Sessions Court definition: In India, the Court of Sessions, commonly referred to as Sessions Court, has been established by the state government for every sessions division and it is presided over by a Sessions Court judge.
Sessions Court definition: In India, the Court of Sessions, commonly referred to as Sessions Court, has been established by the state government for every sessions division and it is presided over by a Sessions Court judge. The judge is appointed by the High Court of the state. Keep in mind that there is only one Sessions Court in each division at different places. Also, it comes within the purview of a specific number of judges. Sections 225 to 237 of The Code of Criminal Procedure deal with the procedure in trials before a Court of Sessions. In case the office of the Sessions Judge is vacant, the High Court can make necessary arrangements for any urgent matter or application that is pending before the court mentioned above to be dealt with by an Additional or an Assistant Sessions Judge or in their absence, by a Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM).
What is the difference between Civil Court and Sessions Court?
A Civil Court deals with disputes related to civil law, whereas a Sessions Court usually deals with criminal cases. Can a Sessions Court give a death sentence? As per section 366 (i) CrPC, the Sessions Court judge can do so.
Note that several decisions of the Supreme Court have taken the view that ordering death sentences for those who suffer from insanity or mental illness violates Article 121. Such a condition, once established, would allow for a supervening circumstance for meriting commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment.
Refer to a recent apex court judgment on the same in X vs State of Maharashtra (2019) 7 SCC. The judgment reiterates the apex court’s cautionary approach, stating as follows, “Under our criminal justice system, the highest discrimination is provided to trial courts. Sometimes appellate courts provides discretion for the trial court to operate. However, the appellate court must adopt a ‘cautionary approach’ when providing such indulgence, which must be restricted and balanced against such competing interests.” [Santa Singh vs State of Punjab (1976) 4 SCC 190.]
What are the functions of a Sessions Court?
A trial before a Sessions judge begins after an accused pleads guilty or not guilty, and the judge, therefore, proceeds to follow the procedure as per section 231, Cr PC. At the first hearing in a Sessions court, the public prosecutor opens the case by highlighting the charges framed against the accused.
Upon hearing the submission and evidence presented from both sides, the Sessions Court judge can decide any of the following:
- Whether to discharge the accused if sufficient grounds are not established (section 277) or
- Frame charges if there is adequate ground for presuming that the said accused committed an offence that is exclusively triable by the sessions court as per section 228 (1)(b))
- Read out the charge, explain its meaning to the accused and record the accused’s plea at the Sessions Court.
If the Sessions Court judge feels that the offence that has been made out against the said accused is not exclusively to be tried in the Sessions Court, then the concerned judge can opt to transfer the case to the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) as per section 228 (1)(a).
In case, however, the accused pleads guilty, then the Sessions Court judge can convict him. Otherwise, a date for the hearing of the prosecution’s evidence can be fixed.
A Sessions Court judge can also compel the attendance of witnesses if the prosecution applies for it as part of the hearing of evidence. At the stage of framing charges in a Sessions Court, the material that is produced by the prosecution alone is to be considered. The probative value cannot be gone into. [Narain Singh vs State of UP 2010 Cr LJ (NOC) 435 (ALL)].
Also, while framing charges, meticulous examination of evidence and material is not required. Strong suspicion against the accused is sufficient ground to frame charges. [Satish Nanaji Dhote vs State of Maharashtra 2009 CrLJ (NOC) 871 (Bom)]