Framing of correct charges in a criminal case is of equal importance as settling correct issues in a civil suit.
Perhaps, the framing of a charge occupies even a more important position than an issue, since a charge makes an accusation of criminal culpability against the very personality of the accused.
It was pointed out in Inder Pal vs. Emperor [AIR 1936 Lah. 409] that a charge is intended to inform the accused with certainty and accuracy the exact nature of the offence levelled against the accused.
An accused is entitled to be informed with the greatest precision what acts he is alleged to have committed and under what sections of the Penal Code or any other law do they fall as pointed out in Sheo Shankar vs. Emperor [AIR 1926 Oudh 148].
Chapter XVII from Sections 211-224 Cr.P.C. deals with charges, the mode of charges, the particulars to be mentioned in charges as well as joinder of charges and joinder of accused.
A charge should contain a statement of the offence allegedly committed by the accused, the specific name of the offence, if the offence is given a name by the statute, the section and the enactment to which the section relates under which the act/omission of the accused is punishable, time and place of the commission of the offence, the person against whom or the thing in respect of which the offence was committed and other particulars of the commission of the offence if the above mentioned pieces of information do not correctly and precisely communicate to the accused as to the nature of the charge. It may be noticed that charges should invariably avoid phraseology like et cetera
Unlike in civil proceedings, there is no provision in the Criminal Procedure Code for the consolidation of cases.
Even if two or more criminal cases are connected with each other such as accused being common in both the cases, or where nature and proximity of the time of the offence are common, there is no option for the Court but to try the cases separately and write separate judgments. It is pointed out in Bhola Nath vs. Emperor [1920 Cri.L.J. 442] by the Allhabad High Court as follows.”
If two separate cases are so closely connected together that the trial Court thinks a single judgment would sufficiently cover the two separate cases, the best course to adopt is to write a detailed judgment containing a complete recital of the facts in what seems to be the more important of the two cases and it would not be objectionable as a rule to refer to such recitals in the separate judgment recorded in the less important case.”
At any rate, in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the practice is always to write separate detailed judgments in each of the cases albeit, they are tried simultaneously.
The circular orders of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh point out that whenever even a case and counter come up before a Court, it is desirable to try the cases simultaneously and pronounce separate judgments at one and the same time.
Case and counter means the accused in one of the cases become victims or de facto prosecutors in the latter case while the accused in the latter case become witnesses/ de facto prosecutors in the former case.
Usual case and counter case arises in factious litigation. Many a time, in the villages passions grow wild in relation to the right to draw water from irrigation canals and a free fight takes place between two factions. Both factions lodge-police complaints.
Police register the complaints as crimes and submit charge-sheets in both the cases. Most of the accused or all the accused in one case figure as witnesses in the other case and vice versa.
In such cases, the Courts frame charges in both the cases on a given day, take both the cases for trial are taken simultaneously. It may examine the accused in both the cases separately under Section 313 Cr.P.C. on a date. It may hear arguments one after another in succession and pronounce judgments in both the cases on the same date.
Usually in case and counter case there will not be conviction in both the cases. In a series of cases, it was held that case and counter case should be tried by the same judge one after another and judgment should be pronounced after both the cases are heard for instance, as held in Muhib Ali vs. Basan Ali [1977 Cri.L.J.914], It is also settled law that in case and counter case matters a judge has to decide who is the aggressor out of the two sets of accused and while punishing the aggressor, the judge is expected to acquit the other set of accused.
A judge may acquit the accused in both the cases, got to convict accused in both the cases while the conviction of the accused in both sets of cases is rarest of rare phenomena.