Framing of Charges: Role of Law Enforcement Authority for Speedy Trial and Access to Justice (Second Edition)

lady justice and a gavel

Kaustav Ghosh

[This paper was presented at a One day National Seminar on Access to Criminal & Correctional Justice for Marginalized in Contemporary Indian Context organized by Tata institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai along with Maharashtra Human Rights Commission and International Justice Mission on 28th January, 2018]

II)Framing of ChargesI feel that framing of charge is so vital that it not only can ensure better administration of justice but also speedy disposal of cases. Now we have to know what is framing of charge and why it is important in a judicial proceedings or any administrative body exercising its judicial power delegated by law making authority. What is charge, its content and other provision related to charges discussed by Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 211 & Section 212 of Crpc specifies about Contents of Charge and mentioning of particulars as to time and place of the alleged offence in the charge. Section 214 gives a rule for interpreting the words used in the charge. According to Section 216 (1) of CrPC, any court may alter or add to any charge at any time before judgment is pronounced. In Section 218 of CrPC says that for every distinct offence there should be a separate charge.

In Ranchhod Lal v. State of MP, AIR 1965 SC 1248 case Supreme Court has taken the view that it is the option of the court whether to resort to Section 219,220 & 223 of the Code or whether to act as laid down in Section 218 and that the accused has no right to claim joinder of charges or of offenders. Chapter XVIII of CrPC says in every trial when the accused appeared or brought before the court then all the charges which is brought against him clearly described by the prosecutor. Then either accused pleads guilty or adduce evidence for its defence. If prima facie from evidence and other material of record the Judge considers there are no sufficient grounds for proceedings against the accused, he will discharge the accused. If after consideration and hearing if there is ground for presuming that accused may have committed an offence then the Judge will frame in writing a charge accused. After that production of evidence, hearing and argument either the accused acquitted or convicted. In 2005, the CrPC was amended to insert section 436A, which states that if an undertrial has served half the maximum sentence of the offence for which he has been charged, he can be released on a personal bond, as long as the offence is not punishable with a death sentence. In the same year, a public interest litigation was filed before the Supreme Court in the Bhim Singh v. Union of India case, seeking effective implementation of section 436A. In 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a set of directives to reduce overcrowding of prisons by ensuring that states conduct periodic monitoring to identify under trials eligible for release under section 436A.


III) Framing of charges: why it has link with speedy trial:- On previous point we have discussed the full procedure of charges and framing it by the Judges by the procedure established by law. It is the fundamental procedure of instituting a judicial proceedings. It is not possible for a judge to proceed if charge sheet is not prepared. Usually in serious offences like rape, murder one day delay of filing charge sheet will hamper the administration of justice because important evidences sometime can be diluted or destroyed naturally or by any other factor. So collecting evidence in reasonable timing and filing charge sheet as reasonably quick as possible is very important. During my internship in Howrah District Court I was witnessed how dates after dates, time after time passes for awaiting reports to proceed in the criminal proceedings. If the first process of filling of charge sheet is not commence the fate of any accused will be to leading life in lock-up, prison as under trials. Law Commission in its 268th report remarked that Over 60 per cent of arrests are unnecessary. Not only timing but if charge sheet contains several error it will cause hardship to the Court of Law. Recently it has come to the notice of Hon’ble Calcutta High Court that lack of training, knowledge of procedural law of police official causing error in F.I.R and charge sheet making it hard for disposing cases. Sometime this error satisfies ill motive of any interested parties. Justice delayed is Justice denied and framing of charge by judges depends on several factors thus causing slow disposal of cases.

In the case of Thulia Kali V. the State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1973 SC 501 holding that “the first information report in a criminal case is extremely vital and valuable piece of evidence for the purpose of corroborating the oral evidence adduced at the trial. The object of insisting upon prompt lodging of the report to the police in respect of commission of an offence is to obtain early information regarding the circumstances in which the crime was committed, the names of the actual culprits and the part played by them as well as the names of eye witnesses present at the scene of occurrence. Delay in lodging the first information report quite often results in embellishment which is a creature of afterthought. On account of delay, the report not only gets bereft of the advantage of spontaneity, danger creeps in of the introduction of coloured version, exaggerated account or concocted story as a result of deliberation and consultation… It is not at all unnatural for the family members to await the arrival of the elders in the family when the offence of this nature is committed before taking a decision to lodge a report with the police”.

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