If you are facing a criminal charge in India, you may wonder what are the stages of a criminal case and what to expect in each stage. A criminal case can be a complex and lengthy process, involving various laws, procedures and pieces of evidence, as ADR mechanisms like the Mediation Bill 2021 are not valid for them.
In this blog, we will explain the main stages of a criminal case in India based on the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), which is the procedural law for crime and punishment in India.
Classification of Criminal Cases
Criminal cases are classified into two types in India: warrant cases and summons cases. A warrant case relates to offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for more than seven years. Whereas a summons case is one which relates to crime and punishment with imprisonment for less than seven years or with a fine only.
The classification of a criminal case determines the mode of trial, the procedure of investigation and the powers of the court. Generally, warrant cases are more serious and follow a more elaborate procedure than summons cases.
Filing of FIR or Complaint
The second stage of a criminal case is the filing of a First Information Report (FIR) or a complaint. An FIR is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence (an offence for which the police can arrest without a warrant). Whereas, a complaint is a written or oral allegation made to a magistrate about the commission of an offence (cognizable or non-cognizable).
An FIR or a complaint initiates the criminal case and sets the investigation in motion. The police have to register an FIR without any delay or refusal and provide a copy to the informant. For complaints. The magistrate has to examine and decide whether to take cognizance (notice) of the offence and initiate the next step for crime and punishment.
Investigation by Police
The third stage of a criminal case is the investigation by the police for the purpose of:
- Collecting evidence
- Recording statements
- Interrogating suspects
- Conducting searches and seizures, and
- Preparing a charge sheet (a report containing details of the offence, evidence and accused).
The investigation process differs depending on whether the offence is cognizable or non-cognizable. For cognizable offences, the police can start the investigation without any permission from the magistrate.
The investigation has to be completed within a reasonable time, usually within 60 or 90 days, depending on the nature of the offence. This stage of crime and punishment ends with the police submitting the charge sheet to the magistrate.
Committal or Transfer of Case
The fourth stage of a criminal case is committal or transfer, which applies only to warrant cases that are triable by sessions courts (courts that deal with serious crime and punishment). A magistrate may also conduct a preliminary inquiry to decide whether there are sufficient grounds for committing or transferring the case to sessions.
Framing of Charges
The fifth stage of a criminal case is the framing of charges. This stage marks the beginning of the trial and involves reading out and explaining the charges to the accused by the court. The charges are based on the allegations made in the FIR or complaint and supported by evidence collected during an investigation.
The framing of charges is done by different courts depending on whether it is a warrant case or a summons case. Depending on whether the accused pleads guilty or not guilty to each charge framed against him, he may be convicted and sentenced by the court, or face trial to determine his crime and punishment.
The sixth stage of a criminal case is the trial stage. This stage involves examination and cross-examination of witnesses, production and admission of evidence, arguments and rebuttals by both sides, statement and defence by the accused, etc. The trial stage follows different procedures depending on whether it is a warrant case or a summons case.
For warrant cases, the trial stage consists of the following steps:
- The prosecution (the side that accuses the offender) produces and examines its witnesses and evidence before the court. However, the accused or his lawyer from the best law firm in Chandigarhor elsewhere has the right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses and challenge their evidence.
- After the prosecution closes its evidence, the court questions the accused on the basis of the evidence against him. The accused has the right to answer or remain silent.
- After the statement of the accused, the court gives an opportunity to the accused to produce and examine his witnesses and evidence in his defence. The prosecution has the right to cross-examine the defence witnesses and challenge the defence evidence.
- After the defence closes its evidence, both sides present their final arguments before the court. The court may also ask questions or seek clarification from both sides.
For summons cases, the trial stage is simpler and consists of only two steps:
- The court hears both sides and takes their evidence. It may also examine any witness or document that it considers necessary for a just decision.
- After taking the evidence from both sides, the court hears their final arguments.
The final stage of a criminal case involves the pronouncement and delivery of the judgement by the court, which has to:
- Be delivered within a reasonable time, usually within 30 days from the date of the conclusion of the trial.
- State clearly whether the accused is acquitted or convicted of each charge, and if convicted, what sentence is imposed on him.
- State the reasons for acquittal or conviction and mention the evidence and law relied upon by the court.
The judgement may be appealed by either side to a higher court within a prescribed time limit, depending on the nature and severity of the crime and punishment.
A criminal case in India can be a long and complicated process, involving various stages, laws and procedures depending upon the crime and punishment. It is important for anyone facing a criminal charge to understand these stages and their rights and obligations at each stage. It is also advisable to seek legal assistance from a competent lawyer from Lex Solutions who can guide and represent them throughout the case.
- What are the three main stages of criminal cases in India?
The 3 main stages that criminal cases, in general, can be divided into are the pre-trail stage, trial stage, and post-trail stage.
- Is there any law other than the CrPC that contains rules about criminal proceedings?
Yes, other than the CrPC, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860 also contains rules about criminal proceedings.
- Can a session court take on a criminal case directly?
No, sessions courts cannot take cognisance of any criminal offence directly unless they commit it to sessions by a magistrate.
- Which is the best law firm for criminal cases in Chandigarh?
Lex Solutions is the best law firm in Chandigarh for dealing with or helping you with criminal cases.