In literal terms, summons is a document which is issued by the court that orders the person upon whom it is served to appear before the court and answer the questions or allegations made against him. It will include a brief explanation of facts and the role of the person in the case. The Magistrate issues summons against the person who is accused of an offence as per section 204(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The term “summons cases” has been defined, in negative sense in the Code, 1973, “ summons-case means case relating to an offence, and not being a warrant-case.” Therefore, summon cases are those cases which are not punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than two years. Any cases will be considered as summon cases where the term of imprisonment is less than two years . Court will issue the summons to the person when the offence is not serious in nature, so it needs to be decided speedily without ignoring the process of fair trial.
Fair trial is a constitutional as well as statutory right of every accused. Fair trial is also related to the principle of natural justice which says that both the parties have equal right to be heard before the court of law. So, summon cases are not of serious nature and are the only reason that punishment for imprisonment is of less than two years. Procedure for the summon trial is provided under sections 251 to 259 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and the trial is not so formal as compared to any other trial. Summons can be issued to all the witnesses as per suggested by both the party for the purpose of examination.
Object of Summons
The object of summons issued against the accused is to make him aware about the proceedings initiated against him in the court. Our legal system is based on the principle of natural justice which ensures that the accused must be aware about the allegations or charges made against him, so that he can defend himself in court. Court may give order to the accused after issuing summons, to file the written statement or any other document in the favour of his defence. Once the summons is issued against the person, he has a duty to appear before the court and take part in proceeding as per directed by the court on a given date and time.
Procedure of trial in the summons cases by Magistrates
Chapter 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 talks about procedure of trial in summon- cases by the Magistrate, as enumerated under Sections 251 to 259 of the Code.
Substance of offence to be explained
Section 251 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 says that when the accused will appear before the Magistrate, the Magistrate needs to state all the charges against the accused. Magistrate has to ask the accused whether he accepts his guilt of the offences which he has been charged with or whether the accused wants to produce any defence. It is not necessary for the Magistrate to frame formal charges against the accused.
Conviction, if accused accepts his guilt
Section 252 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 says that if an accused accepts his guilt, then the Magistrate needs to record the guilt of the accused. Magistrate needs to record the guilt of the accused in the similar words used by the accused as far as possible. It depends on the discretion of the Magistrate whether the Magistrate wants to convict the accused or not.
Conviction of accused on acceptance of his guilt in absence of accused in small cases
Section 253 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 provides for an easy procedure to determine petty cases without the presence of a person who is accused of the offence in the court. When an accused wants to accept his guilt without appearing in court, then the accused needs to send Rs. 1,000 to the Magistrate as per section 206 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Accused can send money through post, messenger to the Magistrate, or through a pleader. It is as per discretion of the Magistrate whether he wants to convict the accused or not.
Process when accused is not convicted
As per Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, the Magistrate will hear cases of both the prosecution and the defence. If the Magistrate will not convict the accused as per section 253 of the Code, then the Magistrate will hear the prosecution side and collect all evidence which is produced by prosecution. Magistrate will also hear the accused side and collect all evidence which is produced by the accused. If the Magistrate receives the application from prosecution, then the Magistrate can issue summons against any witness by giving direction to attend the procedure of court.
Acquittal or conviction to the accused
When the Magistrate finds that the accused is not guilty of an offence, after examining all the evidence, the Magistrate can give an order for acquittal to the accused which he needs to record. Magistrate can also release the accused on his good behaviour as per the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.
Procedure on non-appearance or death of complainant
As per section 256 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, if summons is issued by the Magistrate but the complainant does not appear in the court due to death of the complainant , the Magistrate can give acquittal to the accused unless and until there is genuine reason to adjourn the court. But if the Magistrate thinks that personal attendance of the complainant is not required or necessary, then the Magistrate can proceed with the case.
Withdrawal of complaint by complainant
As per section 257 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a complainant can withdraw his complaint before passing final order. Magistrate can permit the withdrawal of a complainant, if he is satisfied with the grounds stated by the complainant.
Power to stop the proceedings in some cases
As per section 258 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a Magistrate of first class with the approval of Chief judicial Magistrate or to any other judicial Magistrate can stop the procedure in any stage without giving judgement but need to record in writing.
Court has power to convert summons cases into warrant cases
As per section 259 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, the court has power to convert summon cases and warrant cases, if any offence which is punishable of imprisonment more than six months. Magistrate can convert the case if it is necessary for the interest of justice. Magistrate can hear the case again as per the trial warrant and can call the witness again for examination. But the court has no power to convert warrant cases into summons cases.
Procedure to compel appearance in the court
As per chapter 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, the court can issue summons against the accused person and witnesses. Section 61 to 69 of this code says that the court has power to compel the appearance. Section 61 has given the power to the court to issue summons whereas section 62 to 69 of the code of criminal procedure talks about service of summons.
As per section 61 of this code, a summons will always be issued by the court in written form only and one copy of such issue will be sent to the accused person and witness. The summons will be signed by the presiding officer with a seal of the court of law. As per section 62 of this code, it can be issued by a police officer, any officer prescribed by the state government or competent court can issue a summon.
Summons is not only limited to accusation but it can also be issued to witnesses, whose name is suggested by the prosecution or accused for the purpose of examination. The objective is to issue summons to the person in order to avoid any unnecessary delay which affects the justice or speedy trial of the case .
Summons is the legal document which is issued by the officers of court to the accused or witnesses whose name has been suggested by prosecution or accused for the purpose of examination, in order to take part in the proceedings as per directed by the court of law. Summon is served in order to take legal action against the person who has committed the offence which is not punishable with imprisonment more than 2 years or any offence which is not of serious nature. Summons are issued in order to ensure the presence of the person in a given time and date by the court. If any person after serving the summons does not ensure his presence in the court, can be charged for contempt of court. Summons will be issued by the court as per section 61 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which must be in writing form. As per section 62 of this code, it can be issued by a police officer, any officer prescribed by the state government or competent court can issue a summon. Therefore, summons are necessary to be issued against the person in order to make their presence in the court for speedy trial and purpose of justice, it is important in order to reduce the backlog of cases in the lower courts.
(1) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(2) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, s. 2(w).
(3) V. Kelker , “Lectures on Criminal Law” (8th ed., 2016).
BY AKANKSHA RANI | UPES, DEHRADUN