Every charge under the CrPC states the offence for which an accused is charged. the purpose of the charge is to inform the accused, for which offence he is being charged.
It is important to let know the accused clearly and with a certainty of the charges which the prosecution has charged against him. Under the criminal law, there is an underlying principle which states that it is the right of the accused to be informed about the exact nature of the charges framed against him.
According to section 2(b) of CrPC charge defines as any head of a charge when the charge contains more heads than one.
In simple words, a charge means an accusation. It is a concrete accusation put up by the magistrate or the court based on the prima facie evidence accrued against the accused.
A criminal charge refers to a formal accusation made by a governmental authority like a public prosecutor or police asserting that an individual has committed a crime.
Chapter XVII from section 211 – section 224 deals with the charge.
- Section 211- Section 217 deals with the form of charges.
- Section 218 -Section 224 of CrPC deals with the Joinder of charges. Joinder of charges refers to the cases when more than one accused is tried for the charge of the same offence.
BASIS AND PURPOSE
The basic purpose of the charge is to let the accused know for which offence he is charged so that he can prepare his defence on that basis. The charges should be informed to the accused at the very beginning. Every individual has an equal opportunity to prepare his defence ad avail justice. In the serious offences, the statute requires that the charge should be written down clearly and precisely and read out to the accused and explained with clarity.
FRAMING OF CHARGES
Section 211 states the contents which every charge should include. They are following –
- The offence for which accused is charged
- The specific name of the offence if provided then it shall be mentioned
- In the absence of a specific name of offence, the definition should be mentioned.
- The law and section of the offence
- The charge should be equivalent to the statement that states that every condition for charging the individual for the offence is satisfied.
- The Charge should be written in the language of the court
- When accused is convicted previously of any offence then the following things should be considered–
- If accused is liable for enhanced punishment
- If accused is liable for punishment of a different kind
- The place and date of the precious conviction should be mentioned in the charge. Thecourt can add it any time before the judgement is passed if omitted.
The charge should consist the time, place of the offence and also mention against whom the offence was committed.
In cases of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation then the gross sum of the money or the movable property in respect of which the offence was committee should be mentioned.
In the case where the nature of the matter isn’t clear to the accused for which he is charged, in such situations the particulars of how the alleged offence was committed should be mentioned in the charge.
The charge should be described in the same manner how its described in the law under which the offence is punished.
JOINDER OF CHARGES
According to Section218the basic rule for charging a person for distinct offences for which he is accused, a separate charge shall be framed and every charge should be tried separately.
The sections 219, 220, 221 and 223 are an exception to the basic rule of the trial of accused as mentioned in section 218.
In the case where an individual is charged for three offence which is of the same kind and punished with the same amount of punishment under the same section of Indian Penal code, 1860 within a year, then the accused can be tried at one trial for the offence not more than three.
According to the section when the accused is charged with an offence forming a series of acts and the acts are part of the same transaction and more than one offence is committed by such series of acts then the accused may be charged and tried for all the offences in one trial.
In cases where its not clear that for which offences the accused will be charged for a single act or series of acts, then in such situation the accused can be charged for committing All offences or Any of such offence. The accused shall be tried for such charges in one trial or he can be tried for an alternate offence having committed someone of the said offences.
It deals with the circumstances under which an accused can be convicted of an offence of which he was not charged at the beginning of the trial.
The section provides the types of persons who can be charged jointly, such as accused persons who have committed the same offence in the course of same transaction etc.
The section deals with the withdrawal of remaining charges when one of the several charges has received a conviction.
DEFECT IN FRAMING OF CHARGES
There is a situation when anerror in there in the charges framed against the accused. the provisions dealing with the case of an error in charge is dealt in section 215 and 216 must be read with Section 464 of CrPC.
According to the section, any error or omission in stating the offence or the particulars required to be stated in the charge shall not be regarded as material in any stage of the case. the error or omission can be taken into account only when the accused was misled by it and it has resulted in the occasioned failure of justice.
According to the section the court has the power to alter or add to any charge at any time before the judgement is pronounced and such alteration or addition should be read and explained to the accused. Clauses (3), (4) and (5) of the said section deals with the status of the trial and proceedings after the alteration or addition of charge.
This section states that any finding sentence or order of a court of competent jurisdiction will not be considered invalid on the ground that no charges were framed or if there was any error omission or irregularity in the charge. Or misjoinder of charge.
The findings sentence or order of the said court can be deemed invalid only when the court of appeal opines that there was a failure of delivery of justice.
If no valid charge can be framed in the case against the accused then the court shall quash the conviction of the accused.
- State of Maharashtra v. Som Nath Thapa 
In this case, the Hon’ble court held that at the stage of framing of charges the court needs to apply its mind to the question whether or not there is any ground for presuming that the offence is committed by the accused.
- V.C Shukla v State through CBI
Justice Desai in the case delivered the judgement that the purpose of framing a charge is to give intimidation to the accused of clear, unambiguous and precise notice of the nature of accusation that the accused is called upon to meet in the course of a trial.
- State of Himachal Pradesh v. Tara Dutta
The Hon’ble court held that the accused can be convicted for minor offences if facts established to indicate that the accused has committed that in a case when the accused was prior charged for any major offences but was not found guilty.
The Hon’ble court held that “the courts should give reasons for framing the charges because framing charged substantially affects the liberty of the person concerned”.
The CrPC states the basic rules of practice and procedure for framing the charge. Framing of charge is the most essential and basic step of a case with the help of which the trial can be started against the concerned person.
It’s important to follow the duty of care while framing charges as an error in it can cause a miscarriage of justice.
The court cannot drop the charges if a person has charged, either the court can convict him or acquit him.
1996 4 SCC 659
1980 Supp SCC 92
AIR 2000 SC 297