Depending upon the gravity of offences and their punishment, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 divides criminal trials into Magisterial trial and Sessions trial. The first schedule to the Cr.P.C. specifies the offences punishable under Indian Penal Code, 1860, triable either in Magistrates’ Courts or in Court of Session. The second part of the first schedule deals with the offence and their punishment in other laws.
Section 225-237 of the Code deals with the procedure for a trial before a Court of Session. A session trial is coupled with arguments, evidence and cross-examinations. A sessions’ trial can be conducted in the following stage:
A trial is initiated by the prosecution who tries to prove the guilt of the accused through evidence. Section 225 of the Code lays down that the case of prosecution shall be conducted by a Public Prosecutor where the trial is before a Court of Session. A Public Prosecutor is a person appointed under section 24 of the Code and includes any person who is acting under the directions of such prosecutor. As per section 226 of the Code requires a public prosecutor to open his case by describing the charges against the accused and must also state the evidence through which the prosecution will prove the guilt of the accused.
An accused may be discharged at the initial stage of a sessions’ trial. Section 227 empowers the Judge to discharge an accused if after consideration of the documents and records submitted against the accused and after hearing the prosecution and accused, the judge finds that there is no sufficient ground to proceed against the accused. The section aims to ensure that a person is not harassed unnecessarily by the means an unnecessary prolonged criminal trial. In Sushil Ansal v. State,it was held that an order of discharge may be passed only where the Court is almost certain that there is no prospect of conviction and that the time of the Court need not be wasted by holding a trial. The Court while discharging an accused is required to record the reasons for such discharge. The Court in the case of Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co., explained the importance of the bare words ‘there is no sufficient ground for proceeding’ used in section 227. These words mean that no reasonable person could come to the conclusion that there is ground whatsoever to sustain the charge against the accused.
Difference between discharge and acquittal
A discharge under section 227 is different from the acquittal. The cases State of Maharashtra v. B.K. Subba Rao and Tulsa Bai v. State of Madhya Pradesh,explains the difference between the two. In the former case, it was held that after the stage of framing a charge there can be only one of the two conclusions to the trial, either the accused is convicted or acquitted. If after framing of charge, no evidence is led on the basis of which the Court could convict the accused, then only an order of acquittal can be passed, and not of discharge. The latter case explained, before framing a charge, the Court needs not undertake an elaborate enquiry. It needs only to consider whether no sufficient ground exists for proceedings against the accused. If it is so found, the accused will be discharged otherwise charge shall be framed and the accused be put to trial.
The initial stage of the trial ends with the framing of charge against the accused. the Court after considering all the records and the documents and the hearing of the prosecution and accused believes that there exists sufficient ground that the accused has committed an offence, shall frame the charge against the accused in writing. In Perm Kumar v. the State of Karnataka, it was held that before framing a charge, the Court should properly evaluate the material and documents placed before it and apply its mind to find out whether any fact in the FIR or statements of witnesses disclosed the ingredients of the alleged offence. As per section 228 (2) of Cr.P.C., every charge framed shall be read and explained to accused. In Suresh Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was held that an accused is entitled to a copy of the statement of the complainant before framing the charge.
Under section 229 of Cr.P.C. an accused may plead guilty before the Court and upon such pleading, the Court on his discretion may convict the accused. The accused should plead guilty by his own mouth and not through his pleader or counsel.Any admission made by his pleader is not binding on him. The plea of guilty only amounts to an admission that the accused committed the acts alleged against him. It is not an admission of guilt under any particular section of the criminal statute.
Where the accused refuses or does not plead guilty, the Court is required to fix a date for the examination of witnesses. And on such date, the Court shall take the evidence which may be produced by the prosecution. A witness will be examined orally. A judge under section 231 (2) may defer the cross-examination of any witness and may also recall any witness for further cross-examination.
It is the last stage of the trial where the accused is either convicted or acquitted. Under section 232 of the Code, an accused can be acquitted if the Court after hearing both the parties and considering all the evidence, considers that there no evidence which proves the commission of the alleged offence by the accused.If the accused is not acquitted then the Judge calls upon him to enter on his defence. This provision is mandatory. An omission on the part of the Judge to do so occasions failure of justice. The accused in his defence may apply for issue of any process to compel the attendance of any witness or production any documents. A Judge is required to consider all such application but can also refuse it if the Judge has reasons to believe that such application is vexatious or is made for the purpose of defeating the ends of justice.
A Court after hearing the arguments shall pronounce the judgment under section 235 of the Code. An accused may be either acquitted or convicted. The acquittal will be done as per the procedure embodied under section 232 but the judgment for conviction will be pronounced in accordance with section 235. A judge shall pass the sentence of conviction according to law.
Session Trial in Other Nations
Court of Session in Bangladesh
The Court of Session in Bangladesh is basically a lower court which deals with criminal cases. The Criminal Procedure of Bangladesh empowers the government to establish in every district and metropolitan city, a session court. There are two types of Session Court in Bangladesh:
- District Sessions Courts
- Metropolitan Sessions Courts
A session court is presided by a judge and has the power to try criminal offences as may be authorized and pass any sentence authorized by law. However, a Session Court can pass a death sentence only after with the confirmation of the High Court Division.
Court of Session in Malaysia
A Court of Session in Malaysia is empowered to try all the offences except those which are punishable by death. A session court enjoys a wider jurisdiction than that of a Magistrate Court. A session court is presided by a Judge appointed on the recommendations of Chief Judges. A Session Court in Malaysia is only barred to pronounce a death penalty and it can pass any sentence including imprisonment for life.
 Sushil Ansal v. State, 2002 Cr LJ 1369 (Del).
 Century Spinning &Manufacturing Co., (1970) 72 Bom LR 585.
 State of Maharashtra v. B.K. Subba Rao, 1993 Cr LJ 2984 (Bom).
 Tulsa Bai v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1993 Cr LJ 368 (MP).
 Prem Kumar v. the State of Karnataka, 1994 Cr LJ 3641 (Knt).
 Suresh Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2002 Cr LJ 1852.
 Sursing, (1904) 6 Bom LR 861.
 Major Anand, AIR 1960 J&K 139.
 Imam Ali Khan, (1895) 23 Cal 252.