Summon Case

From Justice Definitions Project

What is 'Summon Case'

The term "Summon case" typically refers to a legal case where a defendant is summoned to appear in court to respond to allegations or charges brought against them. Summons cases include non-serious, bailable, and compoundable offenses. These cases are exclusively heard by a Magistrate. The summons is a legal document issued by a court or authority, requiring the defendant to appear before the court on a specific date and time. Summon case is a foundational aspect of legal proceedings, ensuring that individuals have the opportunity to participate in the legal process and defend their rights within a court of law.

Official Definition of 'Summon Case'

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 does not explicitly define the ‘Summon Case’. However, section 2 (w) refers to a summon case as a case relating to an offense, and not being a warrant-case. This means that it is a case relating to an offense not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. The term could be associated with legal procedures involving summoning individuals to court as part of criminal or civil proceedings.

Legal Provisions relating to Summons Case

BNSS Section 274 (CrPC Section 251) Substance of Accusation to be Stated

When in a summons-case the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate, the particulars of the offence of which he is accused shall be stated to him, and he shall be asked whether he pleads guilty or has any defence to make, but it shall not be necessary to frame a formal charge:Provided that if the Magistrate considers the accusation as groundless, he shall, after recording reasons in writing, release the accused and such release shall have the effect of discharge.

BNSS Section 275  (CrPC Section 252) Conviction on Plea of Guilty

f the accused pleads guilty, the Magistrate shall record the plea as nearly as possible in the words used by the accused and may, in his discretion, convict him thereon.

BNSS Section 276 (CrPC Section 253) Conviction on Plea of Guilty in Absence of Accused in Petty Cases

(1) Where a summons has been issued under section 229 and the accused desires to plead guilty to the charge without appearing before the Magistrate, he shall transmit to the Magistrate, by post or by messenger, a letter containing his plea and also the amount of fine specified in the summons.

(2) The Magistrate may, in his discretion, convict the accused in his absence, on his plea of guilty and sentence him to pay the fine specified in the summons, and the amount transmitted by the accused shall be adjusted towards that fine.

BNSS Section 277 (CrPC Section 254) Procedure When Not Convicted

If the Magistrate does not convict the accused under section 275 or section 276, the Magistrate shall proceed to hear the prosecution and take all such evidence as may be produced in support of the prosecution, and also to hear the accused and take all such evidence as he produces in his defence.[1]

BNSS Section 278  (CrPC Section 255) Acquittal or Conviction

If the Magistrate, upon taking the evidence referred to in section 277 and such further evidence, if any, as he may, of his own motion, cause to be produced, finds the accused not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal.[2] Where the Magistrate does not proceed in accordance with the provisions of section 364 or section 401, he shall, if he finds the accused guilty, pass sentence upon him according to law.[3]

BNSS Section 279 (CrPC Section 256) Non-appearance or Death of Complainant

If the summons has been issued on complaint, and on the day appointed for the appearance of the accused, or any day subsequent thereto to which the hearing may be adjourned, the complainant does not appear, the Magistrate shall, notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, acquit the accused, unless for some reason he thinks it proper to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day.[4]

BNSS Section 280 (CrPC Section 257) Withdrawal of Complaint

If a complainant, at any time before a final order is passed in any case under this Chapter, satisfies the Magistrate that there are sufficient grounds for permitting him to withdraw his complaint against the accused, or if there be more than one accused, againstall or any of them, the Magistrate may permit him to withdraw the same, and shall thereupon acquit the accused against whom the complaint is so withdrawn.

BNSS Section 281 (CrPC Section 258) Power to Stop Proceedings in Certain Cases

In any summons-case instituted otherwise than upon complaint, a Magistrate of the first class or, with the previous sanction of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, any other Judicial Magistrate, may, for reasons to be recorded by him, stop the proceedings at any stage without pronouncing any judgment and where such stoppage of proceedings is made after the evidence of the principal witnesses has been recorded, pronounce a judgment of acquittal, and in any other case, release the accused, and such release shall have the effect of discharge.

BNSS Section 282 (CrPC Section 259) Power of Court to Convert Summons Cases Into Warrant-cases

When in the course of the trial of a summons-case relating to an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding six months, it appears to the Magistrate that in the interests of justice, the offence should be tried in accordance with the procedure for the trial of warrant-cases, such Magistrate may proceed to re-hear the case in the manner provided by this Sanhita for the trial of warrant-cases and may re-call any witness who may have been examined.

BNSS Section 63. (CrPC Section 61) Form of Summons

Every summons issued by a Court under this Sanhita shall be,— (i) in writing, in duplicate, signed by the presiding officer of such Court or by such other officer as the High Court may, from time to time, by rule direct, and shall bear the seal of the Court; or (ii) in an encrypted or any other form of electronic communication and shall bear the image of the seal of the Court.

BNSS Section 64 (CrPC Section 62) Summons How Served

Every summons shall be served by a police officer, or subject to such rules as the State Government may make in this behalf, by an officer of the Court issuing it or other public servant.[5] The summons shall, if practicable, be served personally on the person summoned, by delivering or tendering to him one of the duplicates of the summons.[6] Every person on whom a summons is so served personally shall, if so required by the serving officer, sign a receipt therefor on the back of the other duplicate.[7]

BNSS Section 227 (CrPC Section 204) Issue of Process

If in the opinion of a Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence there is sufficient ground for proceeding, and the case appears to be— (a) a summons-case, he shall issue summons to the accused for his attendance; or (b) a warrant-case, he may issue a warrant, or, if he thinks fit, a summons, for causing the accused to be brought or to appear at a certain time before such Magistrate or (if he has no jurisdiction himself) some other Magistrate having jurisdiction.[8] No summons or warrant shall be issued against the accused under sub-section (1) until a list of the prosecution witnesses has been filed.[9]

BNSS Section 90 (CrPC Section 87) Issue of Warrant in Lieu of, or in Addition to, Summons

A Court may,  issue a summons for the appearance of any person, or issue, after recording its reasons in writing, a warrant for his arrest— (a) if, either before the issue of such summons, or after the issue of the same but before the time fixed for his appearance, the Court sees reason to believe that he has absconded or will not obey the summons; or (b) if at such time he fails to appear and the summons is proved to have been duly served in time to admit of his appearing in accordance therewith and no reasonable excuse is offered for such failure.

Types of 'Summon Cases'

Though, the term "Summon case" might not have distinct predefined categories or classifications. However, cases involving summonses can vary based on the nature of legal proceedings, purpose, and jurisdiction. Here are some general classifications or variations related to cases where summonses are issued in India:

  1. Criminal Summon Cases: Involving summonses issued in criminal proceedings, compelling the appearance of accused individuals, witnesses, or parties related to criminal investigations or trials.
  2. Civil Summon Cases: Referring to cases in civil matters where summonses are issued, such as disputes related to property, contracts, family issues, or other civil conflicts.
  3. Witness Summon Cases: These cases involve summonses issued specifically to ensure the presence of witnesses in court to provide testimony or evidence relevant to a case.
  4. Summons for Preliminary or Administrative Purposes: Summonses issued for preliminary hearings, administrative reasons, or for setting court dates and proceedings.
  5. Execution or Enforcement Summon Cases: Involving summonses issued to enforce court orders, judgments, or compliance with legal obligations.

While the overarching concept remains consistent, procedural variations or practices related to summonses might differ across states, regions, or specific High Courts in India. Different states or High Courts might have slight procedural differences in how summonses are issued, served, or responded to.

International Experience

Different countries have their legal frameworks for issuing summonses, but terminologies may vary. Procedural aspects of issuing summonses can vary significantly across jurisdictions. For example, In the United States, summonses may be referred to as subpoenas or writs, varying in their specific legal purposes and procedures compared to India's summonses. A subpoena duces tecum compels a person to produce documents or evidence.  In the UK, a witness summons compels the attendance of a witness in court to provide testimony or evidence. Australian law utilizes summonses and subpoenas, with a subpoena ad testificandum requiring witness testimony and a subpoena duces tecum demanding document production. Canadian courts issue summonses and subpoenas to compel attendance or document production in legal matters.


The analysis of "summon cases" encounters significant challenges due to the lack of transparent, accessible, and reliable data. Government databases often lack comprehensive information specifically related to summonses, making it challenging to track and analyze these aspects of legal proceedings. Additionally, variations in data collection methodologies, terminologies, and reporting practices across different states, courts, or agencies impede the standardization and harmonization of data. This lack of uniformity poses difficulties in conducting comparative analysis and establishing a comprehensive national-level understanding of summon cases. Inconsistent implementation of procedures for recording summon cases across various courts or regions further leads to data discrepancies. Barriers in uniform implementation, coupled with technological limitations and procedural complexities, hinder efficient data collection and tracking, impeding efforts toward a comprehensive analysis.

Way Ahead

To address these challenges, suggestions put forward by senior judges, stakeholders, academics, and research organizations focus on various aspects. There's a pressing need for improved data collection mechanisms related to summon cases. Stakeholders advocate for standardized data collection formats across courts and states to ensure consistency and accuracy in reporting. Encouraging courts to adopt uniform reporting mechanisms and electronic data systems can enhance data accessibility and reliability. Moreover, establishing centralized repositories or databases specifically dedicated to summon cases is recommended to facilitate comprehensive and accessible data collection. Clear guidelines on data reporting and analysis methodologies are deemed crucial to enable systemic analysis and research in this domain. Implementing modern technologies such as e-filing systems and digitization of court records is seen as essential to improve process efficiency and data accuracy.

Capacity building and training programs for court staff and legal professionals are also suggested to ensure adherence to data collection protocols and standardized reporting. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, the judiciary, legal academia, and research organizations are encouraged to conduct comprehensive studies, identify best practices, and develop guidelines for improved data collection and analysis in summon cases. These collective measures aim to address the challenges related to data transparency, reliability, and accessibility, ultimately contributing to a more informed analysis and enhancing the efficiency of the judicial system in handling summon cases.

Case Laws

John Thomas vs Dr. K. Jagadeesan

John Thomas vs Dr. K. Jagadeesan  AIR 2001 SUPREME COURT 2651 : Summons cases are generally of two categories. Those instituted upon complaints and those instituted otherwise than upon complaints. The latter category would include cases based on police reports. Section 258 of the Code is intended to cover those cases belonging to one category alone i.e. "summons cases instituted otherwise than upon complaints". The segment separated at the last part of the section by the words "and in any other case" is only a sub- category or division consisting of "summons cases instituted otherwise than upon complaints". That sub- category is not intended to cover all summons cases other than those instituted on police report. In fact, Section 258 vivisects only "summons cases instituted otherwise than on complaints" into two divisions. One division consists of cases in which no evidence of material witness was recorded. The section permits the court to acquit the accused prematurely only in those summons cases instituted otherwise than on complaints wherein the evidence of material witnesses was recorded. But the power of court to discharge an accused at midway stage is restricted to those cases instituted otherwise than on complaints wherein no material witness was examined at all.

Shivaji Sampat Jagtap vs Rajan Hiralal Arora And The State

Shivaji Sampat Jagtap vs Rajan Hiralal Arora And The State  2007 CRILJ 122 - Section 2(w) and 2(x) of the Code define summons case and warrant case respectively. Summons case means a case relating to an offence and not being a warrant case. Whereas, a warrant case means a case relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. Chapter XIX and XX of the Code deal with the trial of warrant cases and trial of summons cases by Magistrates respectively. Chapter XXI consists of Sections 260 to 265, deal with the procedure to be followed when the case is being tried summarily. Section 260 speaks of power to try a case summarily. It has enlisted the offences which could be tried in a summary way. Section 261 deals with summary trial by Magistrate of the second class. Where a Magistrate of the second class is empowered to try summarily any offence which is punishable only with fine or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months with or without fine. Section 262 provides for procedure for summary trial. Sub-section (1) thereof states that in trials under Chapter XXI, the procedure specified in the Code for the trial of summons-case shall be followed except as mentioned in Sub-section (2) thereof. Sub-section (2) states that no sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding three months shall be passed in the case of any conviction under Chapter XXI. Section 263 speaks of the record in summary trial and it gives the particulars of the record to be maintained in a case which the Magistrate tries summarily. Section 264 deals with the judgment in cases tried summarily. It states that in every case tried summarily, in which accused does not plead guilty, the Magistrate shall record the substance of the evidence and a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for the finding. Section 265 provides for the language of record and judgment.

Kushal Kumar Talukdar vs Chandra Prasad Goenka

Kushal Kumar Talukdar vs Chandra Prasad Goenka 2005(2)ALD(CRI)14, 2005CRILJ599: Summons case can be allowed to proceed merely on the ground that the appointed pleader of the deceased-complainant is present to represent the deceased-complainant. A pleader appointed by a complainant ceases to be the complainant's pleader on the death of the former and cannot represent the complainant as his appointed pleader. In a case, however, in which the complainant is absent on account of his death, the Magistrate may still allow the case to proceed by allowing "any person' including a pleader to represent the complainant by invoking the provisions of Section 302, Cr. P.C.

  1. BNSS 2023 Section 277(1).
  2. BNSS 2023, Section 278(1)
  3. BNSS 2023, Section 278(2)
  4. BNSS 2023, Section 279(1)
  5. BNSS 2023, Section 64(1)
  6. BNSS 2023, Section 64(2)
  7. BNSS 2023, Section 64(3)
  8. BNSS 2023, Section 227(1)
  9. BNSS 2023, Section 227(2)
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.