Under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the Discharge Application is the remedy that is granted to the person who has been maliciously charged. If the allegations which have been made against him are false, this Code provides the provisions for filing a discharge application. If the evidence given before the Court is not sufficient to satisfy the offence and in the absence of any prima facie case against him, he is entitled to be discharged.

 Classification of Criminal Cases: The two major classifications of criminal cases under the Code of Criminal Procedure are: 

1.Cases instituted on the basis of a police report (Sections 238,­243). 

2. Cases instituted otherwise than on police report based on the  complaint (Sections 244­,247). There are four types of the trial procedures provided under Cr.P.C.: 

  1. Summary trials (Sections 260­,265), 
  2. Trial of summons cases by Magistrates (Sections 251­,259),
  3. Trial of warrant cases by Magistrates (Sections 238­,250)
  4. Trial before a court of Sessions (Sections 225,­237). The procedure of warrant cases is used for the trial of warrant cases by the Magistrates and the trial before the court of sessions. Whereas trial of summons cases by Magistrates and summary trials are tried in a summons case trial. 

Discharge of accused in warrant cases on the basis of a police report. 

The   regular   procedure   of   law  is   that   the   police   after   completing   its investigation files the final report/charge sheet under Section 173 of the code. Thereafter   trial   against   the   accused   commences   by   the   concerned   Court. However, Section 239 and 227 of Cr.P.C, provide  that before the charges are framed against an Accused person, he can be discharged. 

Section 239 of the  Code of Criminal Procedure states when accused shall be discharged. If, upon due consideration of the police report and all the documents sent   under Section   173 along   with   examination   of   the   accused,   if   any,   as Magistrate thinks obligatory and after hearing prosecution as well as accused, the Magistrate considers the charge to be groundless against the accused, he shall discharge the accused and also record the reasons for doing so. 

Essential elements for Discharge: The Court have to consider the Charge sheet and documents appended thereto  by the Police under Section 173, Cr.P.C: •The Magistrate may, if he deems fit, examine the Accused.

 •Thereafter   the   arguments   of   both   the   Prosecution   and   the   Accused should be heard.  •Grounds against the accused to be baseless­ There should not be any evidence present against the accused. If the Court considers that there is no prima facie case against the accused. If   all   the   above   conditions   are   fulfilled,   then   the   Accused   shall   be discharged. 

Whether the magistrate has to take cognizance of the material brought by the accused? 

In   the   case   of Satish   Mehra   v.   Delhi   Administration   and     Another reported in (1996) 9 SCC 766, the Hon’ble Apex Court held that,

Under Section 239 Cr.P.C, the Magistrate has to give the prosecution and the accused a chance of being heard besides taking cognizance of the police report and the documents sent therewith.  The Magistrate should apply judicial mind while considering the discharge application.  If the accused produces any trustworthy material at that stage which might drastically effect even the very feasibility of the case, it would be very inappropriate   to   recommend   that   no   such   material   shall   be   taken   into consideration by the Court at that stage. 

 When accused shall be discharged in Sessions trial: Section 227 of the Code defines that if the judge considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, upon hearing the submissions,   of   the   prosecution   and   the   accused   and   consideration   of   the record of the case along with the documents submitted therewith, he shall discharge the accused and record reasons also for doing so. 

Mandatory cases where Sessions Judge is bound to discharge: 

  1. Where he is precluded from proceeding because of a prior judgment of      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. 

 Discharge of Accused  and its Procedure under Section 227 of Cr.P.C.

Section 227 Cr.P.C deals with “discharge of the accused in a “Sessions Cases”. Section 226 Cr.P.C also must be read together.  There are “two” important words in Section 227 Cr.P.C.

(a) Hearing submission of the accused

(b) “No sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused”. 

(c) Proper basis for framing of charge


  •     The judge while considering the question of framing the charges U/Sec. 227 Cr.P.C 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.
  •   Where the materials placed before the court disclose 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.
  •   The court can not 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.
  • 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.
  •   At the time of framing of the charges, the probative value of the material on record can not 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. 
  • At the stage of Sec.227 and 228 Cr.P.C, 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 ofence but the court cannot be expected to presume that the prosecution story is gospel truth. 
  • 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. Legal Authorities on the above seven points:
  •  (Palwinder Singh Vs. Balwinder Singh). The jurisdiction of Sessions Judge at the time of discharge is very limited. Charges can also be framed on the basis of strong suspicion.  Marshaling and appreciation of evidence is not in the domain of the court at that point of time. 
  • (Sajjan Kumar V. CBI) – Land mark Judgment. At the stage of framing of Charge U/Sec. 228 Cr.P.C or while considering the discharge petition filed U/Sec. 227 Cr.P.C, it is not for the Judge concerned to analyse all the materials including pros and cons, reliability or acceptability etc;   The evidentiary value and its credibility and veracity has to be considered at the stage of trial.   

Whether the material which is produced by the accused can be looked into by the session’s court? 

In the case of  Satish Mehra v. Delhi Administration and Another reported in (1996)   9   SCC   766,   the   Hon’ble   Supreme   Court   held   that   if   the   accused produces any convincing material at the stage framing of charge which might drastically effect the very sustainability of the case, it is unfair to suggest that no such material should be considered into by the court at that stage.

Discharge Post Framing of Charge: In the case of Ratilal Bhanji Muthani Ver. State of Maharastra.  (AIR 1979 SC 94): After framing of charge the question of discharge does not arise. The same view was taken in the case of  Stree Atyachar Veerodi Parishadh Ver. Dilip Nathumal Chordiya  (1989 SCC(1) 715). 

Tapati Bag v. Patipaban Ghosh reported in 1993 Cr.L.J 3932 (Cal.), It was held that if the Court considers that there are no sufficient

grounds for proceeding against the accused, the accused has to be discharged, but if the Court is of the opinion after such consideration that there is ground for presuming that the accused has committed the offence which is exclusively triable by the Court of Session then the charge against the accused must be framed. Once the charges are framed, the accused is put to trial and thereafter either acquitted or convicted, but he cannot be discharged. Once charges are framed under Section 228 of the code, there is no back­gear for discharging the accused under Section 227 of the code. Discharge post framing of charge is not viewed in Cr.P.C. 

Discharge of the accused in Cases Triable exclusively by Court of Sessions:

 In the case of  Sanjay Gandhi vs Union of India reported in AIR 1978 SC 514, it was held that there is no such provision that permits the Magistrate to discharge the accused. Discharge order can be given only by a trial court and in respect of the offences exclusively triable by a court of session, the court of the Judicial Magistrate is not the trial Court. 

 Sheoroj  Singh Ahlawat Vs. State of U.P.At the time of framing of charge the court is required to evaluate the material   and documents on record to decide whether there is a ground for presuming that the accused had committed the offence.  There is no need to evaluate the sufficiency of evidence to convict the accused.  Materials brought on record by the prosecution can be believed to be true, but their probative value cannot be decided at that stage.   The accused is entitled to urge his contentions while entertaining the discharge application only on the material submitted by the prosecution, but he is not entitled to produce  any material at that stage and the court is not required to consider any such material.  If two views are possible and one of them gives rise to suspicion only as distinguished from grave suspicision, the trial judge is empowered to discharge the accused, irrespective of the result of the trial.  

Discharge in Warrant case

. Section   239   Cr.P.C   is   the   provision   under   which   the   Magistrate   can discharge the accused in a “Warrant Case”.

 1) The Police report and the documents filed U/Sec. 173 Cr.P.C. 2) Opportunity must be given to both prosecution and the accused. The Court has to hear them. 3) Magistrate must feel that allegations are groundless.

Discharge Not Acquittal

In the case of P Viswanathan Vs, A.K Burman, the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court held that the discharge of an accused under Section 227 of CrPC, is not tantamount to the acquittal of an accusedUnder Section 227 of the code, the accused is released on the ground of non-availability of the materials collected by the officeduring the investigation, the Court does not absolve the accused from all the charges at that stage. The discharge may be due to inept inquiry and investigation. The discharged person can again be charged subsequently after proper investigation and collection of relevant materials. The basic intention of the legislature is to prevent one’s subjection to the judicial process without any foundation.

Review of a Discharge Order

In the case of Vishanu Murya vs the State of Rajasthan reported in 1990 CrLJ 1750 (Raj)it was held that a Discharge Order does not lead to acquittal as no trial has taken place. Where the Magistrate had discharged some of the accused after recording the evidence let in by the prosecution, but if the fresh materials are found against the discharged accused, he can consider the offence as it is not the review of the discharge order, earlier passed by the Magistrate.

Discharge in Summons Case

Whether the magistrate is empowered to drop proceedings and discharge an accused in a Summons case which is instituted on a complaint has the power?

Section 251 of the CrPC states:

The substance of accusation to be stated –  In a summons case, When the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate, he should be made aware of the particulars of the offence of which he is accused, and the question shall be asked to him whether he pleads guilty or has any defence to make, but it shall not be obligatory to frame a formal charge. On a bare reading of Section 251 CrPC, it becomes clear that there is no particular power to discharge or drop proceedings granted to the Magistrate in a Summons Trial.

In the case of K.M. Matthew v. the State of Kerala reported in (1992) 1 SCC 217 in which the accused had asked for the recalling of the summoning order in a Summons Case. The Honorable Apex Court held that If there are no accusations made in the complaint related to the accused in the commission of the crime, then it is certain that the Magistrate has no jurisdiction to proceed further against the accused. It is upon the discretion of the accused to plead before the Magistrate is convinced on reconsideration of the complaint that there is no such offence for which the accused could be tried and that the process against him should not have been issued then the Magistrate may drop the proceedings. No specific provision is needed for the Magistrate to repeal the process or drop the proceedings.

The validity of the legal proposition set out in K.M. Mathew case came up for consideration before the Apex Court in the case of Adalat Prasad v. Rooplal Jindal & Ors reported in 2004 (7) SCC 338 where a three-Judge bench held that If the Magistrate issues process without any reason or basis, then the remedy lies in a petition under Section 482 of the Code, but the Magistrate is not empowered to review that order and recall the summons issued to the accused.

Difference between discharge and acquittal

Discharge of an accused can be done even before charges are framed whereas acquittal can be done only when the trial concludes.

Session Trial

Discharge: As defined under Section 227, if the Judge considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, upon hearing the submissions of the prosecution and the accused in the behalf and consideration of the record of the case along with the documents submitted therewith, he shall discharge the accused and record his reasons also for so doing.

Acquittal: If the Judge considers that there is no proof or evidence that the accused has committed the alleged offence after evaluating the evidence given by the prosecution, the Judge exonerates the accused person under Section 232.

However, if the offender is not exonerated under Section 232, he is allowed to give his defence and evidence to the court. The court may acquit or convict the person under Section 233 after hearing the arguments of both sides.

Trial Of Warrant Cases By Magistrate

Discharge: As provided under Section 239, If, upon considering the police reports together with all the documents sent along with it under Section 173 including of making such examinations, if any, of the accused as Magistrate thinks obligatory and after giving an opportunity to the prosecution as well as accused of being heard, the Magistrate contemplates the charge to be groundless against the accused, he shall discharge the accused and also record his reasons for doing so.

Acquittal: As per Section 248, If the Magistrate finds the accused not guilty, he shall acquit the accused and record his reasons for doing so in any case under this Chapter in which a charge has been framed.

Discharge connotes that there is not enough evidence to proceed with the trial and not that the accused has not committed the said offence. Most importantly, if any evidence is collected, later on, the accused may be tried again.

Acquittal connotes that the court has held the accused innocent and once he has been acquitted, he cannot be tried again for the same offence.  


The Legal Maxim ‘Let a hundred guilty be acquitted, but one innocent should not be convicted’ is the guiding principle behind rules of the procedure and evidence guiding and inspiring our courts.

When any law 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 reason for this is that an innocent man should not be convicted for a crime that if he did not commit any offence,  otherwise people did not have faith and respect for the justice delivery system

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