Warrant Trials under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Meaning of Warrant Trials

Warrant trials in India are governed by Sections 238 to 250 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973. These trials deal with more serious offences compared to summons cases, involving crimes punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. The fundamental distinction between warrant and summons cases lies in the severity of punishments involved, affecting the procedural intricacies of each trial type.

Initiation of Warrant Trials

A warrant trial typically commences upon the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) at a police station or directly through a complaint to a magistrate. These trials are categorized based on how they are instituted: either on a police report (Section 173, CrPC) or otherwise. The process varies slightly depending on the initiation mechanism but fundamentally follows a structured sequence to ensure justice.

Trials Instituted on a Police Report

  1. Initial Steps and Supply of Copies: Following the FIR, the police investigate and submit a charge sheet to the magistrate (Section 207, CrPC). The accused must be furnished with all documents including the police report, to prepare a defense.
  2. Discharge of Accused: If the magistrate finds the charges baseless after reviewing the initial evidence and hearing the parties, the accused may be discharged under Section 239.
  3. Framing of Charge: If there is sufficient ground, a formal charge is framed against the accused (Section 240). The charge is then read and explained to the accused.
  4. Conviction on Plea of Guilty: If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate may convict them immediately (Section 241).

Presentation and Recording of Evidence

  • Prosecution’s Evidence: The prosecution presents its evidence first, calling witnesses and submitting other evidentiary materials (Section 242). The magistrate records all evidence deemed relevant.
  • Defense’s Evidence: After the prosecution, the defense has the opportunity to present its evidence and witnesses (Section 243).


  • Following the presentation of evidence from both sides, the magistrate passes a judgment of either acquittal or conviction based on the evidence and its legal scrutiny.

Trials Instituted Otherwise than on a Police Report

  1. Preliminary Hearing and Discharge: Similar initial steps are followed where the magistrate conducts a preliminary hearing. If the accusations appear groundless, the accused can be discharged (Sections 245 to 247).
  2. Framing of Charge and Further Proceedings: If not discharged, the charge is framed and the trial proceeds similarly to police report cases, with evidence presentation and eventual judgment.

Key Legal Principles and Cases

  • Case Law: The principles laid out in cases such as State vs Sitaram Dayaram Kachhi (1957) and State of Himachal Pradesh vs Krishan Lal Pradhan (1987) illustrate the courts’ approach to discharging an accused and the importance of prima facie evidence in framing charges.
  • Importance of Section 243 and 244, CrPC: These sections underline the procedural fairness provided to the accused in presenting their defense effectively.

Procedural Nuances

  • Evidence Management: The magistrates’ role in examining and recording evidence is crucial. This involves a careful balancing of the testimonies, documentary evidence, and legal requirements to ensure a fair trial.
  • Judicial Discretion in Conviction and Sentencing: The magistrate’s discretion in recording a guilty plea or in deciding on a conviction post-trial highlights the personalized nature of legal judgments, factoring in the specifics of each case.


Warrant trials under the CrPC, 1973, serve a critical function in the Indian judicial system by addressing serious offences through a comprehensive procedural framework. The emphasis on detailed evidence presentation, judicial discretion in discharge and conviction, and the rights of the accused to a fair defense, all contribute to the overarching goal of justice.

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