September 30, 2022

Change in Laws- How Honorary magistrate became Special magistrate after 1973

Before the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, a system of Honorary Magistrate in addition to regular stipendiary Magistrates was available. These Honorary Magistrates came from all walks of life.

It was expected that, by virtue of their education, experience and contact with people, they would be able to deal with and effectively dispose of cases involving petty offences. This introduced the idea of participation of citizen in the administration of criminal justice.

The institution of Honorary Magistrates was, therefore, functional in character and was considered to be a useful and valuable adjunct to the regular courts, particularly in the Metropolitan cities.

Unfortunately, the institution of Honorary Magistrates came in for widespread and serious criticism within a short time. The criticism of misuse and abuse of the system led to the Law Commission recommending the appointment of Special Judicial Magistrates and Special Metropolitan Magistrates, vide Sections 13 and 19 of the draft Criminal Procedure Code.

Section 13 of the draft Code provided for the appointment of Special Judicial Magistrates from amongst persons holding or who had held any judicial office under the Union or a State or possessed such other qualification as may be prescribed by the High Court. Similar was the position in respect of Section 19 of the draft Criminal Procedure Code, which provided that a person holding or who has held as judicial post or any other person who possessed other qualifications as may be prescribed, could be appointed a Special Metropolitan Magistrate.

The Law Commission had taken note of the experience of the judicial post for the purpose of appointment and conferment of power of Special Judicial Magistrates and Special Metropolitan Magistrates with the object of securing the expeditious disposal of criminal case.

The Joint Select Committee also took note of the criticisms against the system of Honorary Magistrates and expressed the view that that proper way to deal with the arrears of petty criminal cases was to appoint sufficient number of stipendiary Magistrates as a wholesome deletion of the institution of Honorary Members would give rise to problems in some States.

The Joint Select Committee suggested that provision be made for the appointment of Special Metropolitan Magistrates and Special Judicial Magistrates with certain modifications in the earlier system. One of the suggestions was that the appointees should either be persons in Government service or those who have retired from Government service.

As a result of these deliberations, the two provisions, Sections 13 and 18 came to be enacted in their present form.

Section 13 and 18 of the code

Section 13 contemplates appointment of Special Judicial Magistrates by the High Court if requested by the Central or the State Government so to do, and Section 18 contemplates appointment of Special Metropolitan Magistrates by the High Court if requested by the Central or the State Government so to do.