Criminal Courts in India and their Functioning: The Procedural Code

In this article, we will be discussing the classes of Criminal Courts along with their functioning. As mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Section 6 of the Code talks about the Classes of Criminal Courts.

Classes of Criminal Courts in India

“Section 6 states that besides the High Courts and Courts constituted under any law, other than this code, there shall be, in every state, the following classes of criminal courts in India, namely –

  1. Courts of Session
  2. Judicial Magistrate of the first class and, in any Metropolitan area, Metropolitan Magistrate;
  3. Judicial Magistrate of the second class; and
  4. Executive Magistrates.”[1]

The different classes of criminal courts in India shall be discussed under different sub-heads hereafter.

Courts of Session

As per Section 9 of the code, the court is divided by the state government for every session’s division which is presided over by a Judge who is appointed by the High Court. Apart from the judge, Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges may also be appointed by the HC in order to exercise jurisdiction in a Court of Session. Further a Civil Judge and Chief Judicial Magistrate while acting as in charge, Session Judge does not have powers of a Session Court for granting bail in serious cases. Originally, the sessions court will hear every single matter continuously in sessions and immediately it delivers judgements right after the completion of the arguments. Therefore, the name “Sessions Court” mean that “the cases will be disposed off expeditiously.”

Power – It has the power to imposefull range of penalties for criminal acts including capital punishment (death penalty)

Judicial Magistrate of the First Class and, in any Metropolitan area, Metropolitan Magistrate

 Judicial Magistrate of the First Class

  • Defined under Section 11 of CrPC.
  • The second lowest level of the Criminal Court Structure in India.
  • States that in every district not being a metropolitan such court shall be established.
  • These courts are established by the State Government in consultation with the Hight court of the respective state at such places in districts and in any number by a notification.[2]
  • Presiding officers are appointed by the High Court.
  • A judicial magistrate in under the control of the Sessions Judge and subordinate to the Chief Judicial Magistrate as per Section 15 of the CrPC.
  • Power – May pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding five thousand rupees or both, as per Section 29 of CrPC.

Metropolitan Magistrate

  • Defined under Section 16 of CrPC.
  • Hold the second-lowest level of the criminal court in India.
  • Established by the state government in consultation with the HC of the representative state.
  • Presiding officers are appointed by the High Court.
  • Jurisdiction and powers of every metropolitan magistrate are extended through the metropolitan area.
  • Metropolitan Magistrate is a first-class magistrate under the general control of the District & Sessions Judge and is subordinate to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.
  • Power – May pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding five thousand rupees or both, as per Section 28 of CrPC.
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Judicial Magistrate of the Second Class

These courts may be established by the State Government in consultation with theHigh Court of the respective state at such places in the district and in any numberby issuing a notification. They are at the lowest hierarchy of the Criminal Courts structure in India. The presiding officers of such courts including special courts shall be appointed by the High Court.

Power – These courts can reward imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or fine not exceeding one thousand rupees or both, as per Section 29 (3) of CrPC.

  • Executives Magistrate

Section 20 of the CrPC talks about the Executives Magistrate. The State Government may appoint as many persons as it thinks fit to be Executives Magistrate in every district and in every metropolitan area and shall appoint one of them to be the District Magistrate. Aforementioned categories of Executive Magistrate also exist –

  • Special Executive Magistrates – Section 21 of CrPC

Special Executive Magistrates are appointed for particular areas and to perform particular functions by the State government.

  • Local Jurisdiction of Executive Magistrates – Section 22 of CrPC

To define the local limit of the area within which the Executive Magistrate may exercise and all can be altered from time to time by the State Government. The purpose lies in the fact to meet the special needs of a particular area and to perform certain functions in a specified area.

  • Subordinate of Executive Magistrates – Section 23 of CrPC

Every single official Magistrate, other than the Additional District Magistrate are subordinate to the District Magistrate and each Executive Magistrate practicing power in a sub-division ought to be subordinate to the Sub –Divisional Magistrate subject to the general control of the District Magistrate.

Now, talking about the functions, firstly general functions of Criminal Law can be stated as follows –

  1. Resolving Disputes – The law makes it conceivable to determine clashes and question between quarreling natives. It gives a serene, deliberate approach to handle grievances.
  2. Protecting individuals and property – Criminal law shields natives from culprits who might deliver physical damage to others or take their common merchandise.
  3. Providing for a smooth functioning of society – Criminal law empowers the administration to gather charges, control contamination, and achieve other socially valuable assignments. Hence functions the smooth working.
  4. Safeguards civil liberties and individual rights.
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The Criminal Process – Investigation and Prosecution

Criminal prosecution has generally two streams in India. The main identifies with criminal cases which are started on the premise of the police report or FIRs held up with the police, while the second stream identifies with cases that are started on the premise of private protestations. In regard to the principal stream, an indictment is led by the Director of Public Prosecution through open prosecutors. Particularly Section 225 of the CrPC gives that each trial under the steady gaze of a Sessions Court should be directed by an open prosecutor. Notwithstanding these private gatherings can likewise lead the cases through their own attorneys in regard to private grievances. The private grievance under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 is one such illustration.

The CrPC explains the system to be followed in each examination, request, and trial, for each offense under the Indian Penal Code or under whatever other law. It isolates the method to be taken after for organization of criminal equity into three phases: to be a specific examination, request, and trial.[3]

The Code of Criminal Procedure is the main legislation on procedure for administration of substantive criminal law in India. It was enacted in 1973 and came into force on 1 April, 1974. CrPC. provides the machinery for the investigationof crime, apprehension of suspected criminals, collection of evidence, determination of guilt or innocence of the accused person and the determination of punishment of the guilty.[4]Section 2(h) defines investigation as under:-
Section 2 (h) ” investigation” includes all the proceedings under this Code for the collection of evidence conducted by a police officer or by any person (other than a Magistrate) who is authorised by a Magistrate in this behalf;After receiving the information about any offence the process of investigation starts.

The basic duty of the police forces is to register cases, investigate them as per the procedure laid down in the code of Criminal Procedure. And to send them up for trail. In addition to the State Police Forces, the Government of India has constituted a central investigation agency called the Central Bureau of Investigation under the special enactment called the Delhi Special police Establishment Act, 1946.[5]

In short, the target of examination is to gather prove with the end goal of any request then again trial. The examination is a preparatory stage inquiry directed by the Police and more often than not begins after the recording of a First Information Report (FIR) in the Police Station (Section 154-155 of the Code).On the off chance that the officer responsible for a police headquarters speculates the commission of an offense from articulation of FIR or when the judge coordinates or something else, the officer or any subordinate officer is compelled by a sense of honor to continue to the spot to explore the certainties and conditions of the case and if important, take measures for the revelation and capture of the wrongdoer.

  1. Investigation primarily consists of ascertaining the facts and circumstances of the case. It includes: the collection of evidence;
  2. Inspection of the place of occurrence of the commission of the crime;
  • Ascertainment of facts and circumstances;
  • Discovery of any article or object used for the commission of the crime;
  • An arrest of the suspected offender;
  • Interrogation and examination of various persons including the accused and taking of their statements in writing;
  • The search of places or seizure of things considered necessary for the investigation and considered to be material at the time of the trial, etc.
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Investigation closes in a police answer to the Magistrate. Once the examination is finished, the matter will be brought before the Magistrate or the concerned court. A request is the second phase of the procedure wherein a Magistrate tries to see if the blamed ought to be focused on the Sessions or released. As indicated by Section 2(g) of the CrPC, “request” implies each request, other than a trial, led under this Code by a Magistrate or Court. At the end of the day, request alludes to procedures before a Magistrate.

It was quoted by a Russian Nobel laureate Solzhenitsyn, that “A society which is bases upon the letter of law, and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of law is too cold to have any beneficial influences on society. Whenever the issue of life is woven in legalist relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.”

Hence, this is the brief of the functioning of the Criminal Courts in India

Also read Criminal Victimization & Justice Administration in India


[1]Section 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

[2]Section 11 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

[3]The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, https://www.oecd.org/site/adboecdanti-corruptioninitiative/46814340.pdf

[4]Dr. Raj Kumar Yadav, Investigation and Criminal Administration Justice in India: A study of Legislative & Judicial Trends.

[5]Madan Lal Sharma, THE ROLE AND FUNCTION OF PROSECUTION IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE 16.