It is clear from the entire scheme of Ch. XVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure that an accused person does not come into the picture at all till process is issued. This does not mean that he is precluded from being present when an enquiry is held by a Magistrate. He may remain present either in person or through a counsel or agent with a view to be informed of what is going on But since the very question for consideration being whether he should be called upon to face an accusation, he has no right to take part in the proceedings nor has the Magistrate any jurisdiction to permit him to do so.

It would follow from this, therefore, that it would not be open to the Magistrate to put any question to witnesses at the instance of the person named as accused but against whom process has not been issued; nor can he examine any witnesses at the instance of such a person. Of course, the Magistrate himself is free to put such questions to the witnesses produced before him by the complainant as he may think proper in the interests of justice. But beyond that, he cannot go.

The object of Section 202

One of the objects, behind the provisions of s. 202, Cr.P.C. is to enable the Magistrate to scrutinise carefully the allegations made in the complaint with a view to prevent a person named therein as accused from being called upon to face an obviously frivolous complaint.

But there is also another object behind this provision and it is to find out what material there is to support the allegations made in the complaint. It is the bounden duty of the Magistrate while making an enquiry to elicit all facts not merely with a view to protect the interests of an absent accused person, but also with a view to bring to book a person or persons against whom grave allegations are made.

Whether the complaint is frivolous or not has, at that stage, necessarily to be determined on the basis of the material placed before him by the complainant. Whatever defence the accused may have can only be enquired into at the trial. An enquiry under s. 202 can in no sense be characterised as a trial for the simple reason that in law there can be but one trial for an offence. Permitting an accused person to intervene during the enquiry would frustrate its very object and that is why the legislature has made no specific provision permitting an accused person to take part in an enquiry.

In this connection; the observations of this court in Vadilal Panchal v. Dattatraya Dulaji Ghadigsonkar 1960 AIR 1113, may usefully be quoted,

“The enquiry is for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint that is, for ascertaining whether there is evidence in support of the complaint so as to justify the issue of process and commencement of proceedings against the person concerned. The section does not say that a regular trial for adjudging the guilt or otherwise of the person complained against should take place at that stage for the person complained against can be legally called upon to answer the ‘accusation made against him only when a process has issued and he is put on trial.”

In ‘Chandra Deo Singh v. Prokash Chandra Bose (1963)’, the court said that,

“For determining the question whether any process is to be issued or not, what the Magistrate has to be satisfied is whether there is “sufficient ground for proceeding” and not whether there is sufficient ground for the conviction. Whether the evidence is adequate for supporting the conviction can be determined only at the trial and not at the stage of enquiry.

No doubt, as stated in sub-s. (1) of s. 202 itself, the object of the enquiry is to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the complaint, but the Magistrate making the enquiry has to do this only with reference to the intrinsic quality, of the statements made before him at the enquiry which would naturally mean the complaint itself, the statement on oath made by the complainant and the statements made before him by persons examined at the instance of the complainant.”