This article on ‘Joinder of Charges under CrPC: A Comprehensive Guide’ was written by Toya Sen, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
When a person is accused and presented in front of the court, authorities must inform the accused on what basis or allegations they have been arrested. It is the right of the individual to know on which head has he been charged. By doing this, the trial proceedings can be carried out in a fair as well as in a speedy manner. Framing these charges is an important exercise that needs to be done to give vital information about the offense he has committed so that he can defend himself in court. This article aims to give a brief knowledge of what are charges and a joinder of charges concerning the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
What is a Charge?
A charge is a written document that is issued by the Court of law which states the allegations against the accused intending to give information concerning his offenses and the reason behind his trial. Section 2(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code gives the statutory meaning of a charge and states: “charge” includes any head of the charge when the charge contains more heads than one.” This definition does not explain the meaning of the charge clearly. To put it simply, a charge is an accusation raised by a court against a person who has been alleged of an offense.
For example, Person A enters a house, steals a few of the victim’s belongings, murders the victim, and runs away. In this act, Person A has committed the offense of trespassing, theft, and murder. These allegations are known as charges.
Joinder of Charges: Meaning and Legal Framework
Section 218 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which comes under Part B of Chapter XVII, gives the principle of Joinder of Charges. It states that whenever a person is accused of multiple distinct offenses, the court has to frame these charges separately and have a trial for these offenses separately as well. In other words, every offense has a separate charge. However, there may be instances where different charges might be framed together as a single charge.
For example, if two or more persons are having committed the same or similar offense, they can be tried together under one heading, Similarly, if a person has committed multiple offenses which are interlinked or have a close connection with each other, those offenses can be tried under one charge by the court. These situations build a path to practice the joinder of charges. It is the exercise to join two or more charges into a single charge.
Exceptions to Section 218 of CrPc
Section 219-221 deals with the exceptions to the principle of the joinder of charges.
- Exception 1: Section 219 states that, when a person commits a series of offenses that are similar to each other within a timeframe of 12 months (whether concerning the same person or not); then the court shall charge the accused with all the offenses under a single charge. This is done to avoid multiple trials being taken place against the person with the same kind of offense. Part 2 of the same section states that when a person commits an offense of the same type, which has the same degree of punishment, then the accused will be charged with all those offenses under a single header of charge.
- Exception 2: Section 220 states that, when a person commits a series of offenses that are closely related to each other and have been done under a single transaction or event, then that person will be tried under a single charge for all of the offenses committed by him.
- Section 220 (2) states that acts such as criminal breach of trust, dishonest misappropriation of property, and any other offenses which are connected to achieving a fraudulent goal, then those acts would be tried under a single charge.
- Section 220 (3) states that, when an offense comes under two or more definitions of the law and punishment for the time being, then that person may be tried under a single charge.
- Section 220 (4) states that when multiple offenses are constituted into a single grave offense or an act, then the accused can be tried separately or within a single charge.
- Exception 3: Section 221 of the CrPc states that, when there is a doubt related to the series of offenses committed by a person, then the accused shall be tried under the single offense for that act. However, if new evidence is found that proves the accused has committed the crime, then he shall be convicted of that charge but simultaneously be convicted under the offense of a different charge.
- Exception 4: Section 223 states that, a group of persons can be subjected to the same charges as the accused and have a single trial under the following circumstances:
- Where in the same course of time, the accused person has committed the same or different offenses.
- When a person has abetted the commission of a crime.
- When the crime committed by the accused is covered under Section 219.
- When the person who has committed crimes is mentioned under Chapter XII of the Indian Penal Code.
- Subrahmania Ayyar v King Emperor: In this case, the person who is appealing was accused of committing forty-one different acts over a span of two years. The court determined that ignoring a specific legal requirement for how the trial should be conducted (according to Sections 233 and 243) should not be seen as a minor mistake but as a violation of the law. Therefore, the trial is considered to have been conducted in a way that is not allowed by the law.
- Kamalanantha & Ors v. State of Tamil Nadu: The court stated that according to Section 218 of the Criminal Procedure Code, each offense should have a separate charge, and each charge should be tried separately. If multiple charges are combined in a way that goes against this procedure, it would be considered a “misjoinder of charges.” To determine if there was a misjoinder, the court needs to check if the accused person knew what they were being tried for, if the main facts against them were explained clearly, and if they were given a fair opportunity to defend themselves.
Joinder of Charges is an important exercise that needs to be performed by the Courts. One of the main reasons why this is done is because, when a person who is charged with multiple offenses is presented in front of the court, it might create an image and cause prejudice to the accused from the magistrate. To prevent this and have a fair trial they must be tried separately for proper judicial procedure. The court must make sure that utmost care is being taken while framing charges. Wrong framing of charges may lead to denial of justice.
- Parash Chugh, “Framing of Charges and Joinder of Charges”, Legal Vidhya, 14 May 2023, available at: https://legalvidhiya.com/framing-of-charges-and-joinder-of-charges/ (last visited on 26 June 2023)
- Aparajita Balaji, “Joinder of Charges under CrPC”, iPleaders, 25 June 2019, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/joinder-charges-crpc/ (last visited on 26 June 2023)
- Sofia Bhambri, “JOINDER OF CHARGES IN CRPC”, S Bhambri & Associates, 20 February 2021, available at: https://www.sbhambriadvocates.com/post/joinder-of-charges-in-crpc (last visited on 26 June 2023)