India: Framing Of Charges: An Overview

One basic requirement of a fair trial in criminal jurisprudence is to give precise information to the accused as to the accusation against him. This is vitally important to the accused in the preparation of his defence. In all trials under the Criminal Procedure Code the accused is informed of the accusation in the beginning itself. In case of serious offences the Code requires that the accusations are to be formulated and reduced to writing with great precision & clarity. This "charge" is then to be read and explained to the accused person1.

Charge serves the purpose of notice or intimation to the accused, drawn up according to specific language of law, giving clear and unambiguous or precise notice of the nature of accusation that the accused is called upon to meet in the course of trial2.

Relevant Legal Provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)

  • Section 211 & Section 212 specifies about Contents of Charge and mentioning of particulars as to time and place of the alleged offence in the charge.

This rule is to an extent relaxed in a case of criminal breach of trust or of dishonest misappropriation. When the accused is charged with criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of money or other movable property, it shall be sufficient to specify the gross sum or, as the case may be, describe the movable property in respect of which the offence is alleged to have been committed, and the dates between which the offence is alleged to have been committed, without specifying particular items or exact dates. It is obvious that the relaxation given by the above rule is applicable only in case of criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation and not in case of any other offence like theft, falsification of accounts under Section 477-A of the IPC, cheating etc.

This rule is intended to cover cases of persons who showed a deficiency in the accounts with which they were entrusted but who could not be shown to have misappropriated this or that specific sum3.

  • Section 213 talks about; when manner of committing offence must be stated:

When the nature of the case is such that the particulars mentioned in sections 211 and 212 do not give the accused sufficient notice of the matter with which he is charged, the charge shall also contain such particulars of the manner is which the alleged offence was committed as will be sufficient for that purpose.

  • Section 214 gives a rule for interpreting the words used in the charge: It provides that in every charge words used in describing an offence shall be deemed to have been used in the sense attached to them respectively by the law under which such offence is punishable.

Basic Procedure regarding charge & its trial

The initial requirement of a fair trial in criminal cases is a precise statement of the accusation. The code seeks to secure this requirement, first, by laying down in Sections 211 to 214 of CrPC as to what a charge should contain; next, stipulating in Section 218 of CrPC that for every distinct offence there should be a separate charge; and lastly, by laying down in the same section that each charge should be tried separately, so that what is sought to be achieved by the first two rules is not nullified by a joinder of numerous & unconnected charges4.

Section 218 reads as Separate charges for distinct offences

The object of section 218 is to save the accused from being embarrassed in his defence if distinct offences are lumped together in one charge or in separate charges & are tried together5. Another reason is that the mind of the court might be prejudiced against the prisoner if he were tried in one trial upon different charges resting on different evidence. It might be difficult for the court trying him on one of the charges not to be influenced by the evidence against him on the other charges. The strict observance of Section 218(1) may lead to multiplicity of trials, therefore exceptions, in suitable cases, have been provided by Section 218(2) in Sections 219,220,221 & 223. The effects of non-compliance with provisions regarding charge would be considered later. It would however be useful to allude to the decision of the Supreme Court in context of non-compliance with Section 218. In every case, in which a departure from the requirements of Section 218 has occurred, the question before the courts is, whether the omission to frame the required charge has or has not in fact occasioned a failure of justice by prejudicing the accused in his defence, & whether he has thus been deprived of a fair trial6.

Power of Court to order separate trial in cases where joinder of charges or of offenders is permissible

The basic rule regarding charge is that for every distinct offence there shall be a separate charge & for every such charge there shall be separate trial. The only exceptions recognized are contained in Sections 219,220,221 & 223 of CrPC. Therefore separate trial is the rule and the joint trial is an exception. The sections containing the exceptions are only enabling provisions. A court has got the discretion to order a separate trial even though the case is covered by one of the exceptions enabling a joint trial7. A joint trial of a very large number of charges is very much to be deprecated even though it is not prohibited by law. A separate trial is always desirable whenever there is risk of prejudice to the accused in a joint trial. The Supreme Court has taken the view that it is the option of the court whether to resort to Section 219,220 & 223 of the Code or whether to act as laid down in Section 218 and that the accused has no right to claim joinder of charges or of offenders8.

Applicability of provisions relating to joinder of charges to cases where no charge is framed

As will be seen later, in all summons cases though it is necessary to state to the accused the particulars of the offence of which he is charged, it is not necessary to frame a formal charge. In such cases a question may arise whether the provisions relating to joinder of charges & of offenders are applicable to such proceedings. The Code does not make any express provision in this regard. However the courts have taken the view that these provisions are equally applicable in summons cases also9.

Amendment/Alteration of charge

According to Section 216 (1) of CrPC, any court may alter or add to any charge at any time before judgment is pronounced. The section invests a comprehensive power to remedy the defects in the framing or non-framing of a charge, whether discovered at the initial stage of the trial or at any subsequent stage prior to the judgment.

The code gives ample power to the courts to alter or amend a charge whether by the trial court or by the Appellate Court provided that the accused has not to face a charge for a new offence or is not prejudiced either by keeping him in the dark about that charge or in not giving a full opportunity of meeting it & putting forward any defence open to him, on the charge finally preferred against him10. The court has a very wide power to alter the charge; however, the court is to act judiciously and to exercise the discretion wisely. It should not alter the charge to the prejudice of the accused person11.

Withdrawal of remaining charges on conviction on one of several charges

Section 224 of CrPC states that when a charge containing more heads than one is framed against the same person, and when a conviction has been had on one or more of them, the complainant, or the officer conducting the prosecution, may, with the consent, of the Court, withdraw the remaining charge or charges, or the Court of its own accord may stay the inquiry into, or trial of, such charge or charges and such withdrawal shall have the effect of an acquittal on such charge or charges, unless the conviction be set aside, in which case the said Court (subject to the order of the Court setting aside the conviction) may proceed with the inquiry into, or trial of, the charge or charges so withdrawn. The section is applicable where the accused in convicted of one of several distinct charges before the other charges are tried. It is necessary that the several charges made must be in respect of distinct offences and the section will not apply where the several charges are made under Sections 220(3), 220(4), or Section 221.

Effects of omission to frame, or absence of, or error in charge

Under Section 215 & 464 of CrPC object is to prevent failure of justice where there has been only technical breach of rules not going to the root of the case as such. The two sections read together lay down that whatever the irregularity in framing of a charge, it is not fatal unless there is prejudiced caused to the accused12. The object of the section is to prevent failure of justice where there is some breach of the rules in the formulation of the charge. However, the section also makes it clear that insignificant irregularities in stating the particulars of the offence will not affect the trial or its outcome. In order to decide whether the error or omission has resulted in a failure of justice the court should have the regards to the manner in which the accused conducted his defence & to the nature of the objection.

The object of the charge is to give an accused notice of the matter he is charged with. If the necessary information is conveyed to him and no prejudice is caused to him because of the charges, the accused cannot succeed by merely showing that the charges framed were defective. Nor could a conviction recorded on charged under wrong provisions be reversed if the accused was informed of the details of the offences committed and thus no prejudice was caused to him13. The mere omission to frame a charge or a mere defect in the charge is no ground for setting aside a conviction. Procedural laws are designed to subserve the ends of justice & not to frustrate them by mere technicalities.

Conclusion

In a criminal trial the charge is the foundation of the accusation & every care must be taken to see that it is not only properly framed but evidence is only tampered with respect to matters put in the charge & not the other matters14.

In framing a charge during a criminal trial, instituted upon a police report, the court is required to confine its attention to documents referred to under Section 17315.

The judge needs to be only convinced that there is a prime facie case, where there is no necessity to adduce reasons for framing charges. However, the magistrate is required to write an order showing reasons if he decides to discharge the accused16.

The sections dealing with charge do not mention who is to frame the charge. The provisions dealing with different types of trials however provide that it is always for the court to frame the charge. The court may alter/ add to any charge at any time before the judgment is pronounced.

But if a person has been charged, the court cannot drop it17. He has either to be convicted or acquitted18. All this has an important bearing on the administration of justice.

Footnotes

1 This procedure is followed in trials of warrant cases & trials before courts of session.

2 VC Shukla v. State through CBI 1980 Cri LJ 690, 732

3 Shiam Sunder v. Emperor, AIR 1932 Oudh 145,147

4 Sanatan Mondal v. State, 1988 Cri LJ 238 (Cal)

5 Aftab Ahmad Khan v. State of Hyderabad, AIR 1954 SC 436

6 Willie Slaney v. State of MP, AIR 1956 SC 116

7 Chunnoo v. State, AIR 1954 ALL 795

8 Ranchhod Lal v. State of MP, AIR 1965 SC 1248

9 See Supra Note 11

10 Kantilal Chandulal Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, (1969) 3 SCC 166

11 Harihar Chakravorthy v. State of W.B., AIR 1954 SC 266

12 Kailash Gir v. V.K. Khare, Food Inspector, 1981 Cri LJ 1555, 1556 (MP)

13 SS Rout v. State of Orissa, 1991 Cri LJ 1595

14 Ramakrishna Redkar v. State of Maharashtra, 1980 Cri LJ 254 (Bom)

15 State of J&K v. Sudershan Chakkar, (1995) 4 SCC 181

16 Omvati v. State (Delhi Admn.), (2001) 4 SCC 38

17 State of Maharashtra v. B.K. Subbarao, 1993 Cri LJ 368 (Del)

18 Prakash Chander v. State (Delhi), 1995 Cri LJ 368 (Del)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions