Meaning of Summon

Summons is a document that orders a person to whom it was sent to appear before the Court and answer the Magistrate on the complaint made against him. It is issued by the Magistrate under Section 204 (1) (a) of Code of criminal procedure code,1973. Summon cases are those in which punishment will not exceed imprisonment for two years. It can be said that summon cases are not of serious nature, so it needs to be decided speedily, without dispensing the requisites of the fair trial.

The definition of the summons case is given in 2(w) inthe Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973; the summons case means a case related to an offense which is not a case of warrant. Procedure of summon case is defined under chapter 20 of Code of criminal procedure. Any offense, punishable with a fine of Rs. 50 /-, then such a case is summons case

  1. There is no need to frame formal charges in summons cases.
  2. The accused may be convicted or acquitted.
  3. Summons case once completed cannot be reopened.
  4. In summons case the complainant can withdraw his complaint. The effect of this would be to acquit the accused.
  5. Summons are usually issued to the accused in summon cases.
  6. The question of punishment in the summons case does not require hearing of the accused.
  7. There is generally no need for an argument before the prosecution in summons cases.

What is trials?

Trial is the process in a court of law where a judge or a magistrate listens to evidence and decides if somebody is guilty of a crime or not. A trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence) in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. There are 4 types of trial of offences in Indian legal system namely Trial by Court of Session, Trial of Warrant case, Trial of Summons case, Summary trials.

The trial of the accused for the crime committed by him is divided into four types: –

  1. Sessions Trial or Trial by court of Session: – If the offence committed is punishable with more than seven years of imprisonment or Life imprisonment or Death, the trial is to be conducted in a Sessions court after being committed or forwarded to the court by a magistrate.
  2. Warrant Trial or Trial of Warrant cases: – Warrant case includes offence punishable with the death penalty, imprisonment for life and imprisonment exceeding two years.  A trial in a warrant case begins either by filing an FIR in a Police Station or by filing it before a Magistrate.
  3. Summons Trial or Trial of Summons cases: – If the offense committed is punishable by imprisonment less than two years, it is treated as a summons case. In relation to this crime, it is not necessary to frame charges. The magistrate issues summons under section 204 (1) (a) of Cr.P.C, 1973. “Summons case” means a case related to the offense, not a case of a warrant.
  4. Summary Trials: – The trials in which cases are disposed of rapidly and a simple procedure is followed and recording of such trials are done summarily. In this trial only small cases are taken up and complex cases are reserved for summons and warrant trials. The legal provisions for summary trial are given under section 260-265 of Cr.P.C, 1973

Procedure of Trial of Summons Case

The process of trial for summon cases is less concise in nature. The procedure of the summon cases is as follows: –

  1. Explaining the substance of allegation to the accused (Section 251): – When an accused appears before the court, the allegations made against him shall be explained to him. But under this section, it is not mandatory to frame the charge against him.
  2. The Conviction On Plea of Guilty (Section 252): – After explaining the allegations of the offence to the accused, if he pleads guilty then the Magistrate can record the exact words of the accused and may convict him for further proceedings. In case the accused not accepted the plea of guilty, Magistrate can proceed with Section 254.
  3. The Absence of Accused (Section 253): – If the accused before appearing the Magistrate has to plead guilty, he can send a letter by post or messenger and the letter must contain the plea of the accused also the fine amount specified in the summons. The Magistrate at his discretion convict the accused and order him to pay the fine, or if a lawyer is presented for the accused before the Magistrate and pleads guilty on behalf of accused, the Magistrate can record the words used by the lawyer and move to further proceedings.
  4. The Procedure When The Accused Is Not Convicted On Plea (Section 254): – If the accused is not convicted on plea under Section 252 and Section 253, then for prosecution and the defence part Section 254 is provided. The magistrate after hearing the accused, he calls the prosecution to open the case by presenting all the facts, circumstances related to the case and the evidence. The Magistrate on the application of prosecution issue summons to the witnesses to appear before the Court or to present any documents relating to the facts of the case. The Magistrate takes all the evidence and may be produced in support of the prosecution.
  5. Acquittal or Conviction (Section 255): – The Magistrate after taking the entire evidence produced in the case, finds the accused is not guilty, he can order acquittal and if the Magistrate finds the accused guilty, he is required to pass sentence according to the law. However, considering the nature or circumstances of the offence and the character of the offender, the Magistrate can order for admonition or probation of good conduct under Section 360 or Section 325 of the Code.
  6. Death or Non-Appearance of the Complainant (Section 256): – If the complainant has not appeared before the court on the date fixed for appearance, the Court can acquit the accused unless the Court has reason to adjourn the case to another day. In sub section 1 of 256, the complainant not appeared before the Court due to the death of complainant, the defendant can be acquitted. In S.Rama Krishna vs. Rami Reddy it was held by the Supreme Court that in case the representative of the dead complainant not appeared for 15 days then the defendant can be acquitted.
  7. The Withdrawal of Complaint (Section 257): – The complainant can withdraw the case before the final judgement by satisfying the Magistrate that there is no ground for continuing the complaint on the accused and if there is more than one accused, against all, the Magistrate allows the Complainant to withdraw the case.
  8. Discharge of Summons Case (Section 257): – Under Section 258, a Magistrate of First Class with the previous sanction of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, or any other Judicial Magistrate for the reasons recorded can stop the proceedings and if the proceeding is stopped after the evidence recorded then it is a judgement of acquittal, if the proceeding is stopped before the record of evidence then it is released with the discharge of the case. 

What is Warrant Case?

Meaning of Warrant Case: – Warrant case means a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. They are usually the cognizable offences which are serious or grievous in nature and in which the police arrests without warrant. Procedure of Warrant case is defined under chapter 19 of Code of criminal procedure. In Warrant cases charge is framed against the accused. The definition of the warrant case is given in 2 (x) inthe Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The criteria of summons case and warrant case determine the period of conviction in any offense, punishable with a fine of Rs. 50/-, then such a case is summons case. In any case the issue of summons or warrant does not change the nature of the case, the warrant is issued in the summons case, and it does not make the case a warrant case. A warrant is issued with an objective of bringing accused to the court, who’ve not appeared to the court, even after he/she is summoned.

Procedure of Trial of Warrant Case

Section 220-237 of the Criminal Procedure Codelays down the procedure for trial of warrant cases before a Court of Sessions established on police report and accordingly the procedure for trial is as follows: –

  1. Trial to be conducted by the Public Prosecutor (Section 225): – Before a Court of Session, the prosecution shall be conducted by the Public Prosecutor. The Public Prosecutor represents the State in all the trials before the Court of Sessions.
  2. Opening Case For Prosecution (Section 226): – When the accused commits an offence under Section 209, and the accused is brought before the Court, the Prosecutor shall open his case by explaining the charge against the accused and states the evidence he proposes to prove the guilt of accused. It is not necessary to include the full documents of evidence to present before the Court of Sessions during the opening of prosecution. The Prosecutor is required to address the witnesses of the case and whom he proposes to call.
  3. Discharge (Section227): – The Court, after consideration of the records of the case and the documents submitted, and hearing the prosecution and the accused, if the judge considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused under Section 227. And it is necessary to record the reasons for discharging of accused.
  4. Framing Of Charge (Section 228): – The Court, after considering the record of cases and documents as evidence and hearing the prosecution and the accused, if it is found that the accused has committed the offence, and exclusively triable in Court of Session, he will frame the charge against the accused. If the case is not exclusively triable in Court of Session, the judge may frame the charge and transfer the case to Chief Judicial Magistrate or any other Judicial Magistrate of First Class.
  5. Conviction on Plea of Guilty (Section 229): – Under this section, the Court can accept the plea of the accused and he also ensures that the plea of the accused is made by himself, not under any influence. The judge after recording the plea may in his discretion convict the accused.
  6. Date for Prosecution Evidence and Evidence for Prosecution: – Under Section 230 and 231 respectively, If the accused refused to plead guilty or does not plead, or claim to be tried then the Judge may issue any process for compelling the production of any document or for the attendance of the witness or other thing. The judge shall proceed to take all the evidence produced by the Prosecution.
  7. Acquittal (Section 232): – If there is no evidence against the accused then the judge can order acquittal under Section 232 or the evidence submitted by the prosecution against the accused, if the court found it as groundless then a judge can order an acquittal.
  8. Defence (Section 233): – If the accused is not acquitted the steps for defence may starts and he shall be entered on his defence to produce the evidence in his support. The evidence produced by the defence in written form will be filed by the Judge as a record.
  9. Judgement Of Acquittal or Conviction (Section 234): – After hearing the arguments (Section 234 CrPC), the judge will decide the case. The judgement of acquittal or conviction is only after the hearing of both the prosecution and the defence. Section 236 of CrPc states that, if the accused is convicted previously under Section 211(7) and if the accused not admitting the previous conviction, then the judge may call for the evidence of the previous charge.

Section 238-250 of the Criminal Procedure Codelays down the procedure for trial of warrant cases by Magistrate established on police report and accordingly the procedure for trial is as follows: –

  1. Section 207 CrPC: – On the institution of any warrant case the accused must be provided with a copy of the police report and other documents when the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate at the beginning of the trial.
  1. Discharge of accused on baseless charge (Section 239): – The Magistrate shall consider every report on receipt of the police report and other documents and making it available to the accused. He shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the accused and the prosecution (commonly called a charge argument); the magistrate will investigate the accused if necessary. If the magistrate finds that the allegation against the accused is baseless, he shall acquit the accused under section 239. He will also investigate prima facie of the case.
  1. Framing of charges (Section 240): – If the Magistrate is of opinion that there is ground to believe that the accused has committed an offense and is competent to try such offense which in his opinion may sufficiently punish the accused. Then the charge will be framed against the accused in writing and the trial will start.
  1. Conviction of charge of guilty: – If the accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate shall record the plea and may in his discretion convict him.
  1. Evidence for Prosecution (Section 247): – If the accused denies to be guilty and claims to be prosecuted, the Magistrate shall fix the date for examination of the witnesses u/s 247. The accused refused to plead, or does not plead, or claims to be tried the Magistrate fix a date for the examination of prosecution witnesses. And the Magistrate, on the application of the prosecution, will issue a summons to any person as a witness and ask him to produce the documents.
  1. Statement Of Accused (Section 313): – Under Section 313 CrPc accused is examined to explain the circumstances appearing in evidence of the case against him. During the examing of the accused the questions and answer which given is recorded.
  2. Evidence for Defense (Section 243): – Under section 243 of the prosecution witnesses, the defense witnesses are produced by the accused, the expenses on coercing the appearance of the witnesses shall be borne by the accused. The accused enters upon the defence and produce the evidence and if the accused puts in a written form, the Magistrate file it to record.
  1. Argument and Judgement: – The last two stages are consist of argument and the judgement by the Magistrate. The argument is when the defence complete with their evidence, and Prosecutor sum up the case and the accused or his lawyer has to reply on it. After the argument, the next stage is acquittal or conviction of the accused by the Magistrate.

Difference between Warrant case and Summons case

1In Warrant case, the punishment is of death penalty, life imprisonment or imprisonment more than 2 years.In summon case, the punishment will not exceed more than 2 years.
2Procedure of Warrant case is described under Chapter-19 of CrPC from Section 238 to section 250.Procedure or summon case is described under Chapter-20 of CrPC from Section 252 to section 259.
3It is mandatory to frame charges against accused.It is not mandatory to frame charges against accused.
4Its objective is to notify the person about the legal obligation to appear in the court.To bring the accused to the court who has ignored the summons and did not appear to the court.
5In this, authority is given to police officer to bring and produce the accused to the court.In this, instructions are to produce any documents or other thing in the court.

Case laws under Summons case and Warrant case

  1. P.N. Bhattacharjee vs. Shri Kamal Bhattacharjee, 1994

The Guwahati High Court observed that the complainant was making extra efforts to order summons to the witnesses and it was the duty of the magistrate to order summons to all the witnesses before giving the order of dismissal just because the witnesses do not appear.

  1. Ratilal Bhanji Mithani vs. The State of Maharashtra, 1978

It was determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the accused had committed the offence, and the magistrate commenced trial proceedings by setting aside the dismissal of the case u/s sec 246(1).

Takeaway points

Nature of cases: In warrant trials, the nature of cases is more serious as compared to summons trials. Less serious offences are covered under summons trial.


  • The summons case procedure is simpler and speedier. Whilst the warrant case process is complex and slower. Warrant cases deal more seriously with offenses than those in cases of summons. These cases cannot be tried in the same clear and timely manner as the summons cases. 
  • In a summons case, the accused can plead guilty by post after the summons has been issued without appearing before the Magistrate. Although, in a warrant case trial, there is no such provision.
  • The formulation of a formal charge is important in the warrant case. In a summon case, the framing of a formal charge is not necessary.

Term of punishment: Warrant cases are punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding 2 years

Framing of charges: Mandatory in warrant trial, but not in summons trial

Withdrawal of complaint: Can only happen in summons trial and not in warrant trial.

Addressed to: A summons addresses the suspect or victim, or any other person associated with the case, while the warrant addresses to the police officer.

Opportunity for defense: In warrant cases, it gives greater opportunities for defense. While it does not provide greater opportunities for defence in the summon case.

Importance of details like date and time: Particulars like date and time are important in summons as they do not remain valid after that. But Warrants remain valid till the objective is achieved. 

Cross-examination: In a warrant case, the accused gets more than one chance to cross-examine witnesses in the prosecution. While he gets only one chance to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses in a summons case.

Conversion: Under the Code, the Magistrate can be authorized to convert a summons case into a warrant case. Although, a warrant case can’t convert to a summons case.


Siddharth jain and Co.

Siddharth Jain & Co. is a full service law firm providing quality and innovative legal solutions to clients all over the world. Our portfolio of legal and quasi-legal services is offered through our head office in New Delhi. Siddharth Jain & Co. was established in 2015. We have a team of lawyers with expertise in different fields. Our expertise revolves around 39 service areas and we continue to enter into new markets continuously. We continue to join new prospects and new clients with us every passing day due to our commitment to quality-based services. Our idea of working involves strict adherence to specified goals and creative modes of achieving them. Siddharth Jain & Co. has always worked towards attaining excellence in every case or problem presented. We continue to strive to become the leader in providing legal services in the country and abroad. Our clientele includes clients from all over the world. With several awards in our profile, we proudly continue to move forward. We are always ready and prepared to welcome and embrace any new challenge. We have worked with and for government agencies. We have worked in rural areas beyond any reach of technology. We have worked with clients alien to law whatsoever. But we have always maintained our prime goal and target of client satisfaction and would continue to go so in future.

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