In chapter 17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the charge is mentioned where the content of charges, types of charge, etc. are mentioned from section 211 to section 224. However, there is no definition of the charge mentioned in the act but in simple language, the charge is the notice where an accused person is informed about the offenses that he has committed against the other person.
In V.C. Shukla vs. State through C.B.I, 1979[i], the court has stated that “Charge serves the purpose of notice or intimation to the accused, drawn up according to the specific language of the law, giving clear and unambiguous or precise notice of the nature of accusation that the accused is called upon to meet in the course of a trial.” For instance, A is accused of murdering B, out of revenge, so in this case,before he appears in the trial court he will be made informed about the charges that are implemented on him so that he can provide arguments for being innocent during the trial.
Contents of the charge
As per section 211 and 212 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the contents of the charges are related to informing the accused against which he is charged. The following are the requirements for every charge[ii]:
- The charge should be mentioned in the name according to that name only which is specified in the law.
- If there is no specific name to the law, so in order to inform the accused against which he is charged, the definition of the offense must be stated.
- The accused must be informed against which law and section he is charged.
- The accused against which he is charged should be fulfilled as the charge is equivalent to the statement and in every law, it has to be followed.
- It should be written in the language in which the court operates.
- If the accused is being charged or convicted for any previous case, all the laws and sections under which he is charged or convicted must be added in the charge.
- There should be the mention of the place, time and other related particulars against whom an offense has taken place, at what place and time it took place.
- When an offense is related to the breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of money or other movable property, the gross amount and the description of the property with the date, time and place are sufficient for constituting a charge. And if a charge does not include the item or specific date so as per section 219 the charge will be considered of one offense.
- A is charged under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), with voluntarily causing grievous hurt to B by means of an instrument for shooting. This is equivalent to a statement that the case was not provided for by section 335 of the said Code, and that the general exceptions did not apply to it.
- A is charged under section 184 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) with intentionally obstructing a sale of property offered for sale by the lawful authority of a public servant. The charge should be in those words.
However, as per section 213 of the Act, if as per section 211 and 212 is not sufficient to inform the accused against which he is charged so, the manner in which the alleged act has taken place should be mentioned. For instance, A is accused of giving false evidence at a given time and place. The charge must set out that portion of the evidence given by A which is alleged to be false.
Can the charge against which the accused is charged be altered?
As per section 216, the court can alter the charge against which the accused is charged before any judgment. The followings are the requirements after the alteration or addition of the charge:
- After every alteration or addition, the accused must be read and explained.
- If the trial is going to proceed and such charge is being altered the court may on its discretion proceed as if it is the original charge.
- If the alteration of the charge is such that the court cannot proceed so in this case, the court may adjourn the proceeding or direct a new date for the prosecutor or the accused.
- If any offense that is mentioned and alteration or addition of charge is made and for the proceeding of the court sanction is required. So in this case, the court will not proceed until sanction has been obtained.
Is the prosecutor or accused allowed to recall the witness after such alteration or addition in the charge?
As per section 217 of the Act[iii], after alteration or addition of the charge, the court may order the prosecutor or the accused to may recall witness and examine as per such changes. The accused can also re-call witness for the purpose of vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justice. And also they can further call the witness as the court may think required.
How should a charge be formed for distinct offenses?
As per section 218 of the Act, if an accused has caused offense of distinctive nature then a different charge for every offense should be maintained. For instance, A is accused of a theft on one occasion, and of causing grievous hurt on another occasion. A must be separately charged and separately tried for the theft and causing grievous hurt.
However, as per section 219 of the Act, if a person has committed more than one offense of the same kind within the gap of 12 months against the person or not, he will be charged and tried under one offense. And offenses are of the same kind when they are punishable with the same amount of punishment under the same section of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or of any special or local law.
Under which offense the accused can be charged jointly?
As per section 223 of the Act, the following are the offense under which the accused can be charged jointly:
- When the accused person causes the same offense in the same transaction.
- When a person is accused of abetment, or attempt to commit, in such offenses.
- When a person is accused of the same kind under section 219 of the Act within the gap of 12 months.
- A person accused of different offenses within the same transactions.
- A person accused of theft, extortion, cheating, or criminal misappropriation, and receiving, or retaining, disposal or concealment of property.
- When a person is accused under section 411 and 414 of the IPC or either, for a stolen property whose possession has been transferred.
- When a person is accused under Chapter 12 of the IPC in relation to counterfeit of the coin.
However, as per section 224 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the complainant or the officer of the prosecution with the consent of the court may order for withdrawal of the charges if the charged which is formed so consists of more than one head. And court on its discretion may order for stay of trial or inquiry which will result into the acquittal of the accused.
The Charge is a document where an accused is being informed about the laws and sections under which he is charged. The courts also get the knowledge about the offenses which he has committed and on the basis of the charge, the prosecutor and accuser provide a witness for the punishment of the accused and for acquittal of the accused.
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