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Territorial Jurisdiction Of Criminal Courts: Crpc-1973

Territorial jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over cases arising in or involving persons residing within a defined territory. It can also be the territory over which a government, one of its courts, or one of its subdivisions has jurisdiction. If a court does not have territorial jurisdiction over the events or persons within it, then the court will not be able to bind the defendant to an obligation or adjudicate any rights involving them. Territorial jurisdiction can be waived, even unintentionally, by a defendant.[1]

Section 177 lays down the general rule as to the territorial jurisdiction for criminal enquiries and trial. The provision provides that the area within which the offence is committed is relevant to determine the territorial jurisdiction of the Court. The rule of Section 177 CrPC has to be read subject to the succeeding provisions provided in Sections 178 to 186 and 188 CrPC. The provisions of Sections 219 to 223 CrPC also provide exceptions to Section 177 CrPC.

The Magistrate, within whose jurisdiction the crime was allegedly committed, has the jurisdiction to try the offence, which rule is, of course, subjected to exceptions contained in the subsequent sections. It is pertinent to be mentioned that Section 462 CrPC says that no trial or other absence of local jurisdiction, unless it proceeding shall be liable to be set aside for is clearly established that it has occasioned a failure of justice.

Therefore, the objection regarding lack of territorial jurisdiction has to be taken at the initial stage of the proceeding, because a lack of territorial jurisdiction does not render the trial to nullity.

Apart from the above, at the stage of framing of the charges instituted on a police report, the Court must confine itself to documents referred to in Section 173 CrPC and all that is required at this stage is to see whether a prima facie case has been made out or not. At this stage, the Court cannot consider the case of the defense.[2]

In Naresh Kavarchand Khatri Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr., reported in (2008) 8 SCC 300, the Apex Court held as herein below quoted- “…. Whether an officer in charge of a police station has requisite jurisdiction to make investigation or not will depend upon a large number of factors including those contained in Sections 177, 178 and 181 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In a case where trial can be held in any of the places falling within the purview of the aforementioned provisions, investigation can be conducted by the officer in charge of the police station concerned which has jurisdiction to investigate in relation thereto. Sub-section (4) of Section 181 of the Code of Criminal Procedure would also be relevant therefore. We need not dilate more on analyses of the aforementioned provisions as the said question has been gone into by this Court on more than one occasion.[3]

Jurisdiction Of The Criminal Courts

Section 177 - According to this section, the Court under whose jurisdiction the offence has been committed only has the authority to inquire into and try such case.

Section 178 - Deals with the situations where the offence has been committed in more than one place:
  • When the place of commission of the offence is uncertain because it has been committed in several places.
  • Where an offence is partly committed in one local area and the rest in another area.
  • When the offence comprises of several acts, committed in different local areas.
If any of the above conditions are fulfilled, then such offence may be inquired into or tried by a Court having jurisdiction over any of such local area.
Section 179, emphasizes that fact that when an act is an offence because of anything which has been done and as a consequence which has ensued, the said offence may be inquired into or tried by a court of competent jurisdiction
.
Section 180, deals with the place of trial when the act committed is an offence because it is related to some other offence. According to it the offence which has been committed first has to be inquired into or tried, when two acts are done in connection with each other and both are offences, by the court under whose jurisdiction either of the act has been committed. In all such provisions, the emphasis is always on the place where the offence has been committed, to find the jurisdiction.

Offences When The Offender Is Travelling

But, Section 181 specifies conditions in case of certain offences. According to section 181(1), the trial can also be commenced where the accused is found, besides the place where the offence was committed. Section 181(1) talks about the offences, when not committed in a single place.

It deals with the following cases:
  • Thug, or murder committed while performing the act of thug, dacoity, or dacoity with murder etc- where the offence is committed or where the accused is found.
  • Kidnapping or abduction of a person- the place from where the person was kidnapped/ abducted or where the person was concealed or conveyed or detained.
  • Theft, extortion or robbery " the Court where the offence has been committed or where the stolen property is possessed, received or delivered, has the jurisdiction to try such a case.
  • Criminal misappropriation or criminal breach of trust- where the offence has been committed or where any part of the property which is the subject matter of the offence has been received or retained required to be returned or accounted for, by the accused.
But the above section deals with offences when the offender is travelling, as evident from the nature of the offences as specified under this section.

Offences Committed By Letters Etc

Section 182 deals with this, if any offence includes cheating, if the victim has been deceived by means of letters or telecommunication messages, it shall be looked into by the Court under whose local jurisdiction such letters or messages have been sent or received; and under the local jurisdiction of the Court in which the property has been delivered by the person deceived or has been received by the accused person.

Committed During Journey

Section 183 deals with offences which have been committed during journey or voyage. When a person commits an offence, during journey or against a person who is travelling, or the thing in respect of which, the offence has been committed is in due course of its journey or voyage, the offence has to be inquired into or tired by a Court through or into whose local jurisdiction that person or thing has passed, during the journey.
  • The place of trial for offences which are triable together consists of two circumstances.
  • When any person commits offences, such that he may be charged with, tried at one trial for, each such offence according to the provisions of section 219, section 220 or section 221.
  • When the offences or offences have been committed by several persons, in a manner that the Court may charge and try them together, according to the provisions of section 223.
In either of the circumstances, the Court which is competent to inquire and try such do the same.

Power Of The State Government

Section 185 deals with the power of the State Government, according to which the government can direct that any cases or class of cases which have been committed for trial in any district, may be tried in a sessions court. It has to ensure that such direction is not inconsistent with any of the directions which have been already issued by any other Superior Court, as per the Constitution, or as mentioned under the Code of Criminal Procedure or under any other law for the time being in force[4].

In Case Of Confusion

Section 186 addresses the situation wherein the cognizance of a particular offence has been taken by two or more courts and confusion arises as to which of the Courts shall inquire into or try that offence, in such a case, only the High Courts have the authority to resolve the confusion.

The criteria for resolving such issues are as follows:
  • If the same High Court supervises the courts involved, then by that High Court
  • If the same High Court does not supervise the courts involved then, by the High Court which first commenced the proceedings as an appellate criminal court. Thereafter, all the other proceedings in respect of that offence shall be discontinued.

Power Of A Magistrate To Issue Summons Or Warrant For Offences Which Have Been Committed Beyond His Local Jurisdiction

Section 187 states the power of a Magistrate to issue summons or warrant for offences which have been committed beyond his local jurisdiction. In such a situation the Magistrate has the authority to order such a person to be produced before him and then send him to the Magistrate of competent jurisdiction.

Committed Outside The Territory Of India

The conditions related to the offences when committed outside the territory of India have been dealt with under section 188.

According to this section, when an offence is committed outside India:
  • by a citizen of India, whether on the high seas or elsewhere
  • by a person, not being such citizen, on any ship or aircraft registered in India.
Such a person may be treated in respect of such offence as if it had been committed at any place within India and at such a place, where he may be found.

The proviso to this section specifies that no such offence shall be inquired into or tried in India without the previous sanction from the Central Government. The most important factor in the above-mentioned provision is the place where the offence has been committed.

Section 188 specifically deals with the case when the offence is committed outside India. These offences have to be deemed to have been committed in India, if committed by an Indian citizen, in high seas or in any other place. Also, when the offence is committed by a person who although is not an Indian citizen but is travelling in any Indian aircraft or ship.
  • When the provisions of Section 188 are applicable, then the Central Government may, if it deems fit, direct that the copies of depositions or exhibits given to a judicial officer or before a diplomatic or consular representative of India in or for that territory shall be received as evidence by the Court holding such inquiry or trial in any case in which such Court might issue a commission for taking evidence as to the matters to which such depositions or exhibits relate.
     
  • Section 188 and Section 189 should be read together. They proceed on the basis that a fugitive is in India and can be found anywhere in India. The Court has to find the accused and the finding of the accused has to be done where the accused appears. It is clear from the above section that the accused cannot be found by a mere complaint or by the Police.
     
  • Further, it is next to impossible for the victim of an offence committed outside India, to visit India and try to ascertain the location of the accused and then approach the court. The balance of convenience is higher on the side of such a victim. Therefore, all such points have been considered while drafting Section 188 and Section 189 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The said victim has been vested with the right to approach any Court in India according to his convenience and file a case in respect of the offence committed upon him by an Indian abroad.

Reg vs. Benito Lopez (1)
The issue related to the jurisdiction of English Courts for the offences committed on the high seas by foreigners who are travelling in England borne ships was questioned. It was held that the country which tried the accused did not go beyond its jurisdiction. The decision highlighted the important principle of International Law that a person is liable to be punished of all such offences, which he has committed irrespective of the place where it is committed.

Conclusion
Whenever an offence is committed, the first question which arises is that in whose jurisdiction the offence would fall. The jurisdictional issue is the most important issue which needs to be resolved so that the proceedings can begin without any hindrance. Sections 177-189 deals with the concept of jurisdiction. Under normal circumstances, the case shall be inquired and tried by a court under whose jurisdiction the offence has been committed.

However, there are certain cases where more than one Court have the power to inquire and try the cases. Such issues have been explicitly dealt with by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Code also mentions the circumstances when the offence is committed by an Indian citizen in a foreign country or by a foreign travelling in an aircraft or ship registered in India. The courts need to consider all the factors governing the jurisdiction and begin with the proceedings after referring to the Code of Criminal Procedure.

End-Notes:
  1. AIRSlate Legal Forms, Inc. d/b/a USLegal
  2. Criminal Petition No.19 Ap Of 2012 Itanagar Permanent Bench (Naharlagun)
  3. Naresh Kavarchand Khatri Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr., reported in (2008) 8 SCC 300
  4. http://www.shareyouressays.com/knowledge/jurisdiction-of-criminal-courts-in-india-code-of-criminal-procedure/118016

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