The procedure for the trial of warrant cases is regulated by Chapter XIX while that for summons cases by Chapter XX of the Code. Very shortly stated the procedure in the two is as follows:
In the trial of summons cases the particulars of the offence are stated to the accused as soon as he appears before the Magistrate and he is asked to show because why he should not be convicted. It is not necessary to frame a formal charge. If he admits the guilt, the Magistrate may convict him on his own statement. If he does not, the trial proceeds by examining the complainant and taking all evidence in support of the prosecution.
In the trial of warrant cases instituted otherwise than on a police report, as soon as the accused appears before a Magistrate, the latter proceeds to hear the complainant and take all such evidence as may be produced in support of the prosecution. The accused is examined only after the prosecution evidence has been recorded.
The Magistrate discharges the accused if no case has been made out against him. A charge is only framed against him when the Magistrate is of opinion that a prima facie case is made out against the accused. After the framing of the charge the accused has a right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The procedure is slightly different in the trial of warrant cases instituted on the police report.
(b) Compoundable and non-compoundable offence:
Section 320 of the Code mentions a list of offences punishable under the various sections of the Indian Penal Code which may be compounded by the persons mentioned in the table. They are offences which are of a trivial nature and relate exclusively to the personality of the individual concerned so that the law permits the person against whom the offence has been committed to settle the differences by a compromise or composition.
This compromise or composition is termed compounding of the offence. In respect of the offences mentioned in sub-section (1) of Section 320, composition can be effected without the permission of the court, while in respect of those mentioned in sub-section (2) of that section, which are comparatively of more serious character, permission of the court is necessary which decides judicially whether in the interest of justice the parties should be allowed to compromise the dispute. When an offence is compounded, the order of the court is an order of acquittal and not discharge.
Offences other than those mentioned in Section 320 are not compoundable.
(c) Discharge and acquittal:
In ordinary parlance the two terms are used interchangeably, but they have been used in different senses in the Code.
An order of discharge results in relieving a person from legal proceedings by an order which does not amount to a judgment—a judgment being the final order in a trial resulting in acquittal or conviction. It does not establish the innocence of the accused, but simply means that there is no prima facie evidence against him to justify further inquiry in respect of that charge.
It does not consequently bar further proceedings against the accused when fresh facts and better evidence are available. A Magistrate having passed an order of discharge is competent to take fresh proceedings and issue process against the accused in respect of the same offence.
Acquittal on the other hand is absolution of a party charged with crime. An order of acquittal establishes the innocence of the accused. It is recorded only after the judgment. Section 300 of the Code lays down that a person once acquitted cannot be tried for the same offence. It bars a second trial when the accused is acquitted in the first trial.
An order of discharge being not a judgment leaves the matter indefinite for purposes of any judicial enquiry; an order of acquittal is a judgment which is final.
A discharge takes place when no prima facie case is made out against the accused, an acquittal results after a trial on the charge framed against the accused on prima facie case having been made out by the prosecution.
An order of discharge is passed before the framing of the charge and before the accused is called upon to enter his defense, but an order of acquittal is recorded only after there has been a trial on the charge so framed and the accused has adduced his defense and disproved the prosecution story.
A discharge is a defense against a retrial only if fresh facts and better evidence are not available against the accused. An acquittal by a court of competent jurisdiction bars a retrial for the same offence even on fresh facts, and better evidence or on the same facts for any other offence for which a different charge from the one made against him might have been made under Section 221 (1), or for which he might have been convicted under Section 221 (2), Cr.P.C.