Charge Under Criminal Procedure Code

The fundamental principle of the criminal justice system provides that the accused has a right to be prepared for his or her defence. To fulfil the above principle, the essential requirement of a fair trial is to give precise information to the accused regarding the acquisitions against him so that the accused can take the relevant steps for his defence in the court of law. Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), such precise information is known as charge.

In this law note, we will discuss the concept of “charge” in India as provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

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What Is Charge Under CrPC?

Charge refers to the formal accusation made against a person. It is defined under section 2(b) of the CrPC. Charges are framed after the stage of investigation and inquiry and before trial. These are the foundations of the criminal trial or the disclosure of the commission of an offence.

Contents of a Valid Charge

The particulars or the content of a valid charge may be divided into two ways: legal content and factual content. A charge must contain both types of content.

Section 211 of the CrPC provides for the legal content of the charge. It provides that:

  1. Every charge must state the offence, which means the offence for which the accused is charged.
  2. The name of the offence provided in law or the definition of the offence when no specific name of the offence is provided in the law.
  3. The law and the section of the law.
  4. The essentials required by the law to constitute the offence.
  5. It must be written in the language of the court.
  6. If the accused was previously convicted for any offence, the facts and particulars of such previous conviction must also be stated in the charge.

Section 212 of the CrPC provides for the factual content of the charge. It provides that every charge must contain the particular as to the time (when the offence was committed), the place (where the offence was committed), the person (against whom the offence was committed) or the thing (in respect of which the offence was committed).

Further, section 212 also provides that if an offence like criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of property or other movable property is accused of having been committed, in such a case, approximate sum (money), or time or dates may also be stated.

Is It Necessary to State the Manner of Committing the Offence in Charge?

As a general rule, once the particulars of section 211 and section 212 of the CrPC are stated in the charge, it is not necessary that the manner of committing the offence in the charge must be stated. But section 213 of CrPC provides that if the accused still doesn’t have sufficient notice of the matter with which he is charged, then in such a situation, such particulars of the manner of committing the alleged offence must be stated in the charge. The purpose of section 213 is to give the accused sufficient notice of the matter for which he is charged.

For example: The offence of cheating is done in three manners (deceiving, fraudulently, and dishonestly) as provided in IPC. Thus, in order to let the accused know about his allegations, the manner must be stated in the charge.

Errors in Charge

The charges are framed by the Magistrate of the concerned court. There are chances that such Magistrate may make any error or omit any charge. Section 215 and section 464 of CrPC provide for the effect of errors in the charge.

A charge is said to have a material error only when it misleads the accused and creates a failure of justice.

Alteration or Addition in Charge and Its Effect

Section 216 of the CrPC provides that there are no boundations to alter or add to any charge. The court may alter or add to any charge at any time before pronouncing the judgement. After such alteration or addition, it must be read and explained to the accused.

If the alteration or addition to the charge prejudices the accused or the prosecutor, the court may direct for a new trial to be conducted or adjourn the trial for a future date. On the other hand, if such alteration or addition does not prejudice the accused in his defence or the prosecutor, the court may proceed with the same trial in the same manner as if the altered or added charge were the original charge.

Further, section 217 of the CrPC provides that whenever a charge is altered or added, the court may recall or re-summon the witnesses and may also call any new witness and may examine for securing the interest of justice.

Ankita Soni
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