Report No. 14
11. Appointment and training of honorary magistrates in Uttar Pradesh.-
We may here refer to the Rules framed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh in regard to the appointment of honorary magistrates. Appointments are made by the State Government on the recommendation of the district committees of which the district magistrate and the district and sessions judge, one member of the Bar elected by the District Bar Association and six non-officials not being lawyers, are members. Certain qualifications are prescribed. Particular stress is laid upon the reputation of the person appointed and his freedom from pecuniary embarrassment. What is more important to notice is that these rules provide for a short period of training of about three months to a person appointed for the first time as an honorary magistrate.
After familiarizing himself with the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act under the guidance of a senior stipendiary magistrate, he has to watch the progress of trials in courts, to take notes of evidence, and to write out judgment for the approval of the magistrate. We have not been informed how this system of training has worked; at any rate, the authorities have endeavoured to see that the usefulness of the person appointed is enhanced by a suitable training. The courts of the honorary magistrates are also expected to be inspected by the sessions judge or the district magistrate.
12. In other States, like West Bengal, however, it is the district collector who makes a recommendation to the Government for the appointment of honorary magistrates. In Bombay, the appointments of these special judicial magistrates, as they are called, are made by the State Government in consultation with the High Court. In the Delhi State area, a selection committee consisting of the sessions judge, the district magistrate and the Home Secretary, recommends the persons to be appointed. A course of practical training is also given to the magistrates.
13. Utility of honorary magistrates.-
It is clear from the facts stated in regard to Uttar Pradesh and Madras that honorary magistrates are capable of serving a very useful purpose in relieving the paid magistracy from a large number of petty criminal cases, particularly in the larger towns. We recommend that the system should be tried in other States where it has not so far been used. Care should, however be taken to provide a proper machinery for recommending suitable persons for appointment. It would be preferable if the appointments are made by the State Governments with the concurrence of the High Courts. The High Court would be in a position to recommend retired judicial officers and other suitable persons after eliciting opinion from the judiciary subordinate to it. It may be pointed out that, like other magistrates, honorary magistrates should sit during fixed hours and should be provided with the necessary staff.
14. Mode of trial.-
The mode of trial in these courts is not different from that obtaining in other courts. They follow the pattern laid down for trial of summons or warrant cases or for summary trials which is set out elsewhere.
15. Criminal Courts in England.-
We may, at this stage, refer to the hierarchy of the English criminal courts. They are:-
(1) Courts of summary jurisdiction (Magistrates' courts);
(2) Courts of quarter session;
(3) Courts of assizes.
The lowest of these courts, the magistrates' courts, are presided over either by two or more Justices of the Peace or one Stipendiary Magistrate either sitting alone or with other Justices. Such a court is competent to try and convict an accused person for what may be broadly described as summary offences; but the same court is also competent to make an inquiry and commit an accused person to take his trial either at the quarter sessions or at the assizes. The Court of quarter session corresponds roughly to the court of session in our country but, instead of a single judge, it consists of a number of justices with a legally qualified Chairman, the qualification being ten years standing as a Barrister or as a Solicitor having such legal experience as is sufficient in the Lord Chancellor's opinion.
Trial before these courts is by jury. This court has jurisdiction to try all indictable offences, except those expressly excluded by law. Like our sessions courts, courts of quarter session have jurisdiction to hear appeals from the magistrates' courts. While hearing appeals, the justices sit by themselves without a jury. Courts of assizes are superior courts which are presided over by a Judge of a High Court. In fact, under the Judicature Act, 1925, all Courts of assizes are branches of the High Court. Only very serious offences are tried before them on commitment and trial is by jury.
16. Court structure not complicated.-
The above description shows that our system of criminal courts is substantially similar to the English system. The structure of our criminal courts cannot be said to be complicated and it appears to us that there is no room for its simplification. There is, however, scope for improvement in the methods of trial and for investing the lower classes of magistrates with larger powers. We shall proceed to examine the classification of offences and the powers given to magistrates courts in regard to trial in order to see how far improvements can be effected.
17. General features.-
We have, in an earlier chapter, referred to the large number of persons who are brought before the criminal courts not only as accused persons but also as witnesses. In addition to those who actually figure in the criminal courts as witnesses, there are a large number of persons would have been examined by the police at the stage of the inquiry. There are also cases in which a number of persons would have been interrogated by the police in the course of inquiries into suspected commission of offences which did not ultimately lead to the filing of charge-sheets.
Further, by the very nature of a criminal proceeding, it is sometimes necessary for a witness to appear more than once in a court. Sometimes, adjournments due to various reasons are also responsible for making a witness come to court on more than one occasion and they have to be paid batta and travelling allowance for this purpose out of State funds. In view of the very large number of persons with whom they have to deal, it is very necessary that criminal courts should function with reasonable expedition and efficiency.
18. Criminal courts, designed by the State for the punishment of the offender against the law, control of crime and the maintenance of law and order, should function in an orderly and efficient manner. Every measure tending to increase their efficiency should be welcome. If large number of persons are needlessly taken away from their ordinary activities for making this organization function, not only will their means of livelihood be affected but the resources of the country as a whole, which depend on the work done by the individual citizen, will suffer.
It is true that the maintenance of law and order, the punishment of the offender and an effective control over crime are essential. It is equally true that the attendance of a large number of persons at the courts is inevitable, if these purposes are to be served. But it is imperative that the taking away of persons from their normal avocations should be reduced to the minimum period of time possible. From this broad point of view, the quick, efficient and smooth working of the machinery of criminal courts has vital importance.
19. Jurisdiction of criminal courts.-
All offences under the Indian Penal Code have been classified in Schedule II to the Criminal Procedure Code into offences which are triable exclusively by a court of session; or by a court of session, or a presidency magistrate or a magistrate of the first class or even a magistrate of the second class in the alternative; or by a magistrate in general. Only very few offences are exclusively triable by a court of session. In the generality of cases, the more serious offences are triable either by a court of session or a presidency magistrate or a magistrate of the first class. This concurrent jurisdiction has been provided because though the offence might be of a serious nature, in the majority of cases it may not call for the infliction of a punishment heavier than what the magistrate can impose.