Criminal trial: an explainer

The tenth part of our explainer series on criminal law deals with the entire process of criminal trial.


Previous parts: FIR | Refusal of police to register an FIR | Police investigation | Police officers’ power to search without search warrants | Default bail | Closure report and police case diary | Completion of investigation Charge | Discharge

The different types of offences that can be tried by courts, the essential parties to a criminal trial and the actual process of trial before various fora are explained below.

Types of courts for trials


The witness forms an integral part of a criminal trial, since their testimonies guide the court to arrive at a judgment of conviction or acquittal. The mere filing of chargesheet or compliant is not sufficient, but the testimonies of witnesses summoned by the prosecution and by the accused, if any, are of paramount importance, since the accused can contradict the contents of the chargesheet/complaint based on the testimony of witnesses. 

Types of trials

These are the general steps which are followed by the trial court in a criminal trial. However, the trial procedure has categorised divided into the following four parts in the CrPC:

  • Summary trials
  • Trial of summons cases by magistrate
  • Trial of warrant cases by magistrate
  • Trial before sessions court

The steps indicated in the flow chart above are more or less followed in all four types of trials. However, certain procedural steps are excluded in summary trials and trials of summons case. The distinction is given below: