Stages of a Criminal Trial: Lawyers Advice
Crime is interpreted differently by different laws and eminent scholars. In sociology, crime is an act that violates an established law and is punishable by the authority through formal sanctions. According to the legal perspective, crime is a type of behaviour defined by an act or statute as deserving of punishment. If any company commits a crime, such a company cannot escape from the legal trial and applicable liabilities unless it is proven that there is no guilt on behalf of the company. The Courts in India are entitled to conduct the trial proceedings in a criminal case. There are certain conditions or steps in Court for a criminal case. These steps are vital for any criminal trial. Without these, there is no criminal trial. This article talks about the procedures involved in a criminal trial at the Court which has jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Steps for a Criminal Trial
The Courts in India has jurisdiction to entertain criminal matters. The process of the criminal trial is governed by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. There are two types of criminal cases in India such as to warrant, summary and summons cases. Section 238 to 250 of the Code deals with stages of the criminal trial in warrant cases. Section 260 to 265 of the Code deals with procedures for a criminal trial in summary cases.
Filing of the First Information Report (F.I.R):-
The first thing before a trial begins is the recording of the statement of the Complainant or Victim before a Police Station. It is the first evidence in a criminal case. A trial in offences related to the punishment of death, imprisonment up to 2 years or life imprisonment starts at the very moment when the First Information Report is launched. According to section 2 (x) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 the First Information Report in a case can be recorded in front of the Magistrate or Police Station if it is related to warrant cases.
For any crime, the investigation is a crucial thing. Without investigations, the Court cannot proceed further with the case. The investigating agencies or officers collect facts and circumstances that led to a particular crime along with available witnesses. The collection of evidence is done following the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Hearsay by a person is not considered as statement or witness.
Framing of Charges:-
For the investigating officers, they have to charge all the possible penal laws and sections towards the accused. Such an act from the investigators ensures that the accused has committed some offences. It should not be oral and must be in writing. The burden of proof to prove not guilty lies on the accused in a Court. In Varun Bhardwaj v. State of Himachal Pradesh (Cr. Revision No. 268 of 2016), the Court held that framing of charge sheet is the first major step in a criminal trial and the Court is expected to apply its mind to the entire records and documents placed before the Court.
Evidence from the Prosecution:-
To proceed with the criminal trial, the Court first collects all the pieces of evidence from the Prosecution. For a criminal case, there are no private parties. There is Accused and the State. The Prosecution acts on behalf of the State. The Prosecutor has to establish its pieces of evidence and statements as true with the help of available witnesses. This process in the Court is known as Examination in Chief.
Statement of the Accused:-
In a criminal case, both the Accused and the Petitioner has their rights. This is because the law treats everybody equally without any prejudice. Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 entitles the Accused a legal right to be heard his or her part of statements. No one can deprive this right of the Accused. In Moosa v. Sub Inspector of Police (CriLJ 1922 of 2006), the Court held that the rule of issue of estoppel in a criminal trial is that where there is an issue of fact and it has been tried by a competent Court previously and a finding has been reached in favour of the Accused, then such a finding would constitute an estoppel or res judicata against the prosecution but there is no bar for further trial and conviction for the Accused. Similarly, in Barju Sah v. State of Jharkhand (Criminal Appeal No. 1089 of 2004), the Court observed that section 273 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 makes it mandatory to collect all the evidence during the trial in the presence of the Accused. Moreover, the Accused can even seek the Court for the grant of bail. The Accused is given anticipatory bail upon the merits and facts of the case before the arrest made by the investigators and regular and interim bail after the lodging of the First Information Report and the arrest. Nevertheless, the Court has exclusive jurisdiction to grant bail or refuse them considering the nature of the offence committed by the Accused.
Evidence from the Defense/Accused:-
The Courts that have jurisdiction to hear criminal cases will not only collect evidence from the Prosecution but also the Accused. It is done through the Defence Counsel. It is not mandatory in India for the Defence Counsel to produce evidence. The burden of proving that the Accused has committed offences lies upon the Prosecution.
Arguments during the Criminal Trial:-
Justice is delivered when both parties are heard in a particular case. During a criminal trial, the Court hears the arguments from both the Prosecution and the Defence Counsel. The Defence Counsel can cross-examine the witness during the trial with the prior permission of the respective Court. The Prosecution must prove that the accused is guilty based on the facts, material evidence and witnesses. Similarly, the Defence Counsel argues in favour of the Accused to prove that he or she is not guilty of the offences charged by the investigators.
Verdict of the Court:-
The last process in a criminal trial is the verdict delivered by the Hon’ble Judge. The Court based upon the facts, evidence, statements and arguments delivers the judgement and not according to his or her interest. The Accused is said to have acquitted if he or she has been clear of the charges. The same person is said to have been convicted if the Accused is guilty of the charges framed by the investigating agencies. In both cases, there is a chance to go for further appeals or to review the decision if the law allows them to do so under the Acts and penal laws.
Crime is inevitable in every society. The State to eradicate crime to some extend introduces various laws and Acts. A lawyer is a person who serves in society. Lawyers are there for the benefit of their clients. It is the lawyer who represents clients during the criminal trial. There are certain steps involved in a criminal trial. However, the net result after all these steps is the judgement delivered by the respective Court through Judge or a bench of Judges.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Muhammad Aslah