid plea of guilty should be as nearly as possible be recorded in his own words or language in order to avert any inaccuracy, error or misapprehension. If there are number of accused persons, the plea of ach accused shall be recorded separately in their own words after the accusation was read over to each one of them.

Section 253: conviction on plea of guilty in nonappearance of accused in petty cases.

It has been provided by section 206 that in the case of certain petty offences, an accused who is willing to plead guilty need not appear in the court either in person or through his pleader provided, he satisfies the conditions of that section. The object is to avoid unnecessary trouble to offenders who have committed petty offences and are willing to pay the penalty. Section 253 prescribes the procedure where a person to whom a summons has been issued under sec. 206 has transmitted to magistrate his plea to guilty without appearing before the magistrate. Where the accused wishes to plead guilty without attending the court, the accused is expected to pay Rs.1000/- by post or via a messenger (pleader) to the Magistrate.

Section 254: Process if the accused not convicted on plea

Section 254 specifies for both defence and prosecution case if the accused is not convicted on appeal under section 252 and 253.

Prosecution Case

The magistrate listens to the accused and collects all the evidence. In the hearing, the prosecution will be given opportunity to try its case by putting relevant facts which represent the case and by revealing the evidence which he relied upon to justify the case. The magistrate upon this application of the prosecution, present summon to any witness to attend and to produce some document or object. The judge must write the report of the facts according to section 274. Similar as other trials in summon cases even the magistrate must comply with section 279 i.e., presentation of evidence to the accused and 280 i.e., documentation of the conduct of the witnesses.

Hearing of Defence Case

Following the prosecution of the evidence referred to in section 254 and the defence examination referred to in section 313, the court shall proceed to the defence hearing referred to in section 254(1). In the hearing of the court, the defendant is asked to say about the evidence of the prosecution. In any case, failure to hear the accused constitutes a major error in the criminal process and cannot be cured pursuant to Article 465. Evidence provided by the accused is reported in the manner set out in section 274, 279, 280 for prosecution. Upon the facts provided by the defendant, his claims under section 314 shall be allowed to be presented.

Section 255: Acquittal or conviction

Subsequently, after the evidence is recorded under 254, the magistrate shall absolve the accused if he finds the accused not guilty. If the accused is guilty, the Magistrate shall proceed otherwise in accordance with Section 360 or Section 325, sentence him in accordance with the law.

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.[3]

Section 256: Non-appearance or the death of the complainant

Pursuant to section 256, on the date set for the trial of the accused, the complainant will be allowed by the court to acquit the accused unless the court has cause to adjourn the case for another day. Section 256(1) shall also apply in the event of the demise of the complainant. In the event that the representative of the deceased complainant does not appear within 15 days, the defendant may be absolved by the Supreme Court.

CONCLUSION

Chapter XX of Criminal Procedure Code is outlined for the trial of summons cases satisfied all the requirements of fair trial. “Fair Trial is the heart of criminal jurisprudence and the denial of fair trial is the denial of human right” as held in Rattiram v. State of Madhya Pradesh.[4] The trial of the summon cases is less formal and less strict than other trial procedure just for the quick remedy and resolution of the case .


[1] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

[2] The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

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

[4] A.I.R 2012, SC 1485