Summary Trials under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
Summary trials are dealt under Chapter XXI of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Sections 260 – 265 deal with the summary trial provisions. In this trial the cases are disposed off speedily. It involves a simplified procedure of recording the trials. This nature of trial is based on the maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. The offences that are tried under the summary trial are those that fall under petty or small category which does not need lengthy process of enquiry. To determine whether the case should be tried summarily is based on the facts stated in the complaint.
Power to try summarily
Section 260 (1) enlists who can try a summary trial. The provision grants power to any Chief Judicial Magistrate, any Metropolitan Magistrate and any Magistrate of the first class to try a summary trial. However, the Magistrate of the first class requires the permission of the High Court before trying a case summarily.
Offences that can be tried summarily
The following offences can be tried summarily as mentioned under Section 260 (i) – (ix):
- Offences which are not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years;
- The offence of theft under Section 379, 380 or 381 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 if the value of the stolen property is not exceeding Rs.2000;
- Where a person on receiving or retaining a stolen property worth not more than Rs.2000, under Section 411 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860;
- Where a person has assisted in concealing or disposing of stolen property, not worth more than Rs.2000, under Section 414 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860;
- Offences covered under Section 454 and Section 456 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860;
- Where a person insults with the intention of provoking a breach of peace under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and in the case of criminal intimidation punishable with imprisonment up to two years or fine or both, under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860;
- The abetment of any of the foregoing offences;
- If an attempt is made to commit any of the foregoing offences and if such an attempt is an offence;
- An act committed which constitutes an offence, for which a complaint can be filed under Section 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871;
Section 260 (2) states that if the Magistrate at any point of the process of trial is of the opinion that the nature of the case is not fit to be tried summarily he has the power to recall any witnesses who may have been examined and re hear the case in the manner provided by this Code.
Balachand v. Mandsaur Municipality, A.I.R 1960 MP 20
In this case it was held that, where an accused is charged with two offences, one of which is triable summarily and the other not triable summarily, the Magistrate is not empowered to discard the latter charge and try the accused summarily. This section empowers the Magistrate to try the cases that he is already competent to try by a particular procedure and not otherwise.
Ram Lochan v. State, 1978 Cr.l.J 544 (All)
In this case it was held that, cases in which Government servants are the accused persons, cannot be tried summarily as their conviction is likely to result in the dismissal of their service which is a serious loss to them.
Summary trial by Magistrate of the second class
Section 261 states that the High Court can empower the Magistrate of the second class to try cases summarily for the offences which involves punishment of only fine or imprisonment for not more than six months with or without fine and any abetment of or attempt to commit any such offence.
Procedure for summary trials
Section 262 lays down the procedure for summary trials. It states that, the trial proceedings under the summary trial are the same as that of the proceedings under the summons cases. However, no sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding three months shall be passed in the case of any conviction under the summary trial.
Nandlal Harishankar v. State of Gujarat, A.I.R 1969 Guj 62
In this case the City Magistrate had passed a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for four months. On appeal to the High Court it was held that the sentence exceeding imprisonment of three months shall be held illegal.
Asghar Ali, (1883) 6 All 61.
The limit of three months applies to substantive sentence and not to the alternative sentence in default of payment of fine i.e., a sentence of imprisonment in default of the payment of fine in addition to the maximum sentence of three months imprisonment may be imposed. There is no limit on fine which may be imposed in summary trials.
Record in summary trials
Section 263 states the particulars that have to be recorded by the Magistrate in such form as directed by the State Government. The following are the particulars:
- The serial number of the case;
- The date of the commission of the offence;
- The date of the report or when the complaint was filed;
- The name of the complainant, if any;
- The name, residence and parentage of the accused;
- The offence about which the complaint was made and the offence (if any) was proved and the value of the property if the case is dealt under Section 260(1) (ii) or Section 260(1) (iii) or Section 260(1) (iv) of the Code;
- The plea of the accused person and his examination, if any;
- The finding of the Court;
- The sentence or any other final order passed by the Court;
- The date when the proceedings terminated;
Subramany Ayyar, (1883) 6 Mad 336
In this case it was held that in a summary trial a formal charge is not framed nor the evidence of the witnesses is recorded. The Magistrate must himself write these particulars in the Register. He cannot depute that duty to his clerk. He is also not authorized to affix his signature to the record or judgment by a stamp.
Judgment in cases tried summarily
Section 264 lays down how the judgment in a summary trial is required to be given. It states that in a summary trial where the accused does not plead guilty, the Magistrate shall record the substance of the evidence and a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for the finding.
Language of record and judgment
Section 265 (1) states that every record or Judgment under the summary trial shall be written in the language of the Court. Sub section (2) states that the High Court may authorize the Magistrate empowered to try offences summarily, to prepare the record or judgment or both. For this purpose an officer may be appointed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. Such record or judgment shall be signed by the Magistrate.
Sheshagiri Rao v. State of Mysore, A.I.R 1945 MYS 150
In this case it was held that the record or the judgment must be signed by the presiding Magistrate. The Magistrate must put his full name, merely putting in initials will not be sufficient.
Difference between summary and regular trials
The following are the differences between the summary trials and regular trials:
- A summary trial can be conducted only for specified minor offences whereas, complicated and serious nature of offences are tried in regular trials.
- Only the substance of evidence and the disposition is briefly recorded in the summary trials but in regular trials, the evidence is recorded in detail.
- Formal charge is not required to be framed by Magistrate in summary trials but in regular trials, a formal charge sheet is required to be framed by the Magistrate.
Advantages of Summary Trials
The main objective of summary trials is to expeditiously dispose of the cases as the case on the judiciary is immense and continues to grow. As this form of trial only involves the offences that are small and pecuniary in nature, justice can be served at a faster pace which would otherwise take years to complete the legal proceedings.
Disadvantages of Summary Trials
As the offences that are dealt under the summary trials are not of complex nature, it does not involve detailed examination of the cases. There may be instances were some details are overlooked. If the Magistrate fails to observe any important details will lead to miscarriage of justice. Therefore, the Magistrate has to cautiously look into the matter while making records or judgments.
Therefore, it is evident that compared to a regular trial, summary trials are disposed off quickly. This will ensure that small and petty cases are tried and disposed off at a faster pace rather than overburdening the higher Courts. However, the details of even such petty cases have to be cautiously looked into to ensure justice has been served.
- S.N.Mishra, The Code of Criminal Procedure (Central Law Publication, Twenty First Edition, 2019)
Author: Rachel Philips,
Bishop Cotton Women's Christian Law College, 2nd year LL.B