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Procedure For Session Trial

LCI Thought Leader Rajesh Tandon
11 December 2023  
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  • Understanding the procedure of trial before Sessions Court.
  • The key steps involved in the trial.
  • The jurisdiction of the Sessions Court.


A session trial in India is a crucial aspect of the criminal justice system. It is a process that ensures individuals accused of serious crimes have an opportunity for a fair and impartial trial. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the Indian Evidence Act, and various legal precedents govern this process. In this article, we will provide an extensive overview of the key steps in a session trial, based on the relevant provisions and information provided.


Section 9 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, empowers the State government to establish a court for every session division. These courts are presided over by judges appointed by the respective High Courts of the states. The High Court may also appoint Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges to assist in these courts. Sessions Courts in India are primarily responsible for adjudicating matters related to criminal cases.


Criminal cases are categorized under two main heads:-

  • Summons cases: These are cases of lesser severity and are usually triable by Magistrates.
  • Warrant cases: Warrant cases include more serious offenses and are typically triable by the Court of Session.

It's important to note that a Court of Session cannot take cognizance of an offense on its own. A competent Magistrate must first take cognizance of the offense and then commit the case for trial by a Court of Session.


The trial before a Court of Session follows a specific procedure, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Trial to be conducted by Public Prosecutor (Section 225): In a trial before a Court of Session, the prosecution is conducted by a public prosecutor, while the accused has the right to engage their own defence counsel. If the accused cannot afford legal representation, the court provides one at the state's expense. Before the trial begins, the accused is supplied with copies of essential documents, such as the police report and the First Information Report (FIR).
  • Opening the Case (Section 226): The public prosecutor initiates the trial by presenting the accusation against the accused. They provide a brief outline of the evidence they intend to use to establish the accused's guilt. The prosecutor's duty is not to secure a conviction but to present the facts to the court for judgment.
  • Discharge of the Accused (Section 227): After hearing both sides, if the court finds insufficient grounds to proceed against the accused, it can discharge the accused and record the reasons for doing so. This stage does not involve the examination of witnesses, but it allows both parties to present their arguments in favor of framing charges or discharging the accused.
  • Framing of Charge (Section 228): If the court believes that the accused may have committed the offenses and if they are exclusively triable by the Court of Session, the court frames the charges in writing. If the offenses are not exclusively triable by the Sessions Court, the charges are framed, and the case is transferred to the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
  • Explaining the Charge and Plea (Section 228(2)): The contents of the charge must be explained to the accused to enable them to plead guilty or claim to be tried.
  • Conviction on Plea of Guilty (Section 229): If the accused pleads guilty, the judge may convict the accused at their discretion. However, for offenses that carry the punishment of death or life imprisonment, the court is generally reluctant to convict based solely on a guilty plea.
  • Date for Prosecution Evidence (Section 230): If the accused refuses to plead guilty or claim to be tried, the court fixes a date for the examination of witnesses or may order the compulsory appearance of witnesses or the production of documents.
  • Evidence for Prosecution (Section 231): This stage involves presenting evidence in support of the prosecution. The judge may permit the cross-examination of witnesses to be deferred until other witnesses have been examined or may allow the recall of witnesses for further cross-examination.
  • Arguments of the Prosecution (Section 314(2)): After the prosecution presents its evidence, the prosecutor submits a memorandum of their oral arguments. A copy is provided to the defense.
  • Examination of the Accused [(Section 313(2)]: The accused is examined without taking an oath. This examination offers the accused an opportunity to explain the circumstances alleged against them by the prosecution.
  • Acquittal (Section 232): If, after hearing both parties, the court finds that the accused has not committed the offense, it records an order of acquittal.
  • Entering upon Defense (Section 233): If the accused is not acquitted, they are called upon to enter their defense. The court may summon or examine any person as a court witness at any stage.
  • Arguments (Section 234): After recording the defense, the prosecutor summarizes the case, and the accused or their pleader has the opportunity to reply. The prosecutor may be allowed to make submissions in case any legal points are raised by the defense.
  • Judgment of Acquittal or Conviction (Section 235): After hearing arguments from both sides, the court delivers a judgment of either acquittal or conviction. In this regard, it's important to note that the judge should first pass a sentence of conviction or acquittal. If the accused is convicted, they have the right to be heard regarding the question of the sentence. The Court then proceeds to pass a sentence against the convicted person.
  • Previous Conviction (Section 236): If a previous conviction is charged under the provisions of sub-section (7) of Section 211, and the accused does not admit that they have been previously convicted as alleged in the charge, the judge may take evidence regarding the alleged previous conviction. However, the charge shall not be read out to the accused, nor shall the accused be asked to plead to it unless and until the accused has been convicted under Section 229 or Section 235.

Procedure in Cases Instituted under Section 199(2) (Section 237)

  1. A Court of Session taking cognizance of an offense under sub-section (2) of Section 199 shall try the case following the procedure for the trial of warrant cases instituted other than on a police report before a court of a magistrate.
  2. Every trial under this section shall be held in camera if either party desires it, or if the court deems it fit to do so.
  3. If, in any such case, the court discharges or acquits all or any of the accused and is of the opinion that there was no reasonable cause for making the accusation, it may  order discharge or acquittal. The court may direct the person against whom the offense was alleged to have been committed to show cause why they should not pay compensation to the accused. The court records and considers any cause shown by the person so directed, and if it is satisfied that there was no reasonable cause for making the accusation, it may order compensation to be paid by that person to the accused.
  4. Compensation awarded under sub-section (4) shall be recovered as if it were a fine imposed by a magistrate.
  5. No person directed to pay compensation under sub-section (4) shall be exempted from any civil or criminal liability in respect of the complaint made under this section.
  6. The person ordered to pay compensation under sub-section (4) may appeal to the High Court.
  7. When an order for payment of compensation to an accused person is made, the compensation shall not be paid to them before the period allowed for the presentation of the appeal has elapsed, or if an appeal is presented, before the appeal has been decided.


Certainly, in addition to the provisions mentioned, the procedure for session trials in India involves the following key steps:

1. Preparation for Trial: Before the trial begins, both the prosecution and the defense prepare their cases. The prosecution gathers evidence and identifies witnesses, while the defense assesses the case against the accused and prepares a defense strategy.

2. Filing of Charge Sheet: The prosecution, typically represented by a public prosecutor, files a charge sheet that outlines the charges against the accused. This charge sheet includes details of the alleged offenses, the evidence collected, and the witnesses who will testify.

3. Framing of Charges: The court examines the charge sheet and decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the trial. If satisfied, the court formally frames the charges against the accused. The accused is informed of the charges, and a plea is taken.

4. Recording of Evidence: The trial involves the examination of witnesses and presentation of evidence by both the prosecution and the defense. Witnesses are cross-examined, and documents are presented to establish or refute the allegations.

5. Oral Arguments: After the evidence is presented, the prosecution and the defense present their oral arguments. The prosecution seeks to establish the guilt of the accused, while the defense aims to create doubt or prove the accused's innocence.

6. Closing Arguments: Following oral arguments, the prosecution and the defense make closing arguments to summarize their positions and reiterate key points.

7. Judgment: The court delivers a judgment based on the evidence, arguments, and the law. The judgment can result in either the acquittal or conviction of the accused.

8. Sentencing: In the case of a conviction, the court proceeds to the sentencing phase, where it determines the appropriate punishment for the accused based on the nature of the offense, legal provisions, and any mitigating or aggravating factors.

9. Appeals: Both the prosecution and the defense have the right to appeal the judgment. The accused can appeal against a conviction, while the prosecution can appeal for a harsher sentence if they believe the punishment is inadequate.

10. Record Maintenance: Throughout the trial, detailed records of proceedings, including transcripts, evidence, and court orders, are maintained to ensure transparency and accuracy.

These additional steps provide a comprehensive overview of the procedure for session trials in India, complementing the legal provisions mentioned earlier. The trial process aims to ensure that justice is served while safeguarding the rights of the accused.


Bhawna Bai v. Ghanshyam & Ors

This case highlights a crucial aspect of the trial process – the framing of charges. According to this case law, while framing charges in a session trial, the judge's focus is on establishing a prima facie case, not determining guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Prima facie means there should be enough evidence or a reasonable likelihood that the accused may have committed the offense. At this stage, the judge is not required to examine the case to the extent that it's proven beyond any reasonable doubt. This case law underscores the principle that the trial court's role is to assess whether there's a case to answer, not to pronounce a final verdict.

Hasaruddin Mohommad v. Emperor

This case addresses the issue of pleading guilty in a session trial. It emphasizes that when an accused pleads guilty, the court should be cautious, especially in cases where the punishment for the offense is severe, such as death or life imprisonment. The court should exercise discretion and ensure that the plea of guilty is unambiguous and voluntary. If there is any doubt or ambiguity in the plea, it should not be treated as equivalent to a plea of not guilty. This safeguards the accused's rights, particularly in cases involving severe penalties.

Ram Prasad v. State Of U.P

In this case, the focus is on the examination of witnesses and the presentation of evidence during a session trial. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that the prosecution conducts a fair and complete examination of witnesses. If the prosecution fails to do so for reasons that are not justifiable or proper, the court may draw an adverse inference. In other words, the court can view such omissions as detrimental to the prosecution's case. This case underscores the need for a thorough and credible presentation of evidence during the trial.

Bachchan Singh v. State of Punjab

Bachchan Singh v. State of Punjab is a landmark case related to sentencing in session trials. It introduced the concept of a "bifurcated trial" in India. A bifurcated trial involves two distinct phases: the guilt phase and the sentencing phase. During the guilt phase, the court determines whether the accused is guilty or not. If found guilty, the sentencing phase allows for a pre-sentence hearing, where factors such as the nature of the crime and the character of the accused are considered. This case emphasized that the accused has a right to a pre-sentence hearing, which may impact the choice of the sentence. It is particularly relevant in cases where the punishment could be severe.

These case laws are important because they establish legal principles and precedents that guide the conduct of session trials in India. They safeguard the rights of the accused and ensure a fair and just trial process.


In conclusion, the procedure for a session trial in India is a comprehensive legal process that ensures that individuals accused of serious crimes are provided a fair and impartial trial. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, along with other relevant laws and legal precedents, governs this process. The trial involves a series of steps, including the framing of charges, examination of witnesses, presentation of evidence, arguments, and ultimately, the judgment of acquittal or conviction. Additionally, provisions under Section 237 of the CrPC deal with specific procedures for cases instituted under Section 199(2) of the Code.

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