THE CHARGE (SECTION 211-217)
Introduction to ‘Charge’ under CrPC
Section 2 (b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines “Charge” broadly.Charge under Criminal Procedure Code means allowing multiple offenses committed together to be treated as one charge. It acknowledges that a single criminal act can result in various offenses, and these can be grouped into a single charge for legal proceedings. This simplifies the handling of cases with multiple offenses arising from one incident.
FORM OF CHARGES
SECTION 211 – ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE CHARGE FORM
Section 211 outlines the critical elements that must be present in a Contents Of Charge under Criminal Procedure Code-
- Statement of Offense – The charge form must clearly state the specific offense for which the accused is being charged.
- Exact Offense Name – It should specify the precise name of the offense, ensuring no ambiguity.
- Defining Offense – If there isn’t a specific name for the offense in question, the charge must provide a clear definition based on the relevant law.
- Reference to Law – The charge should include references to the relevant legal provisions.
- Language of the Court – Charges should be written in the language of the court to ensure understanding.
- Previous Allegations – The accused must be informed of any prior allegations that might lead to enhanced penalties if they are found guilty.
SECTION 212 – PARTICULARS IN THE CHARGE FORM
Section 212 specifies what particulars should be included in the charge form-
- Offense Details – The charge form should contain specific details of the offense, including the time, place, and the person against whom the offense is alleged to have been committed.
- Time Specification – For certain offenses like criminal breach of trust, specifying the exact time is not necessary; it is sufficient to mention the gross sum and dates of the alleged offenses.
SECTION 213 – ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS WHEN NEEDED
When the details outlined in Sections 211 and 212 do not provide sufficient notice of the matter with which the accused is charged, the charge should include additional particulars describing how the alleged offense was committed.
SECTION 214 – INTERPRETATION OF WORDS IN A CHARGE
This section clarifies that the words used in a criminal charge are to be understood within the context of the legal definition of the offense as per the law under which it is punishable.
SECTION 215 – CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS IN A CHARGE
Section 215 outlines that errors or omissions in the charge, whether in describing the offense or its particulars, are generally considered insignificant unless they genuinely mislead the accused and result in a miscarriage of justice.
SECTION 216 – ALTERATION OF CHARGE AND PROCEDURES
Section 216 deals with the Alteration Of Charge under Criminal Procedure Code, there are conditions to be met-
- court’s power to alter charge – Courts are granted the authority to alter or add to the charge at any point before the judgment is pronounced.
- Conditions for Alteration – Alteration or addition to the charge can take place as long as it does not introduce charges for a new offense, and the accused has the opportunity to defend against the new charge.
- Explanation of Altered Charge – Following any alteration, the charge must be explained to the accused to enable them to prepare for the new accusations.
- Prejudice Consideration – If altering the charge is likely to prejudice either the accused or the prosecutor, the court may decide to proceed with the original trial or adjourn it. In cases where the facts constituting the offense are changed, sanction is necessary.
SECTION 217 – RECALL OF WITNESSES WHEN CHARGE IS ALTERED
Section 217 deals with recalling witnesses when charges are altered during the trial –
- Recalling Witnesses – If a charge is altered during the trial, both the prosecutor and the accused are allowed to recall or re-summon witnesses for examination concerning the modified charge.
- Conditions for Recall – The court may permit the recalling of witnesses, unless it believes that it is being done for vexation, delay, or to undermine the ends of justice.
- Calling Additional Witnesses – Additionally, the court may grant permission for calling further witnesses deemed material to the case.
In summary, Sections 211-217 of the Criminal Procedure Code establish a comprehensive framework for the formulation, alteration, and understanding of charges in criminal cases. These provisions ensure that the accused is properly informed, can adequately prepare their defense, and have the opportunity to recall witnesses when charges are altered. This process is essential for maintaining fairness and justice in criminal trials.