Criminal Matters – Procedures, Jurisdictions, and Types of Cases
There are two basic types of law which are dealt by the Courts — criminal and civil. Criminal law deals with wrongs against society as a whole, while civil law deals with wrongs against a person or his property. A civil lawsuit mainly deals with wrongdoings that are not criminal in nature.
Cases of personal injury, such as those that result from an automobile accident, may result in a civil lawsuit. Other suits may arise from allegations of negligence, if a person has a responsibility to maintain their property so that others are not hurt on it. Family law cases — such as divorces, adoptions, and child custody matters — also fall under the scope of civil law.
Small claims cases, or those in which a nominal sum of money is in dispute, are also civil suits. Other areas of civil law include discrimination cases, employment law, and contract disputes.
PROCEDURE FOR CRIMINAL MATTERS:
1. Registration of FIR
FIR is the first stage from which a criminal case takes birth. The FIR is only the basic information which is made available to the police when a cognizable offence takes place.
[A cognizable offence is an offence where a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant]
How to register an FIR?
There are two types of offences viz. Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offence. In case of Non-Cognizable Offence, the Police Officer takes down the complaint and because of the nature of the offence, he is not required to take any further steps, in which case the Complainant if he deems fit, will have to file a private complaint before a Magistrate and if the Magistrate finds a prima facie case made out in the complaint, will then order investigation by the police.
In case of Offence which is of Cognizable nature, the police is bound to take down the complaint in the form of First Information Report (FIR) and is bound to take action according to law.
A FIR has to be registered with the Police Station in whose jurisdiction the offence deemed to have been committed. After lodging FIR the Police is bound to investigate the matter according to law.
Investigation leads an investigating officer to reach to a conclusion whether a chargesheet has to be filed or a closure report has to be filed in the case. If the investigation result in discovery of an offence, a chargesheet is filed, otherwise a closure report is filed before the concerned court.
If the investigating officer finds out that a case is fit for trial then he files a chargesheet in the case.
4. Filing of the Charge Sheet
Filing of the chargesheet generally means that the investigation in the case is over and now the court has to consider the evidence collected by the investigating agency. The chargesheet is the brief summary of how an offence had been committed.
The chargesheet also contains the names of the person who were investigated but could not be charged due to lack of evidence in the eyes of the investigating agency.
5. Framing of Charges/Serving the Notice
Framing of charges mean that the court looks into the evidence collected by the investigating agency and applies its mind so as to what are the charges under which an accused has to be booked.
At this stage, if an accused pleads guilty then the court will apply its judicial mind and decide the punishment accordingly. And if the accused pleads not guilty, he is informed the charges under which he would be required to face the trial. However, if the judge finds that no offence against an accused is made out, the accused is discharged from the case.
6. Recording of the Prosecution Evidence
After the charges have been framed against an accused, the prosecution is required to produce before the court, all the evidence collected by the investigating agency.
The witnesses brought by the prosecution are expected to support the case presented by the prosecution and if they fail to do so, they are declared hostile and the prosecution may request the court not to rely on the statement of such a witness.
In case the witness supports the case of the prosecution, the defence is entitled to cross examine the witness so that they could find out the discrepancies in the statement of the witness concerned.
7. Statement of the Accused
Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers the court to ask for an explanation from the accused if any. The basic idea is to give an opportunity of being heard to an accused.
8. Evidence of Defence
After the statement of the accused is over, if the court reaches the conclusion that no offence has been committed by the accused, he is acquitted. The judge is expected to give reasons for acquitting the accused. In cases of accused not being acquitted by the court, the defence is given an opportunity to present any defence evidence in support of the accused.
9. Final Arguments of Both the Sides
Once the defence evidence of the accused is over, the prosecution presents its final arguments. After the final arguments of both the sides are over, the court generally reserves its judgment.
10. Delivery of Judgment
After hearing both sides, the judge delivers a final judgment holding an accused guilty of committing the offence or acquitting him of it. If a person is acquitted, the prosecution is given time to file an appeal and if a person is convicted of a particular offence, then the date is fixed for arguments on sentence.
11. Arguments on Sentence
Once a person is convicted of an offence, both the sides present their arguments on what punishment should be awarded to an accused. This is generally done in cases which are punished with death or life imprisonment.
12. Judgment with Punishment
After the arguments on sentence, the court finally decides what should be the punishment for the accused. Court also considers the age, background and history of an accused and the judgment is pronounced accordingly.
JURISDICTION OF COURTS IN CRIMINAL CASES:
1. Administration of criminal justice is carried out through Magistrate-Courts and Sessions Courts. The Court at the lowest level is called Judicial Magistrate of the Second Class. This Court is competent to try the case if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or with fine not exceeding five thousand rupees, or with both.
2. The First Class Magistrate is the next in hierarchy and is competent to try offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or with fine upto ten thousand rupees.
3. The Assistant Sessions Judge is competent to impose punishments up to ten years imprisonment and any fine.
4. The Sessions Judge can impose any punishment authorized by law; but the sentence of death passed by him should be subject to the confirmation by the High Court.
5. A further appeal from these courts can lie to the High Court and finally to the Supreme Court.
6. An appeal lies to the Supreme Court if the High Court
(a) Has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death
(b) Has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any Court subordinate to its authority and has in such trial convicted the accused and sentenced him to death.
(c) Certified that the case is a fit one for appeal to the Supreme Court.
This information has been provided by ALMT Legal.
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