Report No. 41
Jurisdiction of Criminal Courts in Inquiries and Trials
A.-Place of Inquiry or Trial
"Venue" in English common law.-Sections 177 to 189 lay down general principles for determining which shall be the proper Court to inquire into or try an offence. Following the old rule of English common law pertaining to the "venue" of a trial, section 177 provides that every offence shall ordinarily be inquired into and tried by a court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the offence was committed. In England this territorial principle of criminal law was closely connected with the institution of the grand jury who, as neighbours, gave their testimony concerning crimes committed in the locality.
"Venue", as a term of law, originally meant the place where the jury was summoned to come for the trial of a case; and the jurors had to be from the same parish or neighbourhood where the crime had taken place. Apart from the fact that material witnesses might be expected to be available in that locality and consequently it would be convenient both to the prosecution and to the defence if the trial took place there, the sense of social security was better maintained by requiring the dispensation of criminal justice to be done in the vicinity of the crime.
15.2. Recent legislation in England as to venue.-
Recent legislation, like the Indictments Act of 1915, the Criminal Justice Act of 1925.-and the Magistrates' Courts Act of 1952, has, however, largely modified the common law rule in England. It is no longer necessary that the venue should be in the county or place where the indictable offence has been committed. Since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, a person charged with an indictable offence may be proceeded against in any county or place in which he has been apprehended, or is in custody on a charge of the offence, or has appeared in answer to summons lawfully issued charging the offence, as if the offence had been committed in that county or place. For all purposes incidental to, or consequential on, the prosecution, trial or punishment of the offence, it is deemed to have been committed in that county or place.
15.3. Venue rules desirable in Indian conditions.-
We do not think, however, that the rules relating to the proper place of inquiry and trial contained in this chapter should be dispensed with. Considering the size of the country, the distance of courts from the place of crime and difficulties of transport in the interior, it is, in our view, desirable that the inquiry and trial should ordinarily take place in the vicinity of the crime and some venue rules must be provided in the Code.
15.4. General rule in section 177 not exclusive.-
As the word "ordinarily" used in section 177 of the Code indicates, the general rule laid down in this section is neither exclusive nor peremptory. In the subsequent sections alternative venues for inquiry and trial are provided for in regard to certain types of offences. Barring section 178 which empowers the State Government to supersede the normal rule in regard to certain sessions trials, the other provisions supplement that rule and either authorise certain venues different from the place of commission of the offence even where it is known or can be determined, or authorise different venues where the place of commission of the offence is prima facie not determinable.
15.5. Some offences triable where accused is found.-
A few offences of a predatory character like thuggery and dacoity are made triable by any court within whose local jurisdiction the offender may be found. The venue for an offence committed outside India is also naturally any place within India where the accused may be found according to section 188. Similar provisions constituting an exception to the general rule are to be found in some special laws e.g., section 7 of the Foreign Recruiting Act 1874, section 134(1) of the Railways Act, 1890, section 66 of the Inland Stea.-vessels Act, 1917, and section 5 of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Oaths and Fees) Act, 1948.
15.6. Charges in territorial jurisdiction of courts.-
The rule laid down in section 177 has come up for consideration by the courts in connection with charges in the territorial jurisdiction of a court taking place after it has taken cognizance of an offence. Where such a charge was due to the transfer of territory from a British Indian Province to an Indian State,1 or from one district in a Province to another district,2 or from one State in the Union of India to another State3, the Courts have held that it does not affect the jurisdiction of the court to continue to deal with the offence of which it has taken cognizance. In the case of transfer of territory from one State to another which could only be effected by an Act of Parliament, express provision is usually to be found in the Act itself in regard to the pending cases affected by the transfer. We do not consider that any general provision is necessary in the Code for this purpose.
1. Emp. v. Saheb Din, (1911) 12 Cr LJ 470; Emp. v. Ram Naresh, 1911 ILR 34 All 188; Emp. v. Ganga, 1912 ILR 34 All 45.
2. Emp. v. Saveruddin, ILR (1938) 2 Cal 357.
3. ILR 1952 Punj 186.
15.7. Meaning of "ordinarily" explained by Supreme Court.-
The rule is one of general application and governs all trials held under the provisions of the Code, including trials of offences punishable under local or special laws. It has been held by the Supreme Court1 that, although the section uses the word "ordinarily", it means the same as. except where otherwise provided in the Code itself or other law. The Court observed.-
"There is no doubt that the State Legislature is competent to provide for the trial of offences created by its statutes otherwise than is prescribed by section 177 of the Code; but it must appear from the relevant provision of the special statute that a departure from the general principle prescribed by section 177 is intended."
In view of this ruling, it does not seem necessary to alter the wording of the section with a view to making it more definite and precise.
1. Narumal v. State of Bombay, AIR 1960 SC 1329 (1332).
15.8. Section 178.-
Section 178 empowers the State Government to direct that any cases or class of cases committed for trial in any district may be tried in any sessions division. Now the combined effect of sections 177 and 206 is that a magistrate inquiring into an offence committed in his district has to commit the offender for trial to the Court of Session within whose jurisdiction that offence was committed, that is to say, the Court for the sessions division which comprised his district. But if there is a direction of the State Government under section 178 applicable to a particular case, it becomes triable in such other sessions division as is specified in the direction.
15.9. Extraordinary power seldom used.-
Although this provision concerning an extraordinary power on the State Government has been in the. Code since the beginning, it appears that occasion for its use has been rare. One instance,1 apparently the latest, which came to our notice was a direction issued in 1951 by the Government of Uttar Pradesh to the effect "that all Special Police Establishment cases committed to the Court of Session in any district in Uttar Pradesh shall be tried in the Lucknow Sessions Division". At the same time the State Government found it necessary to give a supplementary direction under2 su.-section (2) of section 193 (sic) of the Code that the Sessions Judge of Lucknow was to be an Additional Sessions Judge for all other sessions divisions in the State.
This was apparently because while the first direction enabled the cases to be tried in the Lucknow sessions division, as provided for in section 178, it was not sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the sessions court of that division to try the cases. Strictly interpreted, section 178 would not be sufficient authority for a Magistrate to commit a case of the specified class for trial to the Court of Session for the specified sessions division.3
1. Haridas Mundhra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1959 All 82.
2. This citation, taken from the judgment appears to be erroneous. Su.-section (4) of section 9 is the relevant provision.
3. Queen Empress v. Nga Tha Moung, 1884 ILR 10 Cal 643.
15.10. Retention recommended.-
The power conferred by section 178 is an extraordinary power intended to be used only when some consideration of public interest (e.g., maintenance of public order during the trial of a sensational case) justifies the holding of a sessions trial in a different sessions division. We have, after due consideration, come to the conclusion that, despite its infrequent use and seemingly arbitrary character, the provision should remain in the Code. Although the section is expressed to override only section 177, it is obviously intended to override also the other venue provisions and should be placed later after section 184.