SC Observes That Criminal Trial is Not Complete on Conviction of Accused, But with Sentencing


Akansha Upadhyay

Date – 06 December 2022 at 19:35 IST

The Supreme Court held that a criminal trial is complete not upon the announcement of the verdict of conviction of the accused, but with their conviction. The matter was dealt by the Constitution Bench comprising of Justices Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian & B.V. Nagarathna.

“The conclusion of trial in a criminal trial if it ends in conviction, a judgment is considered complete in all respects only when the convict is convicted, if the convict is not given the benefit of Section 360 CrPC”

The five judges, Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court made this observation in a judgment relating to a reference to the scope of power under Section 319 of the CrPC.

One of the issues that arose in this case was: when it can be said that the trial is over. Is it at that stage when the sentence is pronounced and the order of conviction is passed or is it when the sentence is passed and the trial is complete in all respects?

To answer this, the court referred to Section 232 and 235 of CrPC and noted as follows:

  1. If the Sessions Court while analysing the evidence recorded finds that there is no evidence to hold the accused for having committed the offence, the judge is required to record an order of acquittal. In that case, there is nothing further to be done by the learned Judge and therefore the trial concludes at that stage
  2. If the learned Judge arrives at the conclusion that the accused is to be convicted, the conviction shall be ordered through the judgment as contemplated under Section 235 of CrPC. Sub-section (2) thereto provides that if the learned Judge does not proceed to give the benefit to the accused of being released on probation under Section 360 of CrPC, the learned Judge shall hear the accused on the question of sentence and then impose a sentence on him according to law

The Court therefore held that even after the pronouncement of the judgment of conviction, the trial is not complete as the learned Sessions Judge is required to apply his mind to the evidence which is available on record to determine the seriousness of the charge.

The accused is found guilty; Role of Special Prosecutor when more than one accused are involved in the offense and in that light to award appropriate punishment.

“Therefore, from a perusal of the provisions and decisions of this Court, it is clear that the conclusion of the trial in a criminal prosecution if it ends in conviction, a judgment is considered to be complete in all respects only when the sentence is imposed on the convict, if the convict is not given the benefit of Section 360 of CrPC.”

“Similarly, in a case where there are more than one accused and if one or more among them are acquitted and the others are convicted, the trial would stand concluded as against the accused who are acquitted and the trial will have to be concluded against the convicted accused with the imposition of sentence.” the bench observed.

Case Title: Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab

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