Procedure of Trial before Magistrate
Chapter 20 of the code of criminal procedure which consists of Ss. 241-250 provides the procedure for the trial of cases by Magistrate. The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 are meant to be obeyed and the courts are not expected to ignore its provisions in the hope that they might find shelter u/s. 535 and 537. Where the trial is conducted in a manner not authorized by law and the rules of procedure relating to the matters of fundamental character, the decision in such a trial whether of conviction or acquittal is of little consequence and the entire proceedings must be set aside irrespective of any question of prejudice to anyone.
Procedure in trial of cases
The following procedure shall be observed by magistrate in the trial of cases,.
Supply of statements and documents to the accused
241-A calls upon the Magistrate to supply of copies of statements of all witnesses recorded under ss. 161 and 164 and the inspection note recorded by I.O on his first visit to the place of occurrence, free of cost to the accused not less than seven days before the commencement of trial. This procedure is to be adopted in all cases instituted upon police report, except those tried summarily, or punishable with fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months. In complaint cases copies of the complaint along with all other documents filed with it, has to be supplied to the accused.
charge to be framed
Framing of charge means commencement of trial. Section 242 is mandatory provision which provides that charge would be framed and the particulars of alleged offence should be explained to accused to enable him to know about the charge against him which he would have to face during the trial to defend himself. Presence of accused in court at time of framing of charge is essential and mandatory.
Conviction on admission of truth of accusation
S.243 relates to making of admission by accused of offence of which he is accused. It has two conditions firstly the admission of the accused should be recorded as nearly as possible in the words used by him, secondly, opportunity should be given to him to show cause why he should not be convicted. Forthwith conviction of the accused on basis of his confession is not sustainable.
procedure when no admission is made
When no admission is made or the Magistrate does not convict the accused under the preceding section, Magistrate is to proceed to hear the complainant and take all such evidence as may be produced in support of prosecution, he is also required to hear the accused and the defence he produces. Section 244 makes it obligatory on Magistrate to hear accused and record his evidence after prosecution evidence is recorded.
Statement made u/s 164
S.244-A permits treatment of statement recorded u/s 164, if it was made in the presence of accused and was given an opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
Acquittal or sentence
Section 245 empowers the Magistrate to acquit the accused upon taking evidence as referred to in S. 244 and such further evidence as he may cause to be produced, if he finds the accused not guilty. Magistrate after recording evidence and examining accused can record acquittal as provided under this section, however, magistrate has no jurisdiction to pass an order of acquittal without examining the complainant or without looking into police record or without examining material prosecution witnesses.
On the other hand, in case the Magistrate does not proceed in accordance with the provisions of 349, he shall, if finds the accused guilty, pass sentence upon him according to law.
Procedure in case of previous Conviction
In such a case where a previous conviction is charged under the provisions of sub-section (7) of S. 221, if the accused does not admit that he has been previously convicted as alleged in the charge, the magistrate after convicting the accused takes evidence in respect of previous alleged conviction and shall record a finding thereon.
Non appearance of Complainant
Section 247 gives discretion to the court to acquit the accused in case of non-prosecution of complaint unless the Magistrate for some reason thinks proper to adjourn the hearing. However, second proviso to S. 247 days down that the complaint would not be dismissed in absence of complainant and accused cannot be deemed to be acquitted if he is charged with cognizable or non- compoundable offence.
Withdraw of complaint
Section 248 provides that if a complainant before a final order is passed satisfies the magistrate that there are sufficient grounds for permitting him to withdraw his complaint, the magistrate permit him to withdraw his complaint. This section is applicable only in those cases where the trial has commenced. Withdraw of complaint under this section would result in acquittal of accused.
Power to stop proceedings when no complainant
In any case instituted otherwise than upon complaint a Magistrate of the first class, may for reasons to be recorded by him stop the proceedings at any stage without pronouncing any judgment either of acquittal or conviction, and may thereupon release the accused. The stoppage of proceedings under this section is not an acquittal to bar further proceedings. S. 403 Cr.P.C has been specifically made inapplicable.
Power of Magistrate to acquit accused at any stage of trial
S.249-A Cr.P.C empowers the Magistrate to acquit accused at any stage of the trial and the only requirements to be fulfilled are firstly that hearing is to be given to prosecution and secondly reasons are to be recorded that charge has become groundless or there is no probability that accused will be convicted. It is very much clear that application can be filed at any stage of the proceeding as it is not necessary that such application should be filed after recording of prosecution evidence.