Is A Defective Charge Necessarily Fatal To Convictions?

Charge is defined under section 2 (b) of the Code of criminal procedure (CrPC), which says “charge” includes any head of charge when the charge contains more heads than one. When someone files a formal complaint or gives information against the offender or accused, then the court or magistrate recognise them in a concrete form of accusations as specified in the acts or statutes. This is done only because, the accused must be informed of all the charges precisely and clearly in the beginning[1], so he/she also can prepare for defence.

Basic procedures

First requirement is to form the criminal charges in a precise statement. Chapter xvii of CrPC deals with charges. Section 211 and 212 of Cr.P.C. talks about the contents and particular of charges respectively. Section 213, when manner of committing offence must be stated, like when, where and how the incident/case happened or took place. Section 214 talks about the rule of interpreting the words used in the charge. Contents of charges are required for any criminal trials and judges focusses mostly on them.[2] Only by writing the specific sections to accuse a person without substantiating them is a serious breach of procedure. The language of the charges must be in the official language of the court.

Section 228 which says when the court becomes assure about the charges and facts substantiating them, and there are no fraudulent or erroneous accusations then the framing of charges will be prepared, focussing on the fact that there should be a prima facie case against the accused. As there are no specific tests for the cases, it may differ or depend on the facts of the cases. Honourable supreme court of India has laid down the doctrine as to when the framing of charges should take place, Union of India V. Prafulla Kumar.

Defect in charges and its effect

Sometimes few errors or irregularities are made in while framing the charges either deliberately or by mistake will not be considered material at any stage of the in the case. In the cases where these types of errors have been made and to prevent the failure in imparting justice, there are provisions under sections 215 and 464 of Cr.P.C. to deal with this technical breach of the rules. These two sections together say that or used to prevent the irregularities and says no such irregularities is fatal to the convictions unless there are some prejudiced caused to the accused.

The purpose of these section is to avoid or prevent any possibility of unjust outcome or failure of justice. These sections also say that insignificant errors in the formulation of charges will not affect the trial or its outcome. Court can also take the arguments and the ways of defence opted or presented by the accused party into consideration to analyse whether there is the failure of justice or not in that respective case.

One of the purposes of the charge is to inform or notice the accused of all the issues he is charged with. And as when there are insignificant errors or defects in the formulation of charges then technical defect immaterial if no prejudice caused.[3] In the case of Suresh Chandra V. State of West Bengal, it was held that it is only when prejudice is caused to accused in defending himself, that benefit of such defect can be given to accused.[4] When no prejudice caused in the outcome of the cases because of the defects in the charges, the accused cannot defend on the fact on the mere presence of defects in the charge.


It is evident that sometime the defects in the charges leads to fatal convictions. In some cases when the court finds any defects in the charges, then the court tests or analyse the facts that whether the accused person was informed of all the charges precisely and clearly or not, whether the presence of the defects has caused prejudice in the outcome, whether the accused had fair trial or not. When the insignificant technical defects do not affect or prejudice the outcome, then the convict/ accused cannot defend on the ground that there were defects in the charges. So, in few cases the defective charge necessarily fatal to convictions, and sometime its presence does not affect.

[1]VC Shukla v. State through CBI 1980 Cri LJ 690, 732

[2]Balakrishnan, (1958) Ker 283.

[3] Chaturdas Bhagwandas Patel V. State of Gujarat, (1976) 3 SCC (Cri) 351

[4] Suresh Chandra Jana V. State of West Bengal (2017) 16 SCC 466

This Article Written by B. D. Rao Kundan, 1st year, BA.LL.B. (H) Student of the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Punjab.

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