A charge sheet is a final report to prove the allegation of a crime in a criminal court of law prepared by the investigation or law enforcement agencies. The report is effectively submitted by the police officer to prove that the accused is related to any crime or has committed any crime punishable in India under any penal law having effect. The report contains and integrates all the strict documents from the beginning of the FIR submission investigation process to the conclusion of the investigation and preparation of the final report.

When the charge sheet has been brought to a criminal court of law, the court determines who has ample prima facie evidence against him among the accused to be put on trial. The magistrate frames the charge against the accused, whether to plead guilty or not, on the basis of the charge sheet and other document findings. The charge sheet is an important tool that is scrutinised and pre-inquired by the magistrates to understand the offender’s guilt in the crime. The magistrate will rely on the indictment framed on the basis of the charge sheet, but if the accused disputes the reports of charges brought against him by the police during the course of the investigation, then the case automatically comes to the “Trial” stage without any further delay.

It refers, however, to a formal police report that shows the names of each suspect taken into custody, the nature of the charges, and the identity of the accusers. It is also referred to as a four-part charging instrument that contains:

  1. Information about the accused and the witnesses.
  2. The charges and specifications
  3. The preferring of charges and their referral to a summary.
  4. For the trial record.

A charge sheet is distinct from the First Information Report (FIR), which is the core document that describes  a crime that has been  committed. It usually refers to one or more FIR(s). Once the charge sheet has been submitted to a court of law, prosecution proceedings begin in the judicial system. In India section 173 of criminal procedure code, 1973 contains the provision relating to charge sheet which form a pertinent part of the procedural law which embodies all the details relating to the name of the Informant/complainant, the accused and victim, any witness, items  or articles seized, date ,time and place of occurrence of the crime, the name of the investigating officer, the medical reports if ant made, the FIR number, the true findings of the case diary etc.

Is There Any Time Bar For Filing Charge-Sheet?

The time limit to file charge sheet is related to arrest of the accused in the case. The charge sheet is to be filed within 60 days from the date of arrest of the accused in cases triable by lower courts and 90 days in cases triable by Court of Sessions.

What Are The Consequences If Charge Sheet Is Not Filed Within Specified Time Frame?
In Rakesh Kumar Paul case, where the accused was charged with offence under Section 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act being punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than four years but which may extend to ten years, the State argued since the petitioner could face imprisonment that could extend up to 10 years; the date for applying for default bail would commence on the expiry of 90 days.

However, Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur held that the petitioner had satisfied all the requirements of obtaining Default Bail he had put in more than 60 days in custody pending investigations into an alleged offence not punishable with imprisonment for a minimum period of 10 years, no charge sheet has been filed against him and he was prepared to furnish bail for his release, as such, he ought to have been released by the High Court on reasonable terms and conditions of bail. Justice Deepak Gupta of Supreme Court further held that Section 167(2((a)(i) of the CrPC is applicable only in cases where the accused is charged with:

  1. offences punishable with death and any lower sentence;
  2. offences punishable with life imprisonment and any lower sentence and
  3. offences punishable with minimum sentence of 10 years; in all cases where the minimum sentence is less than 10 years but the maximum sentence is not death or life imprisonment, then Section 167(2)(a)(ii) will apply and the accused will be entitled to grant of default bail after 60 days, in case charge-sheet is not filed.

It was also held, in matters of personal liberty, we cannot and should not be too technical and must lean in favour of personal liberty.

In Aslam Babalal Desai (1992) case,
Supreme Court has held, The provisions of the Code, in particular Sections 57 (person arrested not to be detained more than 24 hours) and 167 (detention, remand & default bail), manifest the legislative anxiety that once a person’s liberty has been interfered with by the police arresting him without a courts order or a warrant, the investigation must be carried out with utmost urgency and completed within the maximum period allowed by the proviso (a) to Section 167(2) of the Code. It must be realised that the said proviso was introduced in the Code by way of enlargement of time for which the arrested accused could be kept in custody.

Therefore, the prosecuting agency must realise that if it fails to show a sense of urgency in the investigation of the case and omits or defaults to file a charge-sheet within the time prescribed, the accused would be entitled to be released on bail and the order passed to that effect under Section 167(2) would be an order under Section 437(1) or (2) {when bail may be taken in case of non-bailable offence} or Section 439(1) {Special powers of High Court or Court of Session regarding bail} of the Code.

Since Section 167 does not empower cancellation of the bail, the power to cancel the bail can only be traced to Section 437(5) or Section 439(2) of the Code. The bail can then be cancelled on considerations which are valid for cancellation of bail granted under Section 437(1) or (2) or Section 439(1) of the Code.

No case for grant of bail will be made out under section 167(2) of the Code if charge sheet is filed before the expiry of 90 days or 60 days, as the case may be, from the date of first remand. The right of default bail is lost, once charge sheet is filed. Default bail is a sort of a rap on the knuckles of the police for not completing the investigation and filing the final report within 90 or 60 days of first remand of the accused.

However, for the failure of a Judge to pass a formal judicial order of extension of remand on the application of the prosecution, default bail is not the remedy.

The maxim Actus Curiae Neminem Gravabit meaning an act of the Court shall prejudice no one, cannot be ignored. Such a ground for bail cannot be founded either under section 167(2) or section 437 of the Code.

Author – Vedika Ghai (Intern of Prerna Foundation)