The word ‘trial’ has not been defined in the Code. All that the Code defines is an inquiry u/s 2(g), which defines inquiry as meaning every inquiry other than trial conducted under the Code by a Magistrate or a court. The Code of Criminal Procedure of 1872 had defined a ‘trial’ as meaning, “the proceedings taken in court after a charge has been drawn up, and included punishment of the offender.” This definition was dropped in the later Acts of 1882, 1898 and 1923. It does not also occur in the Act of 1973. There is uniformity of judicial opinion that the word ‘trial’ has no fixed or universal meaning, and has to be considered with regard to the particular context in which it is used, and with regard to the scheme and purpose of the particular Act–See Pyare Dusadh v. Emperor 1944 Federal Court l Yeluhuri Venkata Chennava v. Emperor AIR 1920 Mad. 377, Ram Jeet v. The State 1958 AWR 139. These views have received the stamp of approval of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Bihar v. Ram Naresh Pandey 1957 AWR 430 , where the Supreme Court after referring to Strouts Judicial Dictionary and Wherlims Law Lexicon has held that the word ‘trial’ used in the Code of Criminal Procedure has no fixed meaning, and the meaning to be ascribed to it depends on the context, and the provision in which it is used. It could be profitable to refer Chapter XVIII of the Code for appreciating the true meaning ascribed to word ‘trial’ as occurring in Section 409 Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter XVIII deals with the trial before a court of Session as is the case here. Section 225 requires a Public Prosecutor to conduct every trial before a court of session. Section 226 of the Code of Criminal Procedure sets out the proceedings when the accused appears or brought before the court in pursuance of the commitment made u/s 209. On the accused appearing before the court, the prosecutor has to open his case by setting out the charge brought against the accused, and state the evidence by which he proposes to prove the guilt of the accused. The Sessions Judge then has to consider the record of the case and documents submitted by the prosecution, and after hearing the statement of the accused and the prosecution, the Judge, if he considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, can discharge the accused after recording his reasons for doing so (Section 227). In the event of the Judge being satisfied that there are grounds for presuming that the accused has committed an offence, in case not exclusively triable by court of session, he has to transfer the case to the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, and in a case which is exclusively triable by court of sessions, the Sessions Judge has to frame charge. The charge then has to be read out and explained to the accused, and he has to be asked whether he pleads guilty of the offence or claims to be tried. This procedure is contained in Section 228 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Then, in case the accused pleads guilty, a conviction is recorded u/s 229 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If he does not do so or does not plead at all, or claims to be tried, the Judge has to fix a date for the examination of witnesses: See Section 230 Code of Criminal Procedure–one has to gleam from these provisions as to when trial of sessions case starts. If the Code had contained the old definition of the word ‘trial’ the trial would start only after the charge had been framed and not earlier. This is what the Learned Counsel has contended, but in view of the fact that the Legislature had abandoned that definition, it will not be proper to be guided by the voices of past. It will be safer to seek indication from the provisions of Chapter XVIII of the Code. This method of interpreting the word trial wherein it has not been defined in the statute, was used by the Supreme Court in the case of Harish Chandra Bajpai Vs. Triloki Singh, , a case arising under the Representation of People Act, where it was held that the word ‘trial’ was a word which had not definite meaning, and its meaning depends on the context in which it is used.
Let us now scrutinize Chapter XVIII of the Code again. Section 225 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does not start the trial, for that relates to appointment of a public prosecutor to conduct the trial. Section 226 of the Code does, for at this stage prosecutor opens his case, describes the charge against the accused and states what evidence he proposes to give against the accused to prove the guilt of the accused. This begins after the accused is brought before the court, for till such time the accused is not brought before the court, the case cannot be opened and a fortiorari the trial against the accused cannot begin, as there is no provision of exparte trial against an accused. Even in case of absconding accused all that the court can do it to record evidence of witnesses u/s 299 of the Code, which can be used later when the accused is produced before the court. Then, u/s 227 of the Code, the court applies its mind to the record of the case consisting of the documents submitted by the Public Prosecutor, and the argument addressed to it, and to decide whether the accused to be discharged or not. In case he decides to do so, he has to record his reason. In the event of its taking the views that there are grounds for presuming that the accused had committed an offence, it has to frame a charge u/s 228 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The judicial function of the court begins as soon as the Public Prosecutor opens his case, and produces documents in support of his case. Hearing arguments and considering documents produced by a party in the presence of the accused is the exercise of a judicial function, and once that is done the trial starts.