Spread the love

This article is written by Aastha Jha of Alliance university studying in II semester of BA.LLB, an Intern under Legal Vidhiya.


Summons and warrants are two forms of criminal proceedings in the Indian legal system that differ in the methods used to initiate and conduct a trial. The issuance of a summons to the accused initiates a summons case, whereas the issuance of an arrest warrant initiates a warrant case. The purpose of this article is to present a thorough comparison of summons cases and warrant cases, including the legal rules controlling each type of case, the procedures followed during the trial, and the outcomes of the cases. The study will also look at the benefits and drawbacks of each form of case, as well as the elements that influence the decision between summons and warrant cases.

Keywords-Summons, Warrant, criminal proceeding, legal rule


In the Indian legal system, there are two types of criminal cases: summons and warrant cases. While both types of cases are used to prosecute individuals for criminal charges, the tactics utilised in each differ dramatically. The decision between summons and warrant cases is influenced by a number of variables, including the type and degree of the offence, the available evidence, and the likelihood of the accused appearing in court. While summons is normally less serious than warrants, they can also be more time-consuming and ineffective in guaranteeing the accused’s appearance in court.

The paper aims to understand the differences between summons and warrant cases, as well as how they are utilised in the Indian legal system to pursue criminal offences. We can make informed decisions on the most effective strategies to secure justice for all if we understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of case.


A summons is a legal document issued by a magistrate under Section 204 (1) (a) of the law that orders a person to appear in court when a complaint is filed against him. According to Section 61 of the code, the summons must be in writing, signed by the presiding officer of the relevant court, and display the seal of that court. It would be ruled invalid otherwise.

Reiteratively, the punishment tenure for summons cases would not exceed two years in prison, indicating the less serious character of the crime and so requiring a rapid resolution without jeopardising the procedures of a fair trial. The method is outlined in Chapter XX of the Code of Criminal method. Section 2(w) of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines summons cases as cases relating to an offence that is not a warrant case. It is important to understand that every offence punishable with INR 50 is considered a summons case. The procedure to be followed when dealing with such problems is outlined in the code between Sections 251 and 259. In terms of technique, it is similar to other trials, but noticeably less formal in order to provide quick resolutions.


Section 251 of the code requires the court to explain the particulars to the accused and record the accused’s plea. In the case of State of Gujarat v. Lalit Mohan[1], this was confirmed. Though this clause does not require the laying of charges, it does require that the details be communicated to the accused when he is brought before the court. However, in the case of Manbodh Biswal v. Samaru Pradhan[2], the court clarified that the rule itself stipulates that a trial is not vitiated just because this provision was not followed if such non-compliance did not create any prejudice to the accused.

If the accused pleads guilty, Section 252 comes into action, which provides for the accused’s conviction after recording his plea and examining both prosecution and defence witnesses. In the case of Thangjam v. Irabot Singh[3], it was determined that a joint statement made by all of the accused persons could not be considered a plea of guilty. Section 253 dealt with the method for convicting an accused in a minor matter based on his guilty plea in his absence. The dilemma here is, what if the accused pleads ‘not guilty’? Section 254 of the statute addresses this.

If the accused has not been convicted on his or her plea under Sections 252 or 253, the magistrate is required to hear the prosecutor and his witnesses. The accused cannot be acquitted without the examination of the complainant’s witnesses, as the magistrate is required to question all witnesses submitted by both the prosecution and the accused. Failure to hear the accused renders the criminal trial invalid under Section 465. The magistrate shall issue summons to any witnesses on the application of the relevant party to the case, and he shall create the memorandum of evidence under Section 274 of the code.


A warrant is an order given to a specific person who is required to apprehend the accused and bring him before the court. The purpose of the warrant is to bring the accused before the court who has not appeared even after the summons has been issued. Only the magistrate has the authority to carry out the order. The court seal and the presiding officer’s signature should appear on such an order. A warrant case is one in which the committed offence is punishable by a term of not less than two years in prison. The warrant is valid until the date it is rescinded by the same court. Warrant cases fall under Chapter XIX and are defined in Section 2(X) of the Code. A warrant case trial begins with the filing of a FIR at the police station or the filing of a complaint with the magistrate. The charge is framed against the accused in a warrant action. There are two sorts of warrant trials:

  • On the police report
  • Other than the police report

The procedure for a warrant case has been dealt with under section 238 to 250 of the code of Criminal Procedure.



Section 238 of the law states that when a warrant case is filed on the police report and the accused is brought before the magistrate, the magistrate is required to follow Section 207 of the code. The following Section 239 discusses when an accused shall be discharged; it states that if the magistrate determines that the charges framed against the accused are without merit after reviewing the police report and the associated documents under Section 173 and considering all relevant arguments of the parties, the accused shall be discharged. The court concluded in Century Spinning and Manufacturing Co. Ltd v. State of Maharashtra [4]that this section of the CrPC must be read in conjunction with Section 240.

Section 240 addressed the formulation of charges following examination and consideration. If the magistrate believes there are sufficient grounds to believe the accused committed the offence, he shall frame a charge in writing against the accused. It is worth noting that Section 240 allows a magistrate to not only assess the police report and other documents supplied under Section 173, but also to examine the accused at his discretion.

Section 241, like Section 252, provides for the conviction of the accused on the plea of guilty in summons instances. The procedure for cases where the accused pleads ‘not guilty’ is outlined in Section 242. In accordance with the aforementioned law, the magistrate shall set a date for the examination of both sides’ witnesses. Section 242 of the code has dealt extensively with prosecution evidence, whereas Section 243 of the code explains the method for producing evidence from defence counsel.


Sections 244 to 247 of Chapter XIX are entirely devoted to dealing with the procedure for warrant cases trials that are not based on a police report. Section 244 covers the magistrate’s duty to request witnesses to be interrogated before concluding evidence and drafting the charge. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the magistrate is under no need to invite any witnesses on his own, as the prosecution is responsible for doing so.

Section 245 specifies when the accused may be released. In the case of Muhammad v. Balkrishna[5], the Court explained that this Section does not vest the Magistrate with any arbitrary authority of release; rather, there must be ground or substantial documents to infer that no offence is made out. Thus, if all of the evidence presented by the prosecution within four years of the case’s inception does not provide a legitimate basis to dismiss the accused, the magistrate may acquit the accused at his discretion. In contrast, if the magistrate decides, after reviewing the evidence, that there is a reasonable foundation to infer that the accused committed the offence, Section 246 becomes applicable since it specifies what happens if the accused is not released. The subsequent clause, Section 247, has dealt with the evidence for the defence; this occurs only after the formulation of charges, when the accused is given the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. Finally, the warrant trial, like all other trials, finishes with the accused being acquitted or convicted under Section 248 of the code.


Points of differenceSummon CaseWarrant Case
Punishment TenureLess than two years of imprisonmentMore than two years of imprisonment
ProcedureDealt with under Chapter –XX of CrPC from Section 252 to 259.Dealt with under Chapter – XIX of CrPC from Section 238 to 250.
Charge FramingFraming of charges against the accused is not necessarily to be done. But, only the particulars must be conveyed to the accused.Framing of Criminal charges against accused person is mandatorily to be done.
ObjectIt notifies the accused person that he is legally obliged to appear in court.It brings the accused person before the court, who has ignored the summon has been duly issued to him.
ContentIt instructs to produce the relevant documents and others before the court.In general, it authorizes a police officer to bring the accused person before the court.
Discharge of the accused person, when?·  Absence of the complainant. · On the death of the complainant.·  Absence of the complainant. ·  If no charges are framed. ·  If the offence is non-cognizable and compoundable. ADVERTISEMENT
Conversion of caseA summon case can be converted into a warrant case.By no mean, a warrant case can be cannot be converted into summon case


In conclusion, while both warrants and summonses are legal orders utilised by law enforcement, they differ significantly. A warrant is a document issued by a judge or magistrate that authorises police enforcement to do something specific, such as make an arrest or conduct a search. A summons, on the other hand, is a legal notice requiring a person to appear in court at a certain time and date. The circumstances under which they are issued, the types of acts they authorise law enforcement to do, and the repercussions for noncompliance are some of the fundamental differences between warrants and summons. Warrants are often issued when law enforcement believes that a crime has been committed. whereas summonses are issued in less serious circumstances, such as traffic violations or minor offences. Overall, recognising the distinctions between warrants and summonses is critical for both law enforcement and those who may be subject to these legal procedures. Individuals can defend their rights and respond correctly to legal orders if they understand the circumstances under which they can be issued and the repercussions of noncompliance.









[1] 1991 Cr. L.J. 2341 (Guj).

[2] 1980 Cr.  L.J. 1023 (Orissa).

[3] (1961) 2 Cr. L.J. 583.

[4] A.I.R. 1972 S.C. 545.

[5] (1964) 2 Cr. L.J. 92.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *