Summons Case & Warrant Case

A criminal case proceeded with offences triable as a warrant case, after investigation, may lead to filing of a report only for offences triable as a summons case.

Similarly, a criminal case proceeded for offence of a lesser gravity after investigation necessitate inclusion of major offence triable as a warrant case.

In the course of the trial also a summons case can also be converted as a warrant case.

A case tried as a summons case may necessitate a warrant trial.

Summons Case

The summons case as defined by Section 2(w) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as : ” ‘summons case’ means a case relating to an offence, and not being a warrant case.”

Every offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years would be a summons case.

Chapter XX prescribes the procedure for trial of summons-cases by Magistrates.

Merely because there is a difference between the procedures to be followed by the Sessions Judge, and the Magistrate in relation to the summons and warrant cases, it does not mean that the character of the offence being a summons case or warrant case would change with reference to the procedure prescribed by the Code for the trial of those cases.

The procedure to be followed is one thing and the nature of the offence i.e. summons case or warrant case, is altogether a different thing.

Warrant Case

Section 2(x) Cr.P.C. defines warrant case as : ” ‘Warrant case’ means a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.”

If an offence under a particular Act or Order is punishable with imprisonment exceeding two years it would be a warrant case.

Chapter XIX prescribes the procedure for the trial of warrant cases by the Magistrate.

Difference between

  • The Code prescribes only one procedure for all summons cases, whether instituted upon a police report or otherwise.
  • But the Code prescribes two procedures for the trial of a warrant case my magistrate – one for case instituted upon a police report and one for case instituted otherwise than on a police report.
  • In a summons case no charge needs to be framed only the particulars of the offence needs to be conveyed to the accused.
  • Whereas in a warrant case, a charge needs to be framed against the accused.
  • In summons cases, as per Section 252, if the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate must record the plea of the accused and may, in his discretion, convict him on such plea.
  • In Warrant case, as per Section 241, after the charge is framed, the accused may plead guilty and the magistrate may convict him on his discretion.
  • In summons cases, the Accused my plead guilty by post without appearing before the magistrate.
  • However in Warrant case, the Accused must appear personally.
  • In summons cases, the accused may be acquitted, if the complainant is absent or if the complainant dies.
  • In the case of Warrant case, the Magistrate can discharge the accused if complainant is absent, or no charge is framed, or if the offence is compoundable and non cognizable.
  • In Summons cases, the complainant may, with the permission of the court, withdraw the complaint against the accused.
  • In a warrant case, the complainant may, with the permission of the court, withdraw the remaining charges against an accused, if he is charged with several offences and convicted on one or more of them.
  • When a warrant case is tried as a summons case and if the accused is acquitted under Section 255, the acquittal will only amount to discharge.
  • When a summons case is tried as a warrant case and if the accused is discharged under Section 245, the discharge will amount to acquittal.
  • Trial of a warrant case as a summons case is a serious irregularity and the trial is vitiated if the accused has been prejudiced.
  • Trial of a summons case as a warrant case is an irregularity which is curable under Section 465.
  • A summons case cannot have charges that require a warrant case.
  • A warrant case may contain charges that reflect a summons case.
  • In summons case the Accused gets only one opportunity.
  • Whereas in warrant case, the Accused may get more than one opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution witness. A charge under a warrant case cannot be split up into its constituents for trial under summons case.
  • In a warrant case, after convicting the accused, the magistrate may take evidence regarding previous conviction not admitted by the accused.
  • However, in a summons case, No such power is available to the magistrate.
  • All cases which are not punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or for more than two years are summons cases.
  • All cases which are punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or for more than two years are warrant cases.
  • As per Section 259, a summons case can be converted into a warrant case if the case relates to an offence that entails more than 6 months of imprisonment as punishment and the judge feels that in the interest of justice it the case should be tried as a warrant case.
  • A warrant case cannot be converted into a summons case.

It is important to note that the question whether a summons or a warrant should be issued in the case is not related to whether the case is a summons case or a warrant case.