Criminal trial – types and stages of Criminal Trial


The general understanding of the term “criminal trial” refers to an individual facing a case that is being held to find  and convict/acquit them based on the evidence so presented by the complainant and the defence.

There are three different types of Trial in India. The Criminal procedure code of India or CrPC establishes the procedure for each of them. To understand them better, we shall go through each of them in brief in the following paragraphs.

1. Criminal Trial initiated by warrant

Section 2(x) of the CrPC, defines warrant cases as one which relates to offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life and imprisonment exceeding a persion of two years. In a warrant trail, a case is initiated either with the filing of a FIR with the Police or by filing the same in front of a Magistrate. If the magistrate is convinced that the offence so alleged is punishable with an imprisonment for more than two years, they shall send the case to the court of sessions for the trial.

Stages of Criminal Trial by Warrant

  1. The very first stage of this trial is that of the FIR or First Information Report. S.154 of CrPC establishes the process of filing such a complaint or a report.
  2. Investigation is the next step, this is conducted by the investigation officer or IO. This officer is responsible for examining the facts and circumstances, collecting evidence, examining various people and taking their statements in writing and taking all then all the other necessary steps for completing the investigation and forming a conclusion. The same shall then be forwarded to the magistrate a police report.
  3. In the third step, the magistrate shall consider the police report and all other important documents, and if they are convinced that they are against the accused, the court then frames the charges.
  4. The fourth step is the pleas of guilty which the code talks about in S.241. After the framing of the charges, the accused is given the opportunity to plead guilty, and the judge has to take the responsibility for such a pleading to be made voluntarily. The judge subsequently may convict the accused upon their discretion.
  5. In the fifth step, the court asks the prosecution to produce evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. The prosecution is required to support its evidence with the statements by its witnesses. The magistrate has the jurisdiction to issue summons to any person as a witness, and may order them to produce any document.
  6. The sixth step is wherein opportunity is provided to the accused to give their statement and explain the facts and circumstances of the case. Such statements are not recorded under the oath but can be used against the accused in the trial.
  7. The seventh step, in the case wherein the accused is not acquitted, the accused is then given the opportunity to produce, in their defence, evidence for the case. The accused is permitted to submit both oral and written documentary evidence. In criminal trials in India, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, thus the accused is generally not required to give evidence in their defence.
  8. The eight step is when the Court pronounces its order, which is the final judgement, with reasons giving its support of acquittal or conviction of the accused. In case of an acquittal, the judge gives time to the prosecution to appeal against the order of the court. In the case of conviction, both parties are invited to give arguments regarding the punishment which is to be awarded.
  9. The ninth step is that of an appeal, which can be filed by a party aggrieved by the judgement within a specified period of limitation. A notice is served to the opposite party, and then, both the parties can place their arguments before the appellate court. In the case where there exists the right to appeal but the same is not availed, the sessions or the high court can entertain a revision, in its discretion to prevent a miscarrige of justice.

Criminal Trial Initiated with Summons

Section 2(w) of the CrPC defines cases wherein the punishment is less than the period of two years.  In a criminal trial, the judge is convinced that the appropriate punishment shall be a term exceeding that of two years; they shall convert the said case to a case of warrant trail and send the case to appropriate jurisdiction.

Steps to Trial initiated with Summons

  1. The first step is that of a pre trial wherein the filing of an FIR and investigation is conducted.
  2. The second step is framing of charges which are not in writing. The accused appears before the court or is brought before the same and the magistrate orally states the facts of the offence to the case.
  3. The third step comprises the magistrate asking the accused to plead guilty, or to present evidence to support their case in the case the accused pleads not guilty. If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrates records the statement in words and can convict the accused under their discretion.
  4. The fourth step is when the accused wants to plead guilty without appearing in the court, the accused can do this by sending Rs. 1000/- by post or via the lawyer to the magistrate. They are also to send a letter statement containing the acceptance of guilt and the amount of fine so provided in the summons. The magistrate has discretion to convict the accused.
  5. The fifth step is that when the accused pleads not guilty, the courtthenasks the prosecution and the defence to present evidence in support of their cases. The magistrate is empowered to take the statement of the accused.
  6. The sixth step is that of the pronouncement of the judgement by the judge, the parties to the case are not needed to argue on the amount of punishment given. The sentence is the sole discretion of the judge. Both parties have the right to appeal.

3. Summary Trial

Summary trials are those cases that generally take less than two hearings to decide the matter that comes under this chapter of the procedural code. Summary trails are generally held for offences that are not serious in nature and thus are effective in reducing the burden of the court, and also help in conserving the time and resources of the judicial apparatus. The cases in a summary trial are punishable with an imprisonment not exceeding the period of six months. If the magistrate so decides to try the case according to the provisions of summary trial, the accused cannot be awarded a judgment calling for their imprisonment for more than the period of three months.

Steps for Summary cases

  1. The procedure followed in a summary trial is very similar to that of a summons case.
  2. In the judgement of a summary trial, the judge is required to record the substance of the evidence and a brief statement of the findings of the court with reasonings.

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