Difference Between Summon Case And Warrant Case


A trial is a process by which the court adjudges whether a person is guilty or not. A criminal trial is designed to resolve the accusation made against an individual. A trial can be grasped through understanding the procedural functioning of the criminal court, which begins with charge framing and ends with conviction or exoneration. In India, a criminal trial has to be conducted in accordance with the provisions of CrPC, 1973.

Chapter XV to XXI states the procedure for conducting the criminal trial. Such trial is of five kinds viz. complaints to Magistrate, Sessions Trial, Warrant Trial, Summons Trial, and Summary Trial. These trials have been distinguished in pursuance of the tenure of punishment for the committed offence. For instance, if the tenure of punishment does not exceed three months, it shall be categorized as a summary case provided under Chapter XXI of the code from Sections 260 to 265. Likewise, if the tenure is more than seven years of imprisonment or life imprisonment, or the death penalty, it is triable by the session’s judge and falls under the ambit of sessions trial dealt with under Chapter XVIII from Section 225 to 237.

It is pertinent to note that summons and warrant cases are also subjected to such principle, i.e. for summon cases; the tenure should not exceed two years, whereas, for warrant cases, the tenure of punishment should not be less than two years. Though the aforementioned kinds of criminal trials have been dealt with under the collective heading of “Criminal Trial”, one cannot overlook the diverse processes involved in each. Therefore, to comprehend the difference between summon cases and warrant cases in detail, it is a prerequisite to understand its nature and procedure.

Summons Case

Meaning of Summon

Summon is a legal document issued by the magistrate under Section 204 (1) (a) of the code that orders a person to appear before the court, when a complaint has been made against him. In pursuance of Section 61 of the code, summon must be in writing, duly signed by the presiding officer of that concerned court, and should bear such court’s seal. Otherwise, it would be considered to be invalid.

Reiteratively, the punishment tenure of summons cases would not exceed two years of imprisonment, which connotes the less serious nature of the case and thus, demands a speedy settlement yet without compromising the procedures of a fair trial. The procedure for the same is explained under Chapter XX of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Code of Criminal Procedure has defined summons cases under Section 2(w) as cases related to an offence, which is not a warrant case. It is pertinent to note that any offence eligible to be punished with INR 50 is perceived as summon case. The code has prescribed the procedure to be followed while dealing with such matters between Section 251 and 259. As far as the nature of the procedure is concerned, it is the same as other trials yet notably less formal so as to render speedy remedies.

Trial of Summon Case

Section 251 of the code enjoins the explanation of particulars to the accused and recording the plea of the accused by the court. The same has been affirmed in the case of State of Gujarat v. Lalit Mohan[1]. Though this provision does not mandate the framing of charges, it does mandate conveying the particulars to the accused, when he is brought before the court. However, in the case of Manbodh Biswal v. Samaru Pradhan[2], it was elucidated by the court that the provision itself provides that a trial is not vitiated merely on the grounds that this provision had not been complied with if such non-compliance has not caused any prejudice to the accused. This provision directs the magistrate to ask the accused whether he pleads guilty or has any defence to make.

If the accused pleads guilty then the subsequent Section 252 comes into play as it provides for the conviction of the accused after recording his plea and examining the witnesses of both prosecution and defence. In the case of Thangjam v. Irabot Singh[3], it was held that a joint statement by all the accused persons cannot be treated as a plea of guilty. Section 253 dealt with the procedure for convicting an accused based on his plea of guilty in his absence in petty cases.

Now the question here is, what if the accused pleads ‘not guilty’, the code addresses it under Section 254. If the accused has not been convicted on plea under Section 252 or 253, then the magistrate is bound to hear the prosecution and his witnesses. The accused cannot be acquitted without examining the witnesses of the complainant as the magistrate is duty-bound to examine all the witnesses produced by the prosecution and accused, as well. Failure to hear the accused will make the criminal trial erroneous in pursuance of Section 465. On the application of the concerned party to the case, the magistrate shall issue summon to any witnesses, and he would prepare the memorandum of the evidence under Section 274 of the code.

Following the recording of evidence under Section 254, the magistrate would look into the produced piece of evidence and adjudge whether or not to acquit the accused. If found not guilty, the magistrate may acquit the accused under Section 255, if not, then the magistrate will proceed as per Section 360 or 325 of the code and may convict him under Section 252 or 255 for the offences triable under the Chapter XX. Section 256 dealt with the procedure on the occasion of the non-appearance or death of the complainant. In the case of S. Rama Krishna v. S. Rami Reddy[4], it was held that if the representative of the deceased complainant does not appear for 15 days, the court could acquit the defendant. It is to be noted that Section 259 empowers a magistrate to convert a summon case into a warrant case.

Warrant Case

Meaning of Warrant

a warrant is an order issued to a particular person, who is obliged to apprehend the accused and produce him before the court. The object of the warrant is to bring the accused before the court, who has not appeared before the court even after the issuance of summon. The magistrate is the only competent person who can execute the order. Such order should bear the court seal and the sign of the presiding officer. Warrant case connotes the cases, wherein the committed offence is punishable for a term not less than two years. The validity of the warrant last till the date it has been cancelled by the same court.

Warrant cases are categorized under Chapter XIX and defined under Section 2(X) of the Code. A trial for a warrant case begins either with the filing of an FIR in the police station or by making a complaint before the magistrate. In a warrant case, the charge is framed against the accused. A warrant trial is based on two types of cases,

  1. On the police report
  2. Other than the police report

The procedure for a warrant case has been dealt with under Sections 238 to 250 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Trial of Warrant Case

Case instituted on a Police Report

Section 238 of the code provides that when a warrant case is filed on the police report, and the accused is brought before the magistrate, the magistrate is supposed to comply with the proviso of Section 207 of the code. The subsequent Section 239 discusses when an accused shall be discharged, it provides that if the magistrate finds out that the charges framed against the accused are groundless after examining the police report, and the associated documents have been under Section 173 and considering all relevant arguments of the parties. In the case of Century Spinning and Manufacturing Co. Ltd v. State of Maharashtra[5], it was held by the court that this provision under CrPC has to be read with Section 240. It is the duty of the court to frame charges and, therefore, the court must consider over the matter judiciously. 

Section 240 dealt with the framing of charges after examination and consideration. If the magistrate is of the opinion that there are adequate grounds to believe that the accused has committed the offence, he shall frame a charge in writing against the accused. It is pertinent to note that Section 240 not only authorizes a magistrate to consider the police report and the associated documents sent under Section 173 but also to examine the accused at his discretion.

As like Section 252, which provides for the conviction of the accused on the plea of guilty in summon cases, Section 241 is for warrant case. The subsequent Section 242 provides the procedure for instances where the accused pleads ‘not guilty. In pursuance of the aforementioned provision, the magistrate shall fix the date for the examination of witnesses of both parties. In extenso, Section 242 has dealt with evidence of the prosecution, whereas the procedure for producing defence counsel evidence is explained under Section 243 of the code.

Cases instituted other than on Police reports

Section 244 to 247 of Chapter XIX is exclusively dedicated to dealing with the procedure for warrant cases trial instituted other than on a police report. Section 244 addresses the magistrate’s duty to ask the prosecution to produce witnesses to be examined before closing evidence and framing the charge. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the magistrate is under no obligation to summon any witness on his own as the onus is on the prosecution to do so.

Section 245 elucidates when the accused shall be discharged. Court has explicated the same in the case of Muhammad v. Balkrishna[6] that this Section does not clothe the Magistrate with any arbitrary power of discharge; rather, there must be ground or material records to conclude that no offence is made out. Thus, if all the evidence that has been produced by the prosecution within 4 years of the institution of the case does not create any reasonable ground to discharge the accused, then the magistrate at his discretion can acquit the accused. Per contra, if the magistrate believes after considering the evidence that a reasonable ground is there, which indicates that the accused has committed the offence, Section 246 becomes operative as it provides for the procedure where the accused is not discharged. The continued provision, Section 247 has dealt with the evidence for the defence; this takes place only after the framing of charges, where the accused would be given a chance to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. Conclusively, just like every other trial, the warrant trial also ends with acquittal or conviction of the accused pursuant to Section 248 of the code.

Difference Between Summon Case And Warrant Case

Points of difference Summon Case Warrant Case
Punishment Tenure Less than two years of imprisonment More than two years of imprisonment
Procedure Dealt with under Chapter –XX of CrPC from Section 252 to 259. Dealt with under Chapter – XIX of CrPC from Section 238 to 250.
Charge Framing Framing of charges against the accused is not necessarily to be done. But, only the particulars must be conveyed to the accused. Framing of Criminal charges against accused person is mandatorily to be done.
Object It notifies the accused person that he is legally obliged to appear in court. It brings the accused person before the court, who has ignored the summon has been duly issued to him.
Content It instructs to produce the relevant documents and others before the court. In general, it authorizes a police officer to bring the accused person before the court.
Discharge of the accused person, when? ·  Absence of the complainant.

· On the death of the complainant.

·  Absence of the complainant.

·  If no charges are framed.

·  If the offence is non-cognizable and compoundable.

Conversion of case A summon case can be converted into a warrant case. By no mean, a warrant case can be cannot be converted into summon case


In a nutshell, the procedure of trial in a warrant case begins with a provision insisting a magistrate to comply with Section 207, discharge of accused, framing of charge, conviction on a plea of guilt, trial on a plea of not guilty, evidence of prosecution and defence, discharge of accused and acquittal or conviction of the accused. The procedure for summon case is similar to that of the procedure of trial in warrant case, but the only core facet that makes difference in every aspect of the trial is that the nature of the offence, i.e. seriousness of the offence is less in summon case, whereas in warrant case, the offence is grievous.


  • https://blog.ipleaders.in/summon-case-crpc/#_ftnref4
  • https://legalformatsindia.com/types-of-criminal-trials/
  • https://blog.ipleaders.in/69101-2/#:~:text=is%20not%20sufficient. ,Warrants,must%20sign%20the%20written%20warrant.
  • https://www.ejusticeindia.com/trial-of-summon-cases-by-magistrate/
  • https://legalpaathshala.com/summons-case-and-warrant-case/

[1] 1991 Cr. L.J. 2341 (Guj).

[2] 1980 Cr.  L.J. 1023 (Orissa).

[3] (1961) 2 Cr. L.J. 583.

[4] 2008 Cri LJ 2625 (SC)

[5] A.I.R. 1972 S.C. 545.

[6] (1964) 2 Cr. L.J. 92.

Snegapriya V S

A third-year student of law at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT School of Law), budding first-generation lawyer cum legal researcher with multiple publications in various web journals and portals on different subject matters of law in issue. Being a zealous-natured person with thoughts enrooted in epistemophilia has boosted my passion for research writings by interpreting diversified legal facets. As a perceptive observer and reader, I pay greater attention to the overlooked legal fields where divergent challenges might arise, that include cyber law, environmental law, consumer law, and several constitutional provisions. Besides, I prioritize construing legal problems with social psychology. My dream and vision are to catch myself as a skilled legal adroit.