An accusation against a person for allegedly committing an offence is called a charge. Charge is formulated precisely to initiate a trial. It is a written document containing the description of an offence alleged to have been committed by the accused. The stage of charge separates the stage of inquiry from trial.
An accused should be aware of the offences for which he will face prosecution for a fair trial. By way of charge the accused is given notice of the offences for which trial will be conducted.
1. Contents of charge : S. 211
211. Contents of charge.—
(1) Every charge under this Code shall state the offence with which the accused is charged.
(2) If the law which creates the offence gives it any specific name, the offence may be described in the charge by that name only.
(3) If the law which creates the offence does not give it any specific name, so much of the definition of the offence must be stated as to give the accused notice of the matter with which he is charged.
(4) The law and section of the law against which the offence is said to have been committed shall be mentioned in the charge.
(5) The fact that the charge is made is equivalent to a statement that every legal condition required by law to constitute the offence charged was fulfilled in the particular case.
(6) The charge shall be written in the language of the Court.
(7) If the accused, having been previously convicted of any offence, is liable, by reason of such previous conviction, to enhanced punishment, or to punishment of a different kind, for a subsequent offence, and it is intended to prove such previous conviction for the purpose of affecting the punishment which the Court may think fit to award for the subsequent offence, the fact, date and place of the previous conviction shall be stated in the charge; and if such statement has been omitted, the Court may add it at any time before sentence is passed.
(a) A is charged with the murder of B. This is equivalent to a statement that A's act fell within the definition of murder given in sections 299 and 300 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860); that it did not fall within any of the general exceptions of the said Code; and that it did not fall within any of the five exceptions to section 300, or that, if it did fall within Exception 1, one or other of the three provisos to that exception applied to it.
(b) A is charged under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), with voluntarily causing grievous hurt to B by means of an instrument for shooting. This is equivalent to a statement that the case was not provided for by section 335 of the said Code, and that the general exceptions did not apply to it.
(c) A is accused of murder, cheating, theft, extortion, adultery or criminal intimidation, or using a false property-mark. The charge may state that A committed murder, or cheating, or theft, or extortion, or adultery, or criminal intimidation, or that he used a false property-mark, without reference to the definitions, of those crimes contained in the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860); but the sections under which the offence is punishable must, in each instance be referred to in the charge.
(d) A is charged under section 184 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) with intentionally obstructing a sale of property offered for sale by the lawful authority of a public servant. The charge should be in those words.
2. Particulars as to Time, Place and Person
212. Particulars as to time, place and person.—
(1) The charge shall contain such 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.
(2) When the accused is charged with criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of money or other movable property, it shall be sufficient to specify the gross sum or, as the case may be, describe the movable property in respect of which the offence is alleged to have been committed, and the dates between which the offence is alleged to have been committed, without specifying particular items or exact dates, and the charge so framed shall be deemed to be a charge of one offence within the meaning of section 219:
Provided that the time included between the first and last of such dates shall not exceed one year.
3. Manner of committing offence : 213
When the nature of the case is such that the
particulars mentioned in sections 211 and 212 do not give the accused sufficient notice of the matter with which he
is charged, the charge shall also contain such particulars of the manner in which the alleged offence was committed
as will be sufficient for that purpose.
(a) A is accused of the theft of a certain article at a certain time and place. The charge need not set out the manner in which the theft was effected.
(b) A is accused of cheating B at a given time and place. The charge must set out the manner in which A cheated B.
(c) A is accused of giving false evidence at a given time and place. The charge must set out that portion of the evidence given by A which is alleged to be false.
(d) A is accused of obstructing B, a public servant, in the discharge of his public functions at a given time and place. The charge must set out the manner in which A obstructed B in the discharge of his functions.
(e) A is accused of the murder of B at a given time and place. The charge need not state the manner in which A murdered B.
(f) A is accused of disobeying a direction of the law with intent to save B from punishment. The charge must set out the disobedience charged and the law infringed.
4. Words in charge : 214
214. Words in charge taken in sense of law under which offence is punishable.—
In every charge words used in describing an offence shall be deemed to have been used in the sense attached to them respectively by the law under which such offence is punishable.
5. Effect of Errors : 215
215. Effect of errors.—
No error in stating either the offence or the particulars required to be stated in the charge, and no omission to state the offence or those particulars, shall be regarded at any stage of the case as material, unless the accused was in fact misled by such error or omission, and it has occasioned a failure of justice.
(a) A is charged under section 242 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), with "having been in possession of counterfeit coin, having known at the time when he became possessed thereof that such coin was counterfeit,‖ the word "fraudulently" being omitted in the charge. Unless it appears that A was in fact misled by this omission, the error shall not be regarded as material.
(b) A is charged with cheating B, and the manner in which he cheated B is not set out in the charge or is set out incorrectly. A defends himself, calls witnesses and gives his own account of the transaction. The Court may infer from this that the omission to set out the manner of the cheating is not material.
(c) A is charged with cheating B, and the manner in which he cheated B is not set out in the charge. There were many transactions between A and B, and A had no means of knowing to which of them the charge referred, and offered no defence. The Court may infer from such facts that the omission to set out the manner of the cheating was, in the case, a material error.
(d) A is charged with the murder of Khoda Baksh on the 21st January, 1882. In fact, the murdered person's name was Haidar Baksh, and the date of the murder was the 20th January, 1882. A was never charged with any murder but one, and had heard the inquiry before the Magistrate, which referred exclusively to the case of Haidar Baksh. The Court may infer from these facts that A was not misled, and that the error in the charge was immaterial.
(e) A was charged with murdering Haidar Baksh on the 20th January, 1882, and Khoda Baksh (who tried to arrest him for that murder) on the 21st January, 1882. When charged for the murder of Haidar Baksh, he was tried for the murder of Khoda Baksh. The witnesses present in his defence were witnesses in the case of Haidar Baksh. The Court may infer from this that A was misled, and that the error was material.
6. Alteration of charge : 216
216. Court may alter charge.—
(1) Any Court may alter or add to any charge at any time before judgment is pronounced.
(2) Every such alteration or addition shall be read and explained to the accused.
(3) If the alteration or addition to a charge is such that proceeding immediately with the trial is not likely, in the opinion of the Court, to prejudice the accused in his defence or the prosecutor in the conduct of the case, the Court may, in its discretion, after such alteration or addition has been made, proceed with the trial as if the altered or added charge had been the original charge.
(4) If the alteration or addition is such that proceeding immediately with the trial is likely, in the opinion of the Court, to prejudice the accused or the prosecutor as aforesaid, the Court may either direct a new trial or adjourn the trial for such period as may be necessary.
(5) If the offence stated in the altered or added charge is one for the prosecution of which previous sanction is necessary, the case shall not be proceeded with until such sanction is obtained, unless sanction has been already obtained for a prosecution on the same facts as those on which the altered or added charge is founded.
7. Recall of witnesses when charge is altered : 217
217. Recall of witnesses when charge altered.—
Whenever a charge is altered or added to by the Court after the commencement of the trial, the prosecutor and the accused shall be allowed—
(a) to recall or re-summon, and examine with reference to such alteration or addition, any witness who may have been examined, unless the Court, for reasons to be recorded in writing, considers that the prosecutor or the accused, as the case may be, desires to recall or re-examine such witness for the purpose of vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justice;
(b) also to call any further witness whom the Court may think to be material
IV. Joinder of Charges
1. Separate charge for distinct offences : 218
218. Separate charges for distinct offences.—
(1) For every distinct offence of which any person is accused there shall be a separate charge, and every such charge shall be tried separately: Provided that where the accused person, by an application in writing, so desires and the Magistrate is of opinion that such person is not likely to be prejudiced thereby, the Magistrate may try together all or any number of the charges framed against such person.
(2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall affect the operation of the provisions of sections 219, 220, 221 and 223.
A is accused of a theft on one occasion, and of causing grievous hurt on another occasion. A must be separately charged and separately tried for the theft and causing grievous hurt
If the case falls within any of the exceptions then joinder of charge is permissible. Joinder of charges avoids multiplicity of trial.
1. Desire of accused :
If an accused makes an application for joint trial and if the magistrate is of the view that such joint trial will not prejudice the accused, joint trial may be conducted by the Magistrate.
2. Three offences of same kind within one year : 219
219. Three offences of same kind within year may be charged together.—
(1) When a person is accused of more offences than one of the same kind committed within the space of twelve months from the first to the last of such offences, whether in respect of the same person or not, he may be charged with, and tried at one trial for, any number of them not exceeding three.
(2) Offences are of the same kind when they are punishable with the same amount of punishment under the same section of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or of any special or local law: Provided that, for the purposes of this section, an offence punishable under section 379 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) shall be deemed to be an offence of the same kind as an offence punishable under section 380 of the said Code, and that an offence punishable under any section of the said Code, or of any special or local law, shall be deemed to be an offence of the same kind as an attempt to commit such offence, when such an attempt is an offence.
3. Offences in course of same transaction
If, in one series of acts so connected together as to form the same transaction, more offences than one are committed by the same person, he may be charged with, and tried at one trial for, every such offence.
4. Offences for criminal breach of trust or misappropriation of property : 220(2)
When a person charged with one or more offences of criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of property as provided in sub-section (2) of section 212 or in sub-section (1) of section 219, is accused of committing, for the purpose of facilitating or concealing the commission of that offence or those offences, one or more offences of falsification of accounts, he may be charged with, and tried at one trial for, every such offence
5. Same act constituting different offences 220(3)
If the acts alleged constitute an offence falling within two or more separate definitions of any law in force for the time being by which offences are defined or punished, the person accused of them may be charged with, and tried at one trial for, each of such offences.
6. Same act constituting one and also different offences. 220(4)
If several acts, of which one or more than one would by itself or themselves constitute an offence, constitute when combined a different offence, the person accused of them may be charged with, and tried at one trial for the offence constituted by such acts when combined, and for any offence constituted by any one, or more, of such acts.
7. Where it is doubtful that what offence is committed! : 221
221. Where it is doubtful what offence has been committed.—
(1) If a single act or series of acts is of such a nature that it is doubtful which of several offences the facts which can be proved will constitute, the accused may be charged with having committed all or any of such offences, and any number of such charges may be tried at once; or he may be charged in the alternative with having committed some one of the said offences.
(2) If in such a case the accused is charged with one offence, and it appears in evidence that he committed a different offence for which he might have been charged under the provisions of sub-section (1), he may be convicted of the offence which he is shown to have committed, although he was not charged with it.
(a) A is accused of an act which may amount to theft, or receiving stolen property, or criminal breach of trust or cheating. He may be charged with theft, receiving stolen property, criminal breach of trust and cheating, or he may be charged with having committed theft, or receiving stolen property, or criminal breach of trust or cheating.
(b) In the case mentioned, A is only charged with theft. It appears that he committed the offence of criminal breach of trust, or that of receiving stolen goods. He may be convicted of criminal breach of trust or of receiving stolen goods (as the case may be), though he was not charged with such offence.
(c) A states on oath before the Magistrate that he saw B hit C with a club. Before the Sessions Court A states on oath that B never hit C. A may be charged in the alternative and convicted of intentionally giving false evidence, although it cannot be proved which of these contradictory statements was false.
V. When offence proved included in offence charged : 222
222. When offence proved included in offence charged.—
(1) When a person is charged with an offence consisting of several particulars, a combination of some only of which constitutes a complete minor offence, and such combination is proved, but the remaining particulars are not proved, he may be convicted of the minor offence, though he was not charged with it.
(2) When a person is charged with an offence and facts are proved which reduce it to a minor offence, he may be convicted of the minor offence, although he is not charged with it.
(3) When a person is charged with an offence, he may be convicted of an attempt to commit such offence although the attempt is not separately charged.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to authorise a conviction of any minor offence where the conditions requisite for the initiation of proceedings in respect of that minor offence have not been satisfied.
(a) A is charged, under section 407 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), with criminal breach of trust in respect of property entrusted to him as a carrier. It appears, that he did commit criminal breach of trust under section 406 of that Code in respect of the property, but that it was not entrusted to him as a carrier. He may be convicted of criminal breach of trust under the said section 406.
(b) A is charged, under section 325 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), with causing grievous hurt. He proves that he acted on grave and sudden provocation. He may be convicted under section 335 of that Code.
VI. Joint Trial : 223
223. What persons may be charged jointly.—The following persons may be charged and tried together,
(a) persons accused of the same offence committed in the course of the same transaction;
(b) persons accused of an offence and persons accused of abetment of, or attempt to commit, such offence;
(c) persons accused of more than one offence of the same kind, within the meaning of section 219 committed by them jointly within the period of twelve months;
(d) persons accused of different offences committed in the course of the same transaction;
(e) persons accused of an offence which includes theft, extortion, cheating, or criminal misappropriation, and persons accused of receiving or retaining, or assisting in the disposal or concealment of, property possession of which is alleged to have been transferred by any such offence committed by the first-named persons, or of abetment of or attempting to commit any such last-named offence;
(f) persons accused of offences under sections 411 and 414 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or either of those sections in respect of stolen property the possession of which has been transferred by one offence;
(g) persons accused of any offence under Chapter XII of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) relating to counterfeit coin and persons accused of any other offence under the said Chapter relating to the same coin, or of abetment of or attempting to commit any such offence; and the provisions contained in the former part of this Chapter shall, so far as may be, apply to all such charges:
Provided that where a number of persons are charged with separate offences and such persons do not fall within any of the categories specified in this section, the [Magistrate or Court of Session] may, if such persons by an application in writing, so desire, and 2 [if he or it is satisfied] that such persons would not be prejudicially affected thereby, and it is expedient so to do, try all such persons together.
VII. Withdrawal of charges : 224
224. Withdrawal of remaining charges on conviction on one of several charges.—
When a charge containing more heads than one is framed against the same person, and when a conviction has been had on one or more of them, the complainant, or the officer conducting the prosecution, may, with the consent of the Court, withdraw the remaining charge or charges, or the Court of its own accord may stay the inquiry into, or trial of, such charge or charges and such withdrawal shall have the effect of an acquittal on such charge or charges, unless the conviction be set aside, in which case the said Court (subject to the order of the Court setting aside the conviction) may proceed with the inquiry into, or trial of, the charge or charges so withdrawn