- The Indian Judicial System follows the adversarial system.
- Criminal trial can be divided into two parts: Sessions Trial & Magistrate Trial.
- Sessions Court is court of first instance dealing in serious criminal offences.
- There is a prescribed procedure of trial in Sessions Court.
India is a democratic country that follows the adversarial system of litigation. According to this system, a judge is placed at the highest level and he acts as a neutral party who hears the cases from the point of both defence & prosecution and on the basis of evidence presented & circumstances rules his judgement. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that every citizen should have a fair trial by an independent tribunal. Section 303 of Cr.P.C. provides that every accused should be defended by a lawyer of his choice and under Section 304, it is mentioned that if in any case, an accused is unable to find himself a lawyer, it is the duty of the State to confer him with one. In the Indian judicial system, the Supreme Court is at the apex position and the power to supervise all other courts & tribunals is conferred to the High Court of each State. The criminal trial is divided into two parts: Sessions Trial & Magistrate Trial.
The first schedule of Cr.P.C. specifies whether a case will be tried under Sessions Court or Magistrate Court. Sessions Court is a District Court that has jurisdiction over criminal matters. Sessions Court is a court of first instance that deals with serious criminal offences. The establishment of Sessions Court is provided under Section 9 of Cr.P.C. and it is mentioned that the Presiding Judge of a Sessions Court will be appointed by the High Court.
PROCEDURE FOR TRIAL BEFORE SESSIONS COURT
The trial before a court of Sessions proceeds as follows:
1) Parties (Sec 225 of Code of Criminal Procedure): In Sessions Trial, the accused has the right to hire a counsel of his choice and in case he is unable to hire a lawyer, he will be assigned an attorney at the expense of the State. Before the commencement of trial, it is required to provide the accused with the copies of FIR, police report, etc.
2) Beginning of Trial (Sec 226 of Code of Criminal Procedure): The prosecutor begins the trial and presents the accusations before the Judge. It is the duty of the prosecutor to present the evidence by which he wants to prove the accused guilty. Prosecutor is bound to lay the facts of the case before the Judge.
3) Discharge of Accused (Sec 227 of Code of Criminal Procedure): After both the parties present their cases before the judge and if the court is of the opinion that the evidence is not sufficient to prove the accused guilty or to proceed with the case, the Court discharges the accused and states the reason for same. After this, the witnesses cannot be examined; however, the parties can still argue their case.
4) Framing of charge (Sec 228 of Code of Criminal Procedure): After both the parties present their case before the Judge and if the court is of the opinion that the accused might have committed the offence, then:
- A written charge is framed, if the Sessions Court has exclusive jurisdiction.
- If the Session Court does not have exclusive jurisdiction over the case, the charge is framed and the case is transferred to the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
5) Explaining the charge (Sec 228(2) of Code of Criminal Procedure): The accused has the right to know about the charges framed against him so that he can plead guilty or be tried.
6) Conviction in plea of guilty (Sec 229 of Code of Criminal Procedure): It is the discretion of the Judge to convict in case the accused pleads guilty. However, the accused cannot be convicted on the basis of pleading guilty if the punishment for the offence is either death or life imprisonment.
7) Date for Prosecution Evidence (Sec 230 of Code of Criminal Procedure): In case the accused does not plead guilty then the case goes in for trial and the Judge schedules a date to examine witness or examine evidence.
8) Evidence for prosecution (Sec 231 of Code of Criminal Procedure):
- The Judge examines prosecution’s evidence on the date scheduled.
- It is the discretion of the Judge to examine or cross examine any witness.
9) Arguments by prosecution (Sec 314(2) of Code of Criminal Procedure): After the cross examination of witnesses is complete, a memorandum of oral arguments is submitted by prosecution and the opposite party is supplied with a copy of the argument.
10) Examination of Accused: The accused is provided with a chance to explain the charge against him and explain his circumstances.
11) Acquittal (Sec 232 of Code of Criminal Procedure): After trial, if the evidence & witnesses are not adequate to prove the accused guilty, then the Judge can acquit the accused.
12) Trial by defence (Sec 233 of Code of Criminal Procedure): The defence is called upon with his evidence & witnesses in case the accused is not acquitted.
13) Arguments by Prosecutor & Defence (Sec 234 of Code of Criminal Procedure): After the prosecutor sums up his case, the right to reply goes to the defence. However, the prosecutor can challenge any point made by the defence.
14) Judgement (Sec 235 of Code of Criminal Procedure): After both the parties present their side of the case, the court on basis of evidence procured &statements recorded from witnesses delivers the judgement and either acquits or convict the accused. However, before passing a sentence against the accused, he shall be heard.
15) Procedure in previous conviction (Sec 236 of Code of Criminal Procedure): In case the accused is previously convicted for an offence and he denies the same, then it is the duty of Judge to come to final conclusion regarding the previous conviction and pass the enhanced punishment; if any.
16) Procedure of trial in case of defamation of public servants ( Sec 199(2) & Sec 237 of Code of Criminal Procedure):
- Any offence tried under Section 199(2) of CrPC by the Sessions Court shall be tried with the same procedure as of warrant cases.
- Trials under this section should be held before camera (only if court permits).
- In case of discharge or acquittal of accused by the court, the Judge can order direct the petitioner in this case to compensate the accused person.
- The amount of compensation should not exceed Rs. 1000.
- Compensation awarded is similar to a fine imposed by the Court.
- Paying compensation does not exempt anyone from civil or criminal liability.
- The person who is asked to pay compensation has a right to appeal to High Court.
- The petitioner is not bound to pay compensation before the period to file appeal elapses.
1. Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab (AIR 1980 SC 898): The Court ruled in this case, that the accused person has right to be heard before his sentence even though his words may not be relevant or connected to the case. It was a landmark judgement in developing jurisprudence relating to death penalty. The judgement revolved around one major issue: whether or not the procedure mentioned under Section 354(3) of Code of Criminal procedure is unconstitutional or not. Under Section 354(3) of CrPC, it is mentioned that a judge should provide with “special reasons” in case a crime involves punishment of death penalty or life imprisonment.
2. State of Kerala vs. Rasheed (AIR 2019 SC 721): In this case, the Court ruled that there must be a balance between rights of an accused & entitlement of prosecution while deciding an application and the following factors must be kept in mind:
Possibility of undue influence,
3. BhawnaBai vs. Ghanshyam & Ors (CRL.APL NO. 1820/2019): In this case,the Supreme Court of India laid down that while a case is in trial only the prima facie evidence should be acknowledged.
4. Rukmini Narvekar vs. Vijaya Satardekar (14 SCC 1 2008): In this case it was mentioned that any evidence cannot be produced during framing of charge and only the materials mentioned under Section 227 of Code of Criminal Procedure will be admissible by Court.
The Code of Criminal Procedure ensures that every person who is accused of an offence gets a chance of fair trial and there should not be any delay in the investigation process. It is the duty of the Judge to make sure that the accused is heard in a fair manner and he is provided with every means to ensure that he is able to defend his case. Section 304 the Code of Criminal Procedure also guarantees legal aid to every person who cannot afford to fight his case and the same right is provided under Article 22(1) of Constitution of India. It also ensures that any person who is accused of an offence should not be wrongly convicted, i.e. he should not be punished for an offence that he has not even committed. The trial in Sessions Court is fair and there is no delay in the investigation process which makes sure that justice is served in time because justice delayed is justice denied.