TRIAL BEFORE SESSION COURT
Author: Akshat Garg
Sessions Court is the court that deals with criminal cases at a district level. To be more precise, it deals with the more serious warrant cases. It cannot take cognizance directly of any offense except in cases of defamation as given u/s 199 of CrPC. In rest other, a competent magistrate takes cognizance and commits the case to the court for trial.
This is the stage where mainly trials coupled with evidence, arguments, the cross-examination (basically all the fun part of being an advocate) takes place. Chapter-XVIII, Sec.225-237 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 substantially deals with the procedure for trial before a Sessions Court.
INTIAL STAGE OF TRIAL
All the processes can be explained simply by an example. Imagine a courtroom with prosecution [being a public prosecutor (Sec. 225)] on one and defense (represented by one the accused chooses or the court appoints) on the other side. It is the duty of the court to provide accused with all the necessary copies of documents for their perusal.
Since prosecution is the one accusing, (when the case in pursuance to Sec.209 is brought), he is the one who will be initiating the case proceeding with the pieces of evidence to prove the guilt of the accused while describing the charges against him (Sec.226). This is mere to determine whether the trial is to be affected or not. One thing to note here is that prosecution is not under any duty to make the accused be present and hence his absence will not lead to his acquittal. It is the duty of the court to secure it.
If after this, the judge considers that there is no case against the accused by the prosecution, he will discharge the accused vide Sec.227 of CrPC (this clause merely ensures that a person is not harassed with a prolonged, unnecessary trial) giving reasons (to aid the superior court in case of appeal in determining the correctness and sufficiency of reasons for acquittal). The Hon`ble Supreme Court in the case of Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal, has enumerated 4 principles to be kept in mind when the accused is to be discharged u/s 227, the gist of which is a prima facie case should be made against the accused the test of which will vary from case to case
But if the presumption of the commission of offense arises then there are 2 scenarios vide Sec. 228:
- If that Court of Session can exclusively try the matter at hand, charges in writing by the court shall be framed [228(1)(b)]
- If the Court of Session cannot exclusively hold the trial, meaning thereby another court has the jurisdiction to try this case at hand, then session court shall transfer the case to the appropriate CJM or JM of First Class [228(1)(a)]
U/s 228, another important point to note is that if charges are framed as above given, they are to be explained to the accused in the language and manner he will understand (though a violation of it will not vitiate the further proceedings.) Then, the accused will be asked if he pleads guilty to the offenses he is charged with or not [(228(2))].
The Stage at Sec.227 and 228 plus the presumption so as to lead to framing of charge(s) as mentioned above can be the result of even a strong suspicion since court possesses a very wide discretion to determine the sufficiency of grounds available i.e. whether they are so as to require the framing of charge(s).
SECOND STAGE OF TRIAL
U/s 229, an accused can plead guilty of an offense either himself or if allowed to appear by a pleader, then through him, in unambiguous terms. He can be convicted based on it except in cases where the offense in question is punishable by death or life imprisonment where there is a form of reluctance to convict based on such plea. If a conviction is done, then any right of appeal against such conviction stands curtailed. For a conviction on the basis of such plea, it is held by the Hon`ble Supreme Court to be essential that the accused be confronted with the substance of allegations against him.
If no such pleading or conviction u/s 229 is made/done, the court vide Sec.230 shall fix a date for the examination of witnesses or may compel the attendance of any witness or production of any documents the prosecution may need.
U/s 231, the court is to take all evidence produced and allow any cross-examination as mentioned in its clause (2).
THIRD STAGE OF TRIAL
U/s 232, the court may acquit the accused if no evidence/legal proof indicating his involvement in the said offense appears/presented.
If no acquittal, then u/s 233, accused presents his case, may in writing or otherwise, can produce evidence, witness just like the prosecution. However, this can be denied if it appears that they are being presented only to cause inordinate delay etc. Hence, non-compliance with this section does not necessarily vitiate the proceeding. Sec.315 considers an accused to be a competent witness as well.
Sec. 234 and 314 both deal with who shall give the closing arguments. Being a specific provision, 234 prevails if any conflict arises hence if Sec. 314 applies, defense gives the closing argument but if 234 does, the prosecution sums up, defense replies after him.
After conviction, u/s 235, the accused shall be heard with regard to the sentence etc.(as given from Sec. 353-365) and then will be sentenced unless Sec. 360 of CrPC applies. This gives the accused a right of pre-sentence hearing which will at the most have a bearing on the choice of sentence but has to be followed in letter and spirit otherwise it is a violation of natural justice.
U/s 236, in case of a previous convict, the court may call for evidence on that matter and record finding. This helps in case the accused is liable to enhanced punishment.
Lastly, Sec. 237 deals with procedure in cases of defamation of high dignitaries and public servants to prevent vindication of the conduct of such officials. However, provision for compensation to the accused to prevent false accusation is made as well.
In this way, we went through almost all forms of complexities that are involved in the case of a trial before a Sessions Court. In the beginning, it is decided whether there is any cause for trial or not. Next, it is seen, if there are sufficient grounds to convict through cross-examination, pieces of evidence, etc. and lastly the accused is acquitted or sentenced as the case may be.
1. State of Gujarat v. Nareshbhai Haribhai Tandel, 1997 CriLj 2783(Guj.)
2. Kewal Krishan v. Suraj Bhan, 1981 SCC (Cri) 438.
3. State of Karnataka v. L.Muniswamy, (1997) 2 SCC (699)
4. (1979) 3 SCC 699
5. L.Muniswamy case ibid and Prafulla Kumar Samal case ibid
6.Hasruddin Mohommad v. Emperor, (1929) 30 CriLj 508
7.Sec. 375 of CrPC
8.Anand Vithoba Lohkare v. State of Haryana, (1996) 4 SCC 17
9.360. Order to release on probation of good conduct or after admonition
10.Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684