Framing of Charges under Criminal Procedure Code
The term “charge” is defined under Section 2(b) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 according to which charge includes any head of the charge when the charge contains more than one head. It is an inclusive definition which can be construed as, where several offences are committed by a person through a single act then an individual offence will form a charge and altogether, they will form heads of charge.
In general sense, charge is an accusation or allegation made on an accused which must contain relevant information to enable him to understand of what act he is being accused of and will be tried so that he can prepare his defence accordingly. The purpose of charge is to enable the accused to understand the nature of accusations made against him at the earliest stage and to prevent any prejudice that might cause to him at any later stage. The provisions regarding framing of charge and joinder of charge are provided under Chapter XVII of CRPC.
In case of Esher Singh v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 2004 SC 3030, it was held by Apex Court that “a charge is not an accusation made or information given in abstract, but an accusation made against a person in respect of an act committed or omitted in violation of penal law forbidding or commanding it.”
CONTENTS OF CHARGE – SECTION 211
Every charge shall state for which offence of which accused is charged.
To describe the offence –
1. Where specific name is given in law, the name should be mentioned along-with its Section and name of Statue.
2. Where specific name is not given, much definition of offence be mentioned to give notice to accused for what matter he is charged.
3. Charge shall be written in Court language.
4. The fact that charge is made will arise a presumption that all legal technicalities are fulfilled and the offence does not fall under any exception.
5. If the accused was previously convicted for any offence and that offence made accused liable for enhance punishment then it shall be mentioned forthwith with its facts, date and place. However, if it is brought into notice of Court at later stage, the Court may add it before the passing the final sentence.
PARTICULARS OF CHARGE – SECTION 212
The charge shall contain Place, Time, Person (against whom offence is committed usually the victim) and Thing (in respect of which offence has been committed) to give reasonable and sufficient notice to accused for what matter is being tried.
Where accused is charged for offences like Criminal breach or trust, Dishonest misappropriation of money or other immovable property then it is sufficient to mention the gross sum or describe the movable property as the case may be and dates (including the first and last day) between which offence is alleged to have been committed but they should be within one year and not beyond that.
In case of Main Pal vs. State of Haryana, 2010(10) SCC 130, Court held “Section 212 of the Code provides that the charge shall contain the particulars as to the time and place of the alleged offence, and the person (if any) against whom, or the thing (if any) in respect of which, it was committed, as are reasonably sufficient to give the accused notice of the matter with which he is charged.”
MANNER OF COMMITTING OFFENCE RELEVANT – SECTION 213
After complying Sections 211 and 212, the particulars stated in charge do not give sufficient notice to accused about matter then charge shall contain “particulars of manner” in which offence was committed i.e., they way of committing offence which includes his act or omissions, words or representations etc.
SECTION 214 Cr.P.C:
Words used in charge to describe the offence shall be deemed to have used in the sense attached to them respectively by law under which such offence is punishable.
Meaning thereby, the words used in describing charge shall be given the same meaning or interpretation as given while the interpreting the law or provision which makes the act of accused an offence, punishable.
EFFECT OF ERRORS – SECTION 215
Any error while describing the offence or in particulars of charge or any such omission in describing the charge which does not prejudice the defense of accused or mislead him is not material and shall have no effect over the trial.
In case of Main Pal vs. State Of Haryana 2010(10) SCC 130 it was held, “There was a material error in the charge as it violated the requirement of Sub-section (1) of Section 212 of the Code, that the charge shall contain particulars as to the person against whom the offence was committed. The accused was thus clearly misled by the error in the charge which caused prejudice to the accused thereby occasioning failure of justice.”
ALTERATION OF CHARGES – SECTION 216
The court may add or alter charges at any stage before pronouncing judgement. If any alteration or addition in charge is made then it shall be explained to accused forthwith.
Where Court is of the opinion that such alteration or addition does not affect or prejudice the defense of accused or case of prosecution, Court will proceed with trial as if altered or added charge is the original charge.
Where Court is of the opinion that proceeding trial after alteration or addition of charge will prejudice the defense of accused then it may either direct new trial or adjourn the proceedings of such time as it may deem necessary.
In case if the altered or added charge necessitates prosecution for previous sanction then the case shall not be proceeded with until such sanction is obtained for prosecution or unless the sanction was already obtained on same facts of altered or added charges.
RECALL OF WITNESS – SECTION 217
Whenever alteration or addition is made in the original charges framed then the Court shall allow prosecution and accused to-
- Recall or re-summon any witness who has been already called or summoned by Court for examination in respect to alteration or addition made in charge unless the Court thinks that such recall or re-examination is made for the purpose of causing delay and will defeat ends of justice. The reasons be recorded in writing for not allowing prosecution or accused for same.
- call any new or further witness who is material evidence in eyes of Court.
In case of Rekha vs. State of UP 2020(3) Cri CC 635 the Court held, “with the framing of alternative charge, testimony of those witnesses recorded prior to that date could even be taken into consideration and this Court is of the opinion that the provisions of Sections 216 and 217 are mandatory in nature as they not only sub-serve the requirement of principles of natural justice but guarantee an important right which is given to the accused persons to defend themselves appropriately by giving them full opportunity of cross-examination of the witnesses.”
A charge is the foundation of trial if made wrongly then it can hamper either party and cause miscarriage of justice. It should be made properly and with utmost caution and diligence so that the accused can ascertain the nature and gravity of accusations of offence made against him and can prepare his defence accordingly. If charge is altered or added at later stage then both the parties shall be given fair opportunity of being heard and be allowed to take evidence of record in respect of added or altered charge to prove their respective version otherwise it will tantamount to violation of principles of natural justice.
Author: kashish gupta,
Invertis University, 5th year