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Difference between ‘Summary Trial’ and ‘Ordinary Trial’? – Explained!

Thus, the object of summary trial is to have a record which is sufficient for the purpose of justice, and yet, not so long as to impede a speedy disposal of the case. In other words, a summary trial is “summary” only in respect of the record of its proceedings, and not in respect of the proceedings themselves, which should be complete and carefully conducted, as in any other criminal case.

Under the old Code, in a summary trial, the summons procedure was to be followed in the summons-cases and the warrant procedure in warrant-cases. However, the present Code has now done away with this distinction, and the procedure has been simplified by providing that, in a summary trial, all cases should be tried by the summons procedure, whether the case is a summons-case or warrant-case.

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Section 260 lays down that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Criminal Procedure Code, any Judicial Magistrate or any Metropolitan Magistrate, or any First Class Magistrate specially empowered for this purpose by the High Court, may, if he thinks fit try the offences specified below in a summary manner.

However, if in the course of a summary trial, it appears to the Magistrate that the nature of the case is such that it is undesirable to try it in a summary fashion, the Magistrate may recall any witness who may have been already examined, and proceed to re­hear the case in the manner prescribed by the Code.

The following nine offences have been singled out by S. 260 for summary trials:

(i) Offences not punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years;

(ii) Theft, under S. 379, S. 380 or S. 381 of the Indian Penal Code. 1860, where the value of the property stolen does not exceed Rs. 2,000:

(iii) Receiving or retaining stolen property, under S. 411 of the Indian Penal Code, where the value of the property does not exceed Rs. 2,000;

(iv) Assisting in the concealment or disposal of stolen property, under S. 414 of the Indian Penal Code, where the value of such property does not exceed Rs. 2,000;

(v) Offences under S. 454 and 456 of the Indian Penal Code (namely, lurking house trespass)

(vi) Insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, under S. 504, and criminal intimidation punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both, under S. 506 of the Indian Penal Code;

(vii) Abetment of any of the foregoing offences;

(viii) An attempt to commit any of the foregoing offences, when such attempt is also an offence; and

(ix) Any offence constituted by an act in respect of which a complaint may be made under S. 20 of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871.

From what has been stated above, it is clear that it is in the discretion of a Magistrate to try any of the above offences in a summary manner. Whether a particular case is to be tried summarily should be determined by the offence complained of and the testimony of the Complainant.

As pointed out by the Allahabad High Court, if the case is a complicated one, it should not be tried summarily (Dina Nath,—1913 35 All. 173). The Bombay High Court has observed that if the accused is deaf and dumb, it would be convenient to try him summarily. (Deaf & Dumb Man, — 1906 B.L.R. 849)

It is also provided that the High Court may confer on any Magistrate who is vested with the powers of a Second Class Magistrate, the power to try summarily, any offence which is punishable only with fine, or with imprisonment upto six months, with or without fine, and any abetment of or attempt to commit any such offence.

It is further provided that, in summary trials under this Chapter, the procedure specified in the Code for the trial of summons-case is to be followed, subject to the following three qualifications:

(i) No sentence of imprisonment for more than three months can be passed in any conviction under this Chapter.

(ii) In every case which is tried summarily, the Magistrate must enter the following particulars:

(a) The serial number of the case;

(b) The date of the commission of the offence;

(c) The date of the report or complaint;

(d) The name of the complainant (if any);

(e) The name, parentage and residence of the accused;

(f) The offence complained of, and the offence (if any) proved, and in cases coming under clause (ii), clause (iii) and clause

(iv) Above, the value of the property in respect of which the offence has been committed;

(g) The plea of the accused and his examination (if any);

(h) The finding;

(i) The sentence or other final orders; and

(j) The date on which the proceedings terminated.

(iii) In every case tried in a summary fashion in which the accused does not plead guilty, the Magistrate must record (a) the substance of the evidence, and (b) a judgement containing a brief statement of the reasons for the finding. Every such record and judgement must be written in the language of the Court.

As seen above, the Magistrate cannot impose a sentence of imprisonment of any term exceeding three months for any conviction under this Chapter. Therefore, any sentence that exceeds this period would be illegal. If the Magistrate is of the opinion that a longer period of imprisonment is necessary in the interest of justice, the trial should be held as in a warrant-case or a summons-case, according to the nature of the offence.

It will be observed that there is no limit as to the amount of fine which the Magistrate can impose in a summary trial.

Moreover, the above maximum limit of imprisonment refers only to the substantive sentence, and does not cover an alternate sentence of imprisonment in default of payment of fine. Thus, a Magistrate can impose a sentence of imprisonment in default of payment of fine in addition to the maximum sentence of three months’ imprisonment which he has imposed for the offence. (Asghar AH,—1883 6 All. 61)

In an interesting case decided by the Madras High Court, a Magistrate convicted an accused summarily of a Municipal offence, without issuing any process or making any record of the proceeding, and without even dismounting from a pony on which he was riding. The Court held that the record must have been prepared after the close of the “trial” from memory or from rough notes, and that the entire procedure was illegal. (Erugadu,—1891 15 Mad. 53)

Appeal and Revision:

No appeal lies from a summary trial if only a sentence of fine not exceeding Rs. 200 has been awarded.

A revision application would, however, lie to the High Court for trials conducted under this Chapter.

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