Jurisdiction of Criminal Courts in India – Code of Criminal Procedure

Section 177 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, therefore, lays down that, ordinarily, every offence is to be inquired into and tried by a Court within whose local jurisdiction the offence was committed. The word ordinarily suggests that its provisions are not peremptory, and the place of trial is not limited to the one mentioned in the section. This view has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, which has observed that the word ‘ordinarily’ indicates that S. 177 is a general section, and must be read subject to the special provisions of sections which follow it. (L.N. Mukherjee, — AIR 1961 SC 1601)

For the purpose of an offence under the Child Marriage Restraint Act, it is the place where the marriage took place that is relevant. So, it is quite immaterial to inquire as to where or when or by whom the tilak ceremony was performed. Under S. 177, the offence must ordinarily be tried by a Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the marriage itself was solemnized.

Despite the provisions of S. 177, if any offence is inquired into or tried by a Magistrate who has no territorial jurisdiction over the place of the offence, this would at most be an irregularity, which can be cured by S. 462, if such trial has not occasioned any failure of justice.

So also, if when the offence was committed, the place was within the local jurisdiction of a particular Magistrate, just because the locality is subsequently transferred to another district, this does not oust the jurisdiction of that Magistrate. (Sayeruddin, 40 Cr. L.J. 270)

S. 178 then provides that, if, however, —

(a) It is uncertain in which of several local areas the offence was committed; or

(b) The offence is committed partly in one local area and partly in another; or

(c) The offence is a continuing one and continues to be committed in more than one local area; or

(d) It consists of several acts done in different local areas,—

In all such cases, it may be inquired into or tried by a Court having jurisdiction over any of such local areas. In other words, such an offence may be tried by a Court in whose jurisdiction any of the acts were done.

S. 178 is intended to solve the difficulty which would arise when there is a conflict between areas claiming jurisdiction, in order to prevent an accused from getting off entirely, just because there may be some doubt as to which particular Magistrate has jurisdiction in a given case.

The provision is similar to S. 135 of the New York Criminal Procedure Code, which provides that when a crime has been committed on the boundaries of two or more countries, or within 500 yards thereof, both countries have jurisdiction in the matter.

Thus, it has been held that the offence of consuming liquor without a permit is complete when the liquor is drunk. In such a case, there can be no uncertainty as to the place of drinking, and hence of the place where the offence is committed. Therefore, S. 178 cannot be invoked in such a case to confer jurisdiction on a Magistrate. (Pranjivan,—50 Cr. L.J. 737)

In another case, the accused was a travelling agent of a firm employed to sell goods. He sold the goods and misappropriated some money, in circumstances making it difficult to say exactly where the various acts of embezzlement took place. The Court held that, under S. 178, the accused could be tried either at the place where the firm was situated, or at any one of the various districts through which he travelled. (Mahadeo.-32 Ail. 397)

Similarly, it has been held that if a defamatory letter is posted in Madras, with a view to its being read in Tinnevelly, the offence of defamation could be tried either in Madras or in Tinnevelly. (Krishnamurthy, — 24 Cr. L.J. 309)

In a case decided by the Madras High Court, an unlawful assembly had assembled at about 8 a.m., and done considerable damage to persons and property. When the Police arrived and fired some shots, it dispersed temporarily, and thereafter formed into smaller groups and continued to be on the spot till 10 a.m., when there was pelting of stones on a railway train. In the circumstances, it was held that both the occurrences, i.e. the one before the Police firing and the other after the firing, were actually parts of one continuous rioting, and the case was covered by clause (c) of S. 178. (K. Pillai, — 50 Cr. L.J. 106)

Under S. 179, if an act is an offence by reason of anything which has been done and of a consequence which has ensued, the offence can be tried by any Court having jurisdiction where such thing was done or where the consequence ensued.

The corresponding section in the old Code had the following illustrations, which will help to understand S. 179 of the present Code also:

(a) A is wounded within the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court X, and dies within the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court Z The offence of the culpable homicide of A may be inquired into or tried either by X or Z.

(b) A is wounded with the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court X, and is, during ten days within the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court Y, and during ten days more within the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court Z, unable in the local limits of the jurisdiction of either Court Y, or Court Z, to follow his ordinary pursuits. The offence of causing grievous hurt to A may be inquired into or tried by X, Y or Z.

(c) A is put in fear of injury with the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court X, and is thereby induced, within the local limits of the jurisdiction of Court Y, to deliver property to the person who put him in fear. The offence of extortion committed on A may be inquired into and tried either by X or Y.

(d) A is wounded in Madras, and dies of his wounds in Poona. The offence of causing A’s death may be inquired into and tried in Poona.

It has been held that the offence of falsification of accounts is complete as soon as the accounts are falsified, and any consequence resulting from it is immaterial. Therefore, this offence is to be tried only by the Court within whose jurisdiction the accounts were falsified, and not any other Court. (Swaminathan, — 9 Cr. L.J. 92).

In another case, the accused, instead of passing a cheque to another person after endorsement (as he was supposed to do), encashed the cheque at Surat, thereby committing a criminal breach of trust. When he was prosecuted at Akola, it was held that the Court at Surat, and not the one at Akola, had jurisdiction to try the case, as the money was not received or retained nor any offence committed at Akola. (Gokaldas,—AIR 1933 Sind, 333).

When a woman sold a minor girl to a prostitute in District X, and the latter took the girl to District Y, it was held that offence of selling a minor girl for purposes of prostitution was complete in District X, and the Magistrate of District Y had no jurisdiction to try the offence.

In Rampratap v. The State, (1970 Cr. L. 1559), the Rajasthan High Court held that if a girl is kidnapped within the jurisdiction of one Court and then raped within the jurisdiction of another Court, since it is part of the same transaction, the accused can be tried for both the offences by the same Court.

Sharply differing from Rampratap’s case (above), the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that S. 179 of the Code is not attracted in such a case, as the two offences are totally different. Hence, the offences are to be tried separately by the Courts within whose jurisdiction the respective acts are committed. (Jagan Nath v. State of Haryana, 1983 Cr. L.J. 1574)

Under S. 179, if an act is an offence by reason of anything which has been done and of a consequence which has ensued, the offence can be tried by any Court having jurisdiction where such thing was done or where the consequence ensued.

S. 180 provides that if an act is an offence by reason of its relation to any other act which is also an offence, the first-mentioned offence may also be inquired into or tried by a Court within whose local jurisdiction either act was done.

S. 180 of the old Code (which was identical to the present section) had three illustrations as under:

(a) A charge of abetment may be inquired into or tried by the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the abetment was committed or by the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the offence abetted was committed.

(b) A charge of receiving or retaining stolen goods may be inquired into or tried either by the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the goods were stolen or by any Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction any of them were, at any time, dishonestly received or retained.

(c) A charge of wrongfully concealing a person known to have been kidnapped may be inquired into or tried by the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the wrongful concealing took place or by the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the kidnapping took place.

Section 181 and 182 prescribe the following specific place of trials in the case of certain offences, as follows:

(i) The offence of being a thug, murder by a thug, dacoity, dacoity with murder, being a member of a gang of dacoits, or escaping from custody, may be tried by the Court within jurisdiction the offence was committed or where the accused is found.

(ii) The offences of kidnapping or abduction may be tried by the Court within whose jurisdiction the person was kidnapped or abducted or was conveyed or concealed or detained.

(iii) The offence of theft, extortion or robbery may be tried by the Court within whose jurisdiction the offence was committed, or where the property concerned (or any part thereof) was received or retained.

(iv) The offences of criminal misappropriation or of criminal breach of trust can be tried by the Court within whose jurisdiction the offence was committed or where the property concerned or any part of it was received or retained by the accused.

(v) Any offence which includes possession of stolen property can be tried by the Court within whose jurisdiction the offence was committed or the stolen property was possessed by any person who received or retained it, knowing it to be stolen property.

(vi) Any offence which includes cheating, may, if the deception is practised by means of letter or telecommunication messages, be tried by any Court having jurisdiction where such letters or messages, were sent or were received.

(vii) Any offence of cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property can be tried by a Court within whose jurisdiction the property was delivered by the person deceived or was received by the accused.

(viii) Any offence punishable under S. 494 or S. 495 of the Indian Penal Code (i.e. the offence of bigamy) can be tried by a Court within whose jurisdiction the offence was committed or the offender last resided with his (or her) spouse by the first marriage. It may be noted that S. 182 has now been amended to enable a complaint by a woman relating to an offence of bigamy to be made at the place of permanent residence of the aggrieved woman after the offence.

(ix) If an offence is committed whilst the person is in the course of performing a journey or a voyage, the offence can be tried by any Court through or into whose local jurisdiction such person passed in the course of that journey or voyage.

If the offences committed by any person are such that he can be charged with, and tried at, one trial for each offence, the offences can be tried by any Court which is competent to inquire or try any of the offences.

It is also provided that if two or more Courts have taken cognizance of the same offence, and a question arises as to which of them ought to inquire into the offence, the question is to be decided—

(a) If the Courts are subordinate to the same High Court, — by that High Court;

(b) If the Courts are not subordinate to the same High Court, — by the High Court within whose local limits the proceedings were first commenced.

As regards extra territorial offences, it is provided by S. 188 that if an offence is committed outside India—

(a) By a citizen of India, whether on the high seas or elsewhere; or

(b) By a person who is not a citizen of India, on any ship or aircraft registered in India;

Such a person may be dealt with in respect of such an offence, as if the offence has been committed at any place in India where such person may be found. The previous sanction of the Central Government is, however, required for the inquiry and trial of such offences.