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What Is Summary Trials Under CrPC? Explain The Procedure Of It.

INTRODUCTION

The term “Trial” has not been defined under any law. However, it can be referred to as “the hearing of statements and showing of objects, etc. in a law court to judge if a person is guilty of a crime or to decide a case or a legal matter.”[1]

In other words, a Trial means a formal examination of all pieces of evidence by a court in order to decide the guilt and offences in the case of Criminal Proceedings.

The trial is applied in those proceedings in which the court is empowered to either convict or acquit the accused person for an offence. The Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 provides for the procedure for Trials. The procedure of trial is divided into 3 parts i.e. Summons Case, Warrant Case, and Summary Trial.

Summons and Warrant cases are considered as more serious and risky as opposed to offences that can be triable summarily. This article discusses about what Summary Trials is and how it is conducted.

SUMMARY TRIALS

Summary Trials refers to a trial where the case is disposed of speedily in a short-cut procedure. It is regarded as a simplified version of regular trials.

This provision is loosely based on the maxim “JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED”.

This form of trial was introduced in order to lessen the burden of the courts and to ensure that petty cases which require less time for inquiry, don’t get delayed for a long time while dealing with more serious and complicated cases that need thorough investigation.

Only experienced judicial officers are empowered to hold trials summarily, as these trials are considered quite risky.

The legal provisions for Summary Trials are dealt with in chapter 21 from Section 260 to Section 265 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

WHO CAN TRY SUMMARILY?

The answer to the above question is provided in Section 260(1)[2] which bestows the power to hold a summary trial on:

  1. Any Chief Judicial Magistrate;
  2. Any Metropolitan Magistrate;
  3. A Judicial Magistrate of the First Class, only with the permission granted by the High Court to carry out such duty.

According to Section 261 of the Code, the High Court can confer on any Judicial Magistrate of the Second Class the power to try summarily. However, the offence must be punishable only with a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months with or without a fine.

This also includes any attempt or abetment of such specified offences.

Moreover, if any magistrate, who is not empowered to try summarily, holds a summary trial, the proceedings will be void as per clause (m) of Section 461[3].

OFFENCES TRIABLE IN A SUMMARY WAY

The procedure of Summary Trials cannot be implemented in all the offence under the law, as it may cause serious issues in providing proper justice. So, only petty cases are allowed to be tried summarily.

Therefore, an empowered magistrate may try all or any of the following offences:

  1. Any Offence that cannot be punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment that exceeds two years.
  2. The offence of “Theft” provided under Section 379, Section 380, and Section 381 in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 when the worth of the stolen property is not more than 2000 rupees.
  3. When a person has received or retained a stolen property whose value is not more than 2000 rupees, as per Section 411 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  4. As per Section 414[4], in any offence where there is the  concealment or disposing of a  stolen property, whose value is more than 2000 rupees,
  5. Offences that are provided under Section 454[5] and section 456[6].
  6. Under Section 504[7], a case where a person insults someone in order to provoke a breach of peace, or under Section 506[8], try to criminally intimidate can be punished with a fine, or imprisonment that can be extended to 2 years or both.
  7. The abetment of any of the offenses mentioned above.
  8. If there is any attempt made to carry out one of the aforesaid offences and such an attempt is an offence has a penalty.
  9. Any act that can be regarded as an offence if committed, for which a complaint can be made as per Section 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871.

Clause (1) also refers to all the offences under the Indian Penal Code or any other Specific Enactment.[9]

PROCEDURE OF SUMMERY TRIALS

The procedure as to how a summary trials can be held is stated in Section 262 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Clause (1) of Section 262 provides that a summary trial has to follow the procedure specified for a summons case except stated otherwise.

As per this procedure, a Summary Trials also starts with the lodging of an FIR at a Police Station. After investigating and collecting the relevant evidence, a police report or charge-sheet is made.

The accused is then summoned to the court and the particulars of the charges are orally conveyed to the accused person. In a Summons case and Summary Trials, the charges are not framed written down.

Thereafter, if the accused pleads guilty, their statement is recorded and put forward for conviction by the Magistrate.

However, if the accused doesn’t plead guilty to the offence, the trial proceedings are continued. Both sides of the Prosecution and the Defense get the opportunity to plead their case before the Court.

Witnesses are called from both sides. Their statements are briefly recorded unlike in other trials where it is recorded in full detail.

It should be noted that in summary trials, it’s not a requirement that the evidence must be recorded entirely; a brief outline of it is enough. And after all the examination of evidence, the magistrate either orders for conviction or acquits the accused.

PUNISHMENT

Clause (2) of Section 262[10] specifies the punishment which must not exceed 3 months of imprisonment. However, there is no restriction as regards the amount of fine that can be imposed on the accused as per the law.

In Ashgar Ali[11] case, it was held that if there is a default of payment of the fine imposed by the court, the magistrate has the discretion to impose another term of imprisonment in addition to the earlier sentence of imprisonment of 3 months.

Although the offences mentioned under Clause (2) and Clause (6) are considered as Warrant Cases, it was considered for the better to try these as summarily so as to avoid indulging in the more complicated procedure prescribed for warrant cases.

RECORD IN SUMMARY TRIALS

In a summary case, the Magistrate has to enter some particulars so as to form a record as per the directions prescribes by the State Government.

The procedure for the same is mentioned in Section 263[12]. The following are those particulars:

  1. The serial number of the case;
  2. The date when the offence was commissioned:
  3. The date of the report or the complaint;
  4. The name of the complainant, if any;
  5. The name, residence, and parentage of the accused person;
  6. The commissioned offence for which the complaint has been filed and any proven offence (if any);
  7. If Any case regarding the value of the property in respect of which the offence has been commissioned, falls under Clauses  (ii),  (iii) or  (iv) of Section 260 (1);
  8. The plea of the accused and his examination;
  9. The finding of the Court of Justice;
  10. The sentence or any other final order by the Court;
  11. The date when the proceedings concluded.

The above particulars have to be filled by the Magistrate themselves and, not by the clerk of any other staff of the court and signature should be done in writing and not impressed by stamp[13].

Judgment and Language in Summary Trials

Section 264[14] provides the proviso as to how a judgment has to be declared in summary trials.

The section states that in summary trials, where the accused has been found not guilty of the offence, the concerned Magistrate has to record the substance of the evidence and give a judgment which must contain a brief statement of the reasons for the finding.

The nature and substance of the case, as well as the reasons for the finding, must be given properly in the judgment so that in case of an appeal or revision, it would be easier for the court to check whether the findings are correct and legal. This was also discussed in the case of Sankaran Unni Vasudevan Unni vs Rasheed and Anr.[15]

According to Section 265(1), every record must be written in the language of the court.

The High Court has the discretion to empower any Magistrate who can try summarily to make the aforesaid record and judgment, with the help of an officer delegated by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. And the Magistrate must sign the prepared record and judgment.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Judiciary system is heavily burdened with a number of cases from petty ones to the rarest of rare cases. Most of these take a long period to resolve as investigation and collection of every piece of evidence can be very time-consuming work.

This can lead to hindrance in Fair Trial which is a basic right of every person. In order to prevent this, the concept of a Summary Trial was necessary to be implemented as it will not only lessen the burden of courts but also provide timely justice to the people.

[1] Cambridge Dictionary, “Trial”.

[2] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[3] Chapter 35, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[4] Chapter 17, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[5] ibid.

[6] Chapter 17, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[7] Chapter 22, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[8] ibid at (7).

[9] Prakash Chand V.State,  1977 Cri LJ 1674, 1675 (HP).

[10] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[11] Asghar Ali,  (1883) 6 All 61.

[12] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[13] Subramanya Ayyar Vs The Queen, (1883) ILR 6 Mad 396.

[14] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[15] 1980 CriLJ 304,306 (Ker).

This Article is Authored by Shruti Sudha Samantaray, 3rd Year, BA LLB (HONS) Student at University Law College, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. 

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