Question: What are the different stages in the procedure followed for a criminal case after a complaint is given to the police station?
Answer: A criminal case generally involves the following stages, depending upon the type of case:
- Filing of a complaint by the informant / complainant at the police station.
- If the complaint relates to a non-cognizable offence, the police will not register the FIR (first information report) and will ask the informant to approach the court having jurisdiction over the area where the offence took place.
- However, if the complaint relates to the commission of a cognizable offence, the police will register FIR under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.).
- Registration of FIR is followed by detailed investigation conducted by the police. This may include recording of statements of witnesses; search and seizure of documents and other property (if any, involved); collection of other evidence, if any (such as scientific evidence, medical evidence); examination and/or arrest of accused persons, and other processes of investigation.
- After the investigation has been completed, police will file either the charge sheet or a closure report before the competent court, depending upon availability of evidence. This is done under Section 173 of Cr.P.C.
- In case of a closure report having been filed, the informant / complainant may be given a chance by the court to oppose the closure of the case.
- In case of a charge sheet having been filed, cognizance of the offences committed is taken by the court (under Section 190 of Cr.P.C.).
- If the offence is triable exclusively by the Sessions Court, then the case will be committed to the Sessions Court. Otherwise, the Magistrate court will continue to handle the case.
- Next stage is the framing of charges if there is prima facie evidence against the accused person(s). However, if no prima facie case is made out, the accused will be discharged.
- If charges are framed, the next stage will be the recording of evidence of prosecution witnesses. This also includes their cross-examination by or on behalf of the accused persons.
- Next stage is the recording of statements of accused persons under Section 313 of Cr.P.C.
- Thereafter, recording of evidence of defence witnesses, if any, is done by or on behalf of the accused.
- In the next stage, final arguments take place (may be oral as well as written).
- Judgment delivered by the court. It may result in conviction or acquittal of accused persons, depending upon whether or not the charges are proved by evidence adduced by prosecution.
- In case of conviction of accused persons, sentence is awarded to the accused persons after hearing them on the question of sentence.
What has been mentioned above is only a broad outline of the procedure followed in a criminal case. There may be many deviations in the above procedure depending upon the complications involved in a case; for example, in a corruption case, sanction may be taken from the competent authority to prosecute the accused public servant after completion of the investigation but before filing of the charge sheet.