Explained: What is a Charge-Sheet?

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Recently the Crime Branch of Delhi Police has filed the charge sheet against in the cases related to the recent Delhi Riots which had pushed the city into turmoil. The charge sheet names Sharukh Pathan as the main accused along with 5 others. In this context it becomes particularly pertinent for us to know what a charge sheet is and what are the relevant legal provisions related to it.

What is a Charge-Sheet?

Under Section 173 of CrPC, the police officer is obligated to file a report after the completion of the necessary investigation of an offence. The report is to consist of the of the materials regarding investigation which are collected under Chapter XII of CrPC along with assemblage of evidence and submission as envisaged under Section 173 of CrPC. This report is called the Charge Sheet in common parlance. In simpler words, a charge sheet is the final investigation report submitted by the investigating agencies to the magistrate for proving an offence in the criminal court of law. The charge sheet, also acts as report that informs the magistrate that on investigating the offence sufficient evidence was found for the court to go further in the case and inquire into the offence.

The charge sheet, however, is different from the FIR. The FIR is the document which describes the main offence that took place, the charge sheet on the other hand is the formal police record showing the names of the people brought in the custody, the charges they are brought in for and the identity of the accusers. Thus, the charge sheet marks the beginning of the prosecution proceedings against the accused in the Indian judicial system. The next part mainly deals with some of the relevant parts of Section 173 of the CrPC which as discussed earlier describes the charge sheet.

Legal Provisions Regarding Charge-Sheets

In the case of RP Kapur v. State of Punjab, the court held that the charge sheet should be sent to the magistrate, as soon as the investigation is complete, and there should be no unnecessary delays. In case the investigating officer finds that there is absence of sufficient evidence or the officer finds the offence the accused was complained of committing to be based on false facts, then in such a case the accused is not bound to file the charge sheet. Further, under section 173(2)(ii) of the CrPC, the officer-in-charge of the police station is also bound to inform the informant about action taken by him, in pursuance of the information given by the informant.

On filing of the charge sheet, the magistrate may release the accused on bond under section 173(4), however it must be kept in mind that such release should not be considered as discharge. Section 173(5) describes the situation where if the charge sheet falls under section 170 of CrPC then in such a case the prosecution must send all the relevant documents along with the witness testimony to the magistrate. Section 173(7) further asks the investigating authorities to send the documents mentioned above to the accused as well.

Landmark Cases

In the case of Bhagwat Singh vs Commissioner of Police and Anr. the Supreme Court held that if on the basis of the report advanced by the investigating authority the magistrate decides to drop the case owing to absence of evidence or ground for holding proceeding against the accused on the basis of the F.I.R, then the informant should be given a chance to be heard at the time. But this chance to be heard is more of discretionary nature and the magistrate is not obligated to do so.

In the cases of V.C. Shukla vs. C.B.I., and Jarnail Singh vs State, we can see that the court realizes the importance of charge-sheet. It basically is the last notice sent to the accused in the pre-trial stage, informing him of the offences he is charged with and the penalties that would follow in case of conviction after the trial, thus warning the accused that there is no chance of discharge after this stage.

Critical Analysis

We have seen in the above few paragraphs how the charge sheet forms a really important part of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court judgements also consider the charge sheet as the point from where the pre-trial stage ends and the initiation of the judicial criminal proceeding which results in either the conviction or the acquittal of the accused. We also looked at the provision of section 173 of CrPC which form the finer details of the legal process behind filling the charge sheets.

Conclusion

The Delhi police filling the charge sheet marks the initiation of the formal judicial proceedings against those involved in the Delhi riots that shook the capital and is one of the shameful instances that should never be forgotten for the lessons they behold.

Author: Eashaan Agrawal from National Law University, Delhi.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India

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