by | Nov 22, 2023


The primary objective of criminal law is to maintain societal stability by punishing those guilty of wrongful acts and violations of prohibited conduct, ultimately seeking to remedy their actions. While criminal law aims to protect the interests of society, delivering justice to the innocent remains paramount. The implementation of criminal law occurs through criminal courts, applying statutes, procedures, and rules outlined in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. Despite the expectation that courts deliver justice without irregularities, the human element introduces circumstances where irregularities may occur. Chapter 35 specifically addresses irregular proceedings under Criminal Procedure Code (Section 460-466), distinguishing between irregularities that can vitiate the proceedings and those that do not.


Procedural illegality refers to acts contrary to law or immoral actions leading to a breach of the law. In contrast, procedural irregularity involves a lack of adherence to prescribed rules or procedures, omissions in necessary procedures, or improper actions.


Chapter 35 of the Code delves into irregularities under the Criminal Procedure Code. It divides irregular proceedings into two sections: Section 460, dealing with irregularities that cannot vitiate the entire procedure, and Section 461, which addresses irregularities leading to the voiding of the entire procedure. Sections 462 to 466 then detail specific irregularities, providing specific procedures or steps in the proceedings that are mandatory to follow.


Irregularities Not Vitiating Proceedings (Section 460)

  • Magistrates are not empowered to perform certain actions listed in Section 460. However, if done in good faith, these irregularities do not render the entire proceeding void.
  • Examples include issuing a search warrant, ordering police investigations, holding inquests, issuing apprehension warrants, taking cognizance of offenses, making over a case, tendering pardon, recalling a case, and selling property.

Irregularities Vitiating Proceedings (Section 461)

  • Section 461 lists 17 actions that, if performed by a magistrate during a trial, result in the entire proceeding being void.
  • Examples include attaching and selling property, issuing search warrants for documents, demanding security, discharging a person for good behavior, canceling a bond, making orders for maintenance, addressing local nuisances, prohibiting public nuisances, taking cognizance of offenses, trying offenders summarily, passing sentences, deciding appeals, calling for proceedings, and revising orders.

Proceedings in the Wrong Place (Section 462)

  • Proceedings taken at the wrong place do not automatically set aside court findings. Only if there is an error causing a failure of justice can the proceedings be set aside.

Non-Compliance with Section 164 or Section 281 (Section 463)

  • Compliance with procedures for statements and confessions outlined in Section 164 and Section 281 is crucial. Non-compliance can rule out confessions as evidence. However, if non-compliance does not injure the accused in their defense, confessions may still be admissible.

Effect of Omission to Frame Charge or Error in the Charge (Section 464)

  • Framing charges is essential for the accused to understand the allegations against them. Defects in framing charges do not automatically lead to a retrial; only if the defect causes a failure of justice can it result in revision.

Finding or Sentence Reversible Due to Error, Omission, or Irregularity (Section 465)

  • Mere irregularities or defects in sentences do not warrant a retrial. Only if the defect causes a failure of justice and is incurable can it lead to revision.

 Instances of Curable Irregularities

  • Failure to examine the complainant on oath.
  • Pronouncing a sentence before writing the judgment.
  • Omission to record facts observed by the Magistrate at a local inspection.
  • Omission to sign the date of a judgment at the time of pronouncing it in Court.
  • Reading and recording evidence in one case into another companion case.

Instances of Irregularities Leading to Illegality

  • Refusal by a Magistrate to issue process to witnesses named by the accused without lawful grounds.
  • Dismissal of a complaint by a Magistrate under Section 203 without providing reasons.
  • Failure to write and pronounce judgment in open Court.
  • Magistrate conducting a summary trial for an offense not triable summarily.
  • Omission by the magistrate to call upon an accused to make or enter his defense.

Legality of Attachment (Section 466)

  • Section 466 ensures that no attachment made under the Criminal Procedure Code is unlawful due to defects or lack of form in the summons, conviction, writ of attachment, or other proceedings.


Irregular proceedings are inevitable due to the human element in court management. The distinction between irregularities and illegalities lies in their curability. While irregularities are curable, illegalities are not, rendering the entire trial process void. Irregularities are considered curable if magistrates, in good faith, take certain actions they are not empowered to do. These minor defects generally do not hamper the interests of the parties. On the other hand, irregularities that make the entire proceeding void involve situations where magistrates lack the authority to perform certain actions, and good faith is not a consideration. Sections 462 to 466 outline specific omissions and errors categorized as irregularities, which are curable.

Not all irregularities vitiate proceedings; only those that significantly impact the interests of the parties and cause great prejudice will lead to the voiding of proceedings. The overarching goal is for courts to avoid irregularities, preventing the miscarriage of justice and ensuring the smooth functioning of the legal system.


The procedures and rules outlined in statutes are extensive and complex. Recognizing that courts are run by humans, it is unreasonable to expect the absence of irregularities or mistakes. Therefore, the law does not deem every irregularity or defect as void, making the entire proceeding invalid.

If the court were to declare every irregularity void, the legal system would be inundated with cases challenging lack of adherence, wasting valuable court time. Irregularities are only considered void if they lead to a failure of justice, violating the principles of natural justice. Despite the complexity of legal procedures, adherence and compliance are crucial. Courts must navigate the delicate balance between addressing irregularities that genuinely affect justice and avoiding unnecessary legal proceedings that may hinder the efficiency of the judicial system.






Written By Archana Singh

I am Archana Singh, a recent law master's graduate with a strong aspiration for the judicial service. My passion lies in elucidating complex legal concepts, disseminating legal news, and enhancing legal awareness. I take immense pride in introducing my new legal website - The LawGist. Through my meticulously crafted blogs and articles, I aim to empower individuals with comprehensive legal insights. My unwavering dedication is to facilitate a profound comprehension of the law, enabling people to execute judicious and well-informed choices.

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