Discharge of an Accused after filing of chargesheet

Applying for a “discharge application” under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (“CrPC”) is a remedy which can be availed by a person who has been maliciously charge-sheeted. The CrPC provides for filing of a discharge application if the allegations made against the person are false and frivolous. If the evidence before the Court is not sufficient to satisfy the ingredients of an offence and in the absence of any prima facie case against the person, he/she is entitled to be discharged from the case.

The police after completing its investigation files a charge sheet under Section 173 of the CrPC. Once the charge sheet is filed, the Accused is called upon to plead guilty or not guilty of the charge proposed to be framed. If the Accused pleads not guilty, the trial against the Accused begins in the concerned Court. Section 239 and 227 of the CrPC provide that before the charges are framed against the Accused person, he/she can be discharged on certain grounds.

Section 239 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 states when an Accused can be discharged in a trial before a Magistrate’s Court:
If the Magistrate, after due consideration of the police report and all the documents sent under Section 173 of the CrPC and after hearing the prosecution as well as the Accused, considers the charges to be groundless against the Accused, the Magistrate shall discharge the Accused and record the reasons for doing so.

What are the Essential elements for discharge?
The Courts must consider the charge sheet and documents appended by the Police under Section 173 of the CrPC:

  1. The Magistrate, if he deems fit, may examine the Accused.
  2. The arguments of both the prosecution and the accused must be heard.
  3. Grounds against the Accused should be baseless, there should be no evidence against the Accused.
When can an Accused be discharged in Sessions Trial?
Section 227 of the CrPC states that if a Judge considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceedings against an Accused, he shall discharge the Accused and record his reasons for doing so. Only after considering the allegations in the chargesheet the discharge of an Accused can be ordered.

Cases where a Sessions Judge is bound to discharge:
  1. Where he is precluded from proceeding because of a prior judgment of the High Court,
  2. Where the prosecution is clearly barred by limitation,
  3. Where the evidence produced is not sufficient,
  4. Where there is no legal ground for proceeding against the Accused, or
  5. Where no sanction has been obtained. 

Ways of determining if there is sufficient ground for discharge:
As per Section 227 of the CrPC,  the Magistrate should ensure that there is no sufficient ground for proceedings, it means that no prudent person can conclude that there are grounds or even a single ground to sustain the charge against the accused. If the Sessions Judge is certain that the trial would only be a futile exercise or complete waste of time, he has the authority to discharge the Accused.

For the purpose of deciding whether the grounds are sufficient for proceeding against an Accused, the Court determines the question whether the material on record, if it is un-rebutted, is sufficient to make the conviction possible. It postulates the exercise of the judicial mind to the facts of the case to decide whether a case has been made out by the prosecution for trial.

In the case of Union of India versus Prafulla Kumar Samal, the Hon’ble Supreme Court formulated the following seven guiding principles on discharge and framing of charges:

  1. The judge while considering the question of framing the charges under Section 227 Crpc has the undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case against the accused has been made out. To determine prima facie case would depend upon the facts of each case.
  2. Where the materials placed before the court disclosed grave suspicion against the accused which has not been properly explained, the court will be fully justified in framing a charge and proceeding with the trial.
  3. The court cannot act merely as a post office or a mouth piece of the prosecution but it has to consider the broad probabilities of the case. There cannot be a roving enquiry into the pros and cons of the matter and weigh the evidence as if a trial was being conducted.
  4. On the basis of material on record if the court could form an opinion that the accused might have committed the offence, it can frame the charge.
  5. At the time of framing of the charges, the probative value of the material on record cannot be gone into but before framing of charge the Court must apply it’s judicial mind on the material placed on record and must be satisfied that the commission by the accused was possible.
  6. At the stage of Section 227 and 228 of the Crpc, the court is required to evaluate the material and documents on record with a view to find out the existence of all the ingredients constituting the alleged offence but the court cannot be expected to presume that the prosecution story is the truth.
  7. If two views are possible and one of them gives rise to suspicion only, as distinguished from grave suspicion, the trial judge will be empowered to discharge the accused irrespective of the result of the trial.

Any laws relating to procedure and evidence requires some sort of interpretation, the interpretation is made usually in favour of the accused which is, upholding the presumption of innocence. The main purpose of the discharge application is that an innocent person should not be made to stand the rigours of a trial for a crime that he did not commit.

By - Vedanta Kishanchandani