Any unlawful act which is against the law and is punishable is a crime. The procedures of the criminal trial decide the punishment for such crimes. India has a well-established statutory, administrative and judicial framework for criminal trials.  

The 3 acts which govern the Indian penal laws are:

  • The Indian Penal Code, 1960 (IPC)
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C)
  • The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA)

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, there are 3 types of criminal trials i.e., warrant trial, summon trial, and summary trial.

A warrant trial is a case relating to the commission of a cognizable offense. Thus, a case that makes one liable for arrest without a warrant are heinous crimes such as homicide, rape, etc. Such cases are usually instituted on police reports, but that can also be done on private complaints.

Summons trial means that in cases of non-cognizable offenses, a police officer has no authority to arrest without a warrant. Usually, these cases are instituted on the complaint, and being a simple case, punishment will usually be imprisonment of one year or less.

Summary trials mainly include cases related to less severe offenses. These types of cases will take only one or two hearings. The punishment for such cases will not be more than six months. 

Procedure for Trial in a Warrant Case

The different stages of trial in a warrant case are given under Section 238 to 250 of the Code of Criminal procedure.

  1. Filing of FIR: First Information Report (FIR) should be registered according to section 154 of the Cr.P.C to initiate a case.
  2. Investigation: After the filing of FIR, a thorough investigation is done by the police in charge and a conclusion is made based on the evidence, witness statements, circumstantial facts. This conclusion, in the form of a police report, is filed to the magistrate.
  3. Charges: After considering the police report and related important documents, if the accused is not discharged, the court frames written charges under which he should be trialed. 
  4. Plea of Guilty: After framing the charges, the accused can plead guilty voluntarily.
  5. Prosecution Evidence: The court then requires the prosecution to produce evidence to prove the accused’s guilt. If a witness has to be produced then the magistrate can issue a summon.
  6. This is followed by cross-examination, re-examination, and court question.
  7. Judgment: This is the final decision given by the court. If the accused is acquitted, then the prosecution can appeal against the court’s order, and if convicted, both sides can give arguments on the punishment that should be awarded. 


 The different stages of the trial in a summon case are given under Section 251 to Section 259 of the Code of Criminal procedure.

  1. Pre-Trial: In pre-trial, procedures of filing FIR, investigation, and generating police reports are conducted.
  2. Charges: In summons cases, charges are not framed in writing. Instead, the magistrate will state the facts of the offense orally, to which he is answerable when the accused appears before the court.
  3. Plea of Guilty: After the magistrate states the facts, the accused can plead guilty. If he does then, the magistrate records the statement in the accused’s words as far as possible and may convict him. If the accused wants to plead guilty without appearing in court, the absentee should send a letter stating the acceptance of guilt and the amount of fine provided in the summons.
  4. Prosecution and Defense Evidence: If the accused does not plead guilty, then the process of the trial starts where the evidence is produced before the court in support of their cases.
  5. Judgment: Unlike in warrant cases, arguments cannot be given on the amount of punishment. The sentence is the sole judgment of the judge or the Jury. The right to appeal is given to the prosecution if the accused is acquitted and to the accused also.

Procedure for Criminal Trial in a Summary Case

The stages and procedures are similar to that of a summons case and are mentioned under Section 260 to section 265 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

For such cases, the judge should record the findings of the evidence and that of the court with proper reasons, and imprisonment of up to 3 months can be passed.  


The two important pillars of the criminal justice system are the police and courts. The efficient and effective function of these two verticals is vital in providing justice to the victims of crime. The procedures should be followed properly to deliver justice without delay.

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