Understanding the Stages of a Criminal Trial in India
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Understanding the Stages of a Criminal Trial in India

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The criminal justice system plays a crucial role in upholding law and order in society. In India, criminal trials follow a well-defined process governed by three key acts: the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure. These acts outline the various stages and procedures involved in a criminal trial.

In this blog, we will explore the different stages of a criminal trial in India, starting from the pre-trial stage to the post-trial stage. By understanding these stages, aspiring legal professionals can gain insights into the intricacies of the Indian criminal justice system.


The criminal justice system is designed to address and punish criminal offenses in society. In India, this system is governed by three essential acts: the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Indian Penal Code defines various criminal offenses, while the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure lay down the procedural aspects of a criminal trial.

Understanding the stages of a criminal trial in India is crucial for aspiring legal professionals. By delving into the pre-trial, trial, and post-trial stages, one can gain a comprehensive understanding of the Indian criminal justice system.

Pre-Trial Stage

Before a trial commences, there are several vital steps that need to be completed. This pre-trial stage involves the identification of offenses, the gathering of evidence, and the production of the accused before the magistrate.

Cognizable Offence

In the case of a cognizable offense, the police have the authority to arrest a person without a warrant. These offenses are considered serious in nature and are defined under Section 2(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Once the police are informed of a cognizable offense within their jurisdiction, they are obligated to register a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 154 of the CrPC.

A cognizable offense is an offense that carries a punishment of imprisonment for more than three years. The police can initiate an investigation after registering the FIR without seeking permission from the magistrate.

Non-Cognizable Offence

Non-cognizable offenses are less serious in nature and are defined under Section 2(l) of the CrPC. In these cases, the police cannot make an arrest without a warrant. Non-cognizable offenses are punishable with imprisonment for up to three years or a fine.

Before the investigation can begin in a non-cognizable offense, the permission of a magistrate is required.

Stages of Evidence

After the registration of an FIR, the police authorities undertake the investigation. The investigation primarily involves the collection of evidence, recording statements of witnesses, cross-examination of the accused, and logical analysis of the evidence.

Types of Evidence

In the process of investigation, the police gather evidence in various forms. These can include:

  1. Recording of statements under Section 161 of the CrPC: This involves recording statements of individuals related to the offense.
  2. Statements of the accused under Section 164 of the CrPC: In cases involving offenses such as assault, rape, or harassment, the statement of the accused must be recorded by a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC.
  3. Collection of documentary evidence: This includes gathering evidence in the form of documents, such as contracts, letters, or photographs.
  4. Recording of admissions or statements: The police may record admissions or statements of individuals involved in the offense under Section 164 of the CrPC.

During the investigation, the police may also make arrests based on the evidence collected.

Production of Accused Before The Magistrate

Once the accused is arrested, they must be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours. In cases where the police are unable to complete the investigation within the specified time, they may seek an extension of custody from the magistrate. The magistrate can grant police custody for up to 15 days, considering the nature of the offense. However, the total duration of custody cannot exceed 90 days for offenses punishable with death or imprisonment for more than ten years, and 60 days for other offenses.

After the completion of the investigation, the police are required to submit a final report, known as the charge sheet, to the magistrate.

Trial Stage

The trial stage is where the actual court proceedings take place. It involves the commencement of the trial, presentation of evidence by the prosecution, statements of the accused, witness testimony, final arguments, and the judgment.

Commencement Of Trial

The trial commences with the opening of the case by the prosecutor, who explains the charges against the accused as mentioned in the charge sheet. At this stage, the accused can file an application under Section 227 of the CrPC, seeking to be discharged from the charges if they believe the charges are baseless.

The court then proceeds with the trial based on the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense.

Stages of Evidence of Prosecution

To prove the guilt of the accused, the prosecution must present evidence during the trial. This evidence is usually supported by witness statements. The stages of evidence include:

Examination in Chief: The prosecution presents its evidence and witnesses to support the case. The court can summon witnesses and request the production of documents.
Cross-Examination: The defense has the opportunity to question the prosecution's witnesses and challenge their testimony.
Re-Examination: The prosecution can re-examine its witnesses to clarify any points raised during cross-examination.

Statements of the Accused

After the prosecution presents its evidence, the accused is given an opportunity to make a statement under Section 313 of the CrPC. The accused provides their version of the events and clarifies their position. Any statement made during this stage can be used against the accused in later stages of the trial.

Witness of Defence

Following the statement of the accused, the defense presents its evidence, including witness testimony and documentary evidence. The defense is generally not obligated to provide any evidence, as the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.

Final Arguments

Once the prosecution and defense have presented their evidence, both parties have the opportunity to present their final arguments. The public prosecutor and the defense counsel present their case, emphasizing the strengths of their respective arguments and refuting the opposing side's claims.


After hearing all the arguments, the court delivers its judgment. If the accused is found guilty, the court proceeds to determine the appropriate punishment. Factors such as the nature of the offense, the background of the accused, and previous criminal records are considered while deciding the sentence.

Post Trial Stage

The post-trial stage involves the review of the judgment and the execution of the sentence.


If a party is dissatisfied with the judgment on conviction, acquittal, or the sentence, they have the right to file an appeal within the specified period of limitation. The appellate court or the court with revisional jurisdiction can review the lower court's decision and correct any miscarriage of justice.

Alternatively, if the right of appeal exists but no appeal has been filed, the Sessions Court or the High Court can entertain a revision application to prevent a miscarriage of justice caused by the lower court's decision.

Judgment of the Appellate Court or Court having revisional jurisdiction

The appellate court or the court having revisional jurisdiction reviews the lower court's decision and delivers its judgment. The judgment may affirm, modify, or reverse the earlier decision based on the merits of the case.

Execution of Sentence

Once the judgment becomes final, the sentence is executed. The execution of the sentence follows the procedures outlined in Chapter 32 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The judge has discretion in determining the sentence within the prescribed limits. Factors such as the nature of the offense, the severity of the crime, and the individual circumstances of the accused are considered during the sentencing process.


The stages of a criminal trial in India provide a structured framework for the administration of justice. From the pre-trial stage to the post-trial stage, each step plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and impartial trial. Aspiring legal professionals should familiarize themselves with these stages to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Indian criminal justice system.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Please consult with a qualified legal professional for any legal concerns.

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