Chapter XX Section 252 -259 of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribes the procedure for trial of warrant cases. Summons cases are defined in Section2(w) of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 as a case relating to the offence, not being a warrant case. The warrant cases are offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment exceeding two years, whereas in summons cases it is relatively less serious and the trial procedure in such cases is not detailed and formal as in warrant cases.[i]
Summons is a document that orders a person to whom it was sent to appear before the Court and answer the Magistrate on the complaint made against him. And it is issued by the Magistrate under Section 204(1) (a) of Cr.P.C,1973.
Summons case into a warrant case
A summons case can be converted into a warrant case however a warrant case cannot be transferred into a summons case. When the charge of both cases is considered, the warrant case is preferred as it is the more serious offence compared to summons case. In the warrant case, it is punishable with death and life imprisonment and imprisonment exceeding two years, in case of summons case it is a case relating to offence and not being a warrant case.
The Procedure of Trial In Summons Cases
The following are the prescribed form of procedure in summons cases:
Section 251 – Explaining the substance of allegation to the accused
When an accused appears before the court, the allegations made against him shall be explained to him. But under this section, it is not mandatory to frame the charge against him. The Court will ask the accused person whether he pleads guilty or not. In Nayan Ram v. Prasanna Kumar[ii] it is held that in case if the accusation is not stated to the accused this is remediable under Section 465 of the Code.
Section 252 – The Conviction On Plea of Guilty
After explaining the allegations of the offence to the accused, if he pleads guilty then the Magistrate can record the exact words of the accused and may convict him for further proceedings. In case the accused not accepted the plea of guilty, Magistrate can proceed with Section 254.
Section 253- The Absence of Accused
If the accused before appearing the Magistrate has to plead guilty, he can send a letter by post or messenger and the letter must contain the plea of the accused also the fine amount specified in the summons. The Magistrate at his discretion convict the accused and order him to pay the fine, or if a lawyer is presented for the accused before the Magistrate and pleads guilty on behalf of accused, the Magistrate can record the words used by the lawyer and move to further proceedings.
Section 254- The Procedure When The Accused Is Not Convicted On Plea
If the accused is not convicted on plea under Section 252 and Section 253, then for prosecution and the defence part Section 254 is provided. The magistrate after hearing the accused, he calls the prosecution to open the case by presenting all the facts, circumstances related to the case and the evidence. The Magistrate on the application of prosecution issue summons to the witnesses to appear before the Court or to present any documents relating to the facts of the case. The Magistrate takes all the evidence and may be produced in support of the prosecution.
Under Section 313, the Court conducts an examination of the accused after taking the evidence of the Prosecution. The Magistrate allow the accused to present the evidence and take all evidence as he produced in his defence. On the application of the accused the Magistrate may issue summons to witnesses to appear before the Court or to present any documents.
Section 255- Acquittal or Conviction
The Magistrate after taking the entire evidence produced in the case, finds the accused is not guilty, he can order acquittal and if the Magistrate finds the accused guilty, he is required to pass sentence according to the law. However, considering the nature or circumstances of the offence and the character of the offender, the Magistrate can order for admonition or probation of good conduct under Section 360 or Section 325 of the Code.
Section 256 – Death or Non-Appearance of the Complainant
If the complainant not appeared before the court on the date fixed for appearance, the Court can acquit the accused unless the Court has reason to adjourn the case to another day. In sub section of 256, the complainant not appeared before the Court due to the death of complainant, the defendant can be acquitted. In S.Rama Krishna v. Rami Reddy[iii] it was held by the Supreme Court that in case the representative of the dead complainant not appeared for 15days then the defendant can be acquitted.
Section 257- The Withdrawal of Complaint
The complainant can withdraw the case before the final judgement by satisfying the Magistrate that there is no ground for continuing the complaint on the accused and if there is more than one accused, against all, the Magistrate allows the Complainant to withdraw the case.
Section 258- Discharge of Summons Case
Under Section258, a Magistrate of First Class with the previous sanction of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, or any other Judicial Magistrate for the reasons recorded can stop the proceedings and if the proceeding is stopped after the evidence recorded then it is a judgement of acquittal, if the proceeding is stopped before the record of evidence then it is released with the discharge of the case. In Arvind Kejriwal and Others v. Amit Sibal[iv] , held that the summons cases cannot be discharged by the Magistrate as there is no such provision in the law and the person can approach the High Court under Section 482 of Cr.P.C.
In R.K. Aggarwal v.Brig Madan Lal Nassa & Anr[v] it was held that there is no proviso of discharge of the summons case hence it can be acquittal or conviction of the accused based on the complaint.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Summons?
Summons is a document that is issued by the Magistrate compelling the person to appear before the court and answer the Magistrate regarding the complaint.
Whether a summons case converts into warrant case?
A summons case can be converted into a warrant case however a warrant case cannot be converted into a summons case.
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i] Section 2(x) of Criminal Procedure Code,1973
[ii] 1953 Cri LJ 1574
[iii] 2008 5 SCC 535
[iv] 2014 1 HighCourt Cases (Delhi) 719
[v] 2016 SCC Delhi 3720