A Person can’t be Trial for more than Three Offenses at One trial under the Criminal Laws in India – Explained!

For the purpose of this section, an offence punishable under S. 379 of the I.P.C. (namely, theft), is to be deemed to be an offence of the same kind as an offence punishable under S. 380 of the I.P.C. namely, theft in any building, tent or vessel used as a human dwelling or for the custody of property). Moreover, an offence punishable under any section of the I.P.C., or of any special or local law, is to be deemed to be an offence of the same kind as an attempt to commit such offence, in cases where such attempt itself is also an offence.

The object of carving out the exceptions laid down in this section is to avoid the necessity of the same witness giving the same evidence two or three times in different trials, and to join in one trial, those offences with regard to which the evidence would overlap.

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Thus, the real object of the provisions of S. 219 is to prevent any risk of the Court being satisfied by anything less than complete proof of the offences alleged, and if the attention of the Court is limited to three offences, it is not very likely that it will be satisfied with anything less than full proof, But, when a large number of charges are brought against an accused, it might happen that the accused may be convicted, not on actual proof of a particular offence, but more on suspicion and reputation owing to the fact that, in a large number of cases, offences are only half-proved against him.

It is to be noted that what S. 219 lays down is that the trial must be limited to three offences. It does not provide that the trial must be limited to three charges. The same offence may be charged under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, and any number of such charges can be tried at the same trial. (Tribhuvan,—33 Bom. 77)

It is also to be noted that this section only limits the number of offences that can be charged and tried at one trial. However, this does not mean that the accused cannot be charged and tried separately— although on the same day—for more than three distinct offences of the same kind committed during the year. (Dhananjoy,—3 Cal. 54)

It has been held that the following are not offences of the same kind:

(a) Adultery and bigamy;

(b) Falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust.

(c) Murder and grievous hurt;

(d) Forgery and giving false evidence.

It is interesting to note that the High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Allahabad have taken the view that one trial of three charges of embezzlement and of corresponding charges of falsification of accounts would be illegal. However, a contrary view has been taken by the Patna High Court.

Problem:

The accused murdered A and  in the same night, one after the other, in their respective houses, which were separated by a street, which formed the boundary between two districts. The Police filed charge-sheets in two different Sessions Courts. Can both the murders be tried together?

Ans:

Yes, one Court can in the circumstances, deal with both the murders, and there is no impediment in trying both the murders together under S. 219. (In Re Govindaswami,—1953 Cr. L.J. 651)

Effect of non-compliance with S. 219:

The legal effect of non- compliance with S. 219 is not merely an irregularity, but is an illegality which vitiates the trial. (Viraswami,—31 Cr. L.J.)

Therefore, a trial of an accused for four offences is altogether illegal, and this illegality cannot be cured by the Judge striking out one of the charges after the trial has closed. (Manavala,—29 Mad. 569)

Offences against several persons:

Formerly, there was a conflict of opinion as to whether S. 219 applied when the offences were committed against several persons. This conflict is now set at the rest by the new Code, which has introduced the words “whether in respect of the same persons or not.” This expression makes it very clear that an accused can be charged at one trial with three offences of the same kind, although committed against different persons.