Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India

Chapter XVI of the Cr. P.C. deals with the commencement of proceedings before the Magistrate. Once the Magistrate takes the cognizance of the offence after forming an opinion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, the Magistrate may issue summons/warrants for the appearance/production of the accused.

After filing of the police report, the concerned Magistrate takes the cognizance of the offence under Section 204 of the Cr. P.C. after forming an opinion that there are sufficient grounds for proceeding. Accordingly, charging a person/accused before filing of charge-sheet is legally not possible.

Under Section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C. charge sheet/ police report is submitted to the Magistrate after completion of the investigations.

Only after filing of the charge sheet/report, under Section 204 of the Cr.P.C., the Magistrate takes the cognisance of the charge sheet. At this stage, the accused is summoned by the Court of the Magistrate to face the trial.

Under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C., the accused is discharged at the stage of framing of charge itself, if after hearing the prosecution as well as the accused, if the Court is of the opinion that there are no sufficient grounds for proceedings against the accused.

In case the Court after hearing the prosecution as well as the accused is of the opinion that the charge that the accused has committed an offence, the Court will frame the charges under Section 228 of the Cr.P.C.

This is the stage after framing of the charge the trial of the case will start by following procedure laid down in Sections 229 (conviction on plea of guilty), 231 (evidence of prosecution), 232 (acquittal if after taking evidence, the judge considers no evidence that the accused committed the offence), 233 (otherwise tendering of defence evidence), and 235 (judgement of acquittal or conviction). The entire trial process follows the above procedure.

Hence, before submission of a charge sheet/police report, the question of framing of charges does not arise.

Though in layman's language, when a person is accused of an offence it is said that such person has been charged with the offence. However, legally it can only happen at the stage of Section 211 of Cr. P.C.

After complying with the procedural requirement of Chapter XVI of Cr. P.C. under Section 211 of the Cr. P.C. charges are framed by the court. The contents of the charges framed must comply with the provisions of Section 212, 213 and 214 of the Cr. P.C. The courts may correct or alter a charge.

On completion of the investigation, Police Report has to be forwarded by the officer in charge of the police station to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence. This report is also known as charge sheet.

Under Section 173(8) of Cr. P.C. the police officer has the right to continue the investigation, if required and file an additional charge sheet.

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