Effect of a Charge Sheet on a Criminal Trial: Lawyers Advice
Every day we read in news articles and columns, that a charge sheet has been filed against a person who has committed murder or rape or any other crime so. A few days back we heard that a charge sheet was filed in the cases related to the Delhi riots. The charge sheet had names of 5 persons including Sharukh Pathan. But that raises a question, what is a charge sheet, what does it contain and why is it so important in a criminal trial. Therefore, it becomes pertinent to know about the legal implications involved in a charge sheet. Therefore, it becomes pertinent to know all about the legal implications involved in a charge sheet. This article deals with the concept of charge-sheet, the contents of charge-sheet, the use of charge-sheet, and the relevance of charge-sheet in a criminal trial.
What is a Charge Sheet?
A charge sheet is a final report showing the names of each person brought into custody, the identity of the accusers, the nature of their accusations, and all other stringent records from the beginning of the investigation procedure from registering the FIR till the completion of investigation and preparation of the final report. It is usually prepared and submitted by the police officer to magistrates, for proving the accusation of a crime in a criminal court of law. It is filed under Section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code, after completing the necessary investigation of an offense.
The charge sheet or often termed as Challan, after it gets submitted to the court acts as a report that informs the magistrate that on investigating the offense sufficient evidence was found for the court to decide as to who among the accused is the prima facie culprit for a crime. After considering the charge sheet and other findings of records, the magistrate frames the charge against the accused, whether to plead guilty or not.
The charge sheet, however, is distinct from the First Information Report (FIR). It is the formal police record showing the details of the accused and the charges framed against him, while the FIR is the core document that describes the main offense that took place. The investigating officer files the charge sheet. The charge sheet includes FIR, police report containing names of the accused and witnesses, etc. After receiving the charge sheet, the magistrate takes cognizance of the case and proceeds the trial.
Contents of a Charge Sheet
Charge-sheet contains information specifying the the charges imposed on the accused, details about the accused and the witness, etc. The charge sheet is made under section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code. Contents of a charge sheet are-
• Names of the parties
• Nature of information
• Names of the person who are familiar with the case
• Details of the person by whom the crime has been committed
• Information of the accused against his/her arrest
• Information regarding the person sent to the custody in compliance with section 170.
The time required for filing the charge sheet is 60 days from the date of arrest of the accused in cases where it has to be triable by lower courts and within 90 days where the case has to be triable by the sessions court. Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur of the Supreme Court in the case of Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam (201715 SCC 67) after reviewing the entire case held that ”since even after fulfilling all the requirements of obtaining default bail, the petitioner was put in custody of more than 60 days and no charge sheet was filed against him and submitted for a bail application, has to be relased on reasonable conditions and terms of bail”. Justice Gupta also held in this case that, ”Section 167(2)(a)(ii) will apply in cases where the offenses are punishable with a minimum sentence of 10 years or less than 10 years where the maximum punishment is not death or life imprisonment and the accused will be entitled to grant of default bail after 60 days, in case charge-sheet is not filed”.
After the investigation is completed, the report has to be forwarded to the magistrate and if the police officer has obtained sufficient evidence to produce the accused in front of the magistrate, he/she has to forward all documents and information on which the prosecution has relied on during investigation and also accompanying it with the statements of the witnesses recorded under section 161.
In R. P. Kapur v. State of Punjab (AIR 1960 SC 866) observed that a charge sheet has to be sent as soon as possible to the magistrate once the investigation is complete and there should be no unnecessary delays made. Court further elaborated on this issue and observed that if the investigating officer finds that if the complaint against the accused has been made on the false facts or there is not sufficient evidence to make the person liable, then in those circumstances, the charge sheet is not bound to be filed. Also in these circumstances, the police or the investigating officer will inform the informant about the consequences and actions taken on him/her, for giving the wrong or incorrect information.
Relevance of Charge Sheet
When the investigating officer has completed his/her investigation, they are required to submit it to the magistrate as soon as possible. The filing of the charge sheet is the first step in a criminal trial. It is pertinent for us to know the procedure for filing the charge sheet, as it sets the trial in motion. The following is the procedure for filing of a charge sheet-
• Filing of the First Information Report: After the complainant or the informant files a complaint at the police station. If the complaint is regarding a non-cognizable offense, the police will not register an FIR and will ask the complainant to approach the court. However, if the complaint is regarding a cognizable offense, the police will register an FIR under section 154 of Criminal Procedure Code. After registering the FIR a detailed investigation is done by the officers in charge and recording of statements from witnesses, search and seizure of documents and other collection of evidence including documentary or medical evidence is being done.
• Investigation of the case in Non-Cognizable Offences: In a cognizable offense officer can start the investigation and must prepare a charge sheet after the investigation is completed. While in a non- cognizable offense, the investigating officer will refer the informant to the magistrate having proper jurisdiction to initiate the proceedings by pursuance from the court. If the investigating officer finds that the report could be under the purview of section 2 (d) and section 190(1) (a) of the code and opposed to section 155 (2), then the case involves a commission of a non-cognizable offense. However, if it is found that the investigating officer was aware that the case involved the commission of a non-cognizable offense, the report will not be treated as a complaint under section 2(h) or section 190 (1) (a) of the code. The court observed in the case of Kunhumuhammed v. State of Kerela (1981 Cri LJ 356) that, in case of a non-cognizable offense, the report has to be submitted to the magistrate to look in the matter and the court is required to examine that if reinvestigation has to be ordered under section 202 of the code or if it has to be treated as a under the purview of section 2(h) and section 190(1) (a) of the code and if so cognizance could be taken or where the report cannot be treated under the purview of section 2(a) and section 190(1)(a) of the code or if it’s a clear case for taking cognizance into the matter(considering the circumstances).
Where a case is referred to the magistrate under section 202 of Criminal Procedure Code for investigation, the final report shall be sent to the Magistrate and when the court is satisfied after hearing the prosecution as well as the accused, that the accused has committed an offense, the Court will frame the charges under Section 228 of the Criminal Procedure Code. After the charges are framed against the accused, evidence of prosecution witnesses would be recorded, cross-examination by or on behalf of the accused persons could also be done. After considering the arguments from both sides, the court will pass the judgment which may result in conviction or acquittal of the accused person/persons.
Now it is clear from the understanding that, since the charge is the first element of a criminal trial. It is a must for us to know the legal implications of a charge sheet. The framing of charges by the magistrate is based on the charge sheet prepared against the accused. Therefore to set the trial in motion, the charge sheet is of much importance in a criminal trial.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Aditi Bhawsar