Section 138 CrPC: Procedure Where He Appears to Show Cause

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), serves as a comprehensive law that provides the procedural framework for criminal trials in India. Among its numerous sections, Section 138 holds particular significance. This section outlines the procedure when a person appears in response to a summons to show cause.

section 138 crpc

The legal intricacies involved in this section ensure that justice is administered fairly while maintaining the rights of the accused.

Bare Act. Section 138 Cr.P.C.
Procedure where he appears to show cause.

(1) If the person against whom an order under section 133 is made appears and shows cause against the order, the Magistrate shall take evidence in the matter as in a summons-case.
(2) If the Magistrate is satisfied that the order, either as originally made or subject to such modification as he considers necessary, is reasonable and proper, the order shall be made absolute without modification or, as the case may be, with such modification.
(3) If the Magistrate is not so satisfied, no further proceedings shall be taken in the case.

Overview of Section 138 CrPC

Section 138 of the CrPC is crucial in maintaining the balance between the prosecution’s case and the accused’s right to a fair trial. It stipulates the procedural norms to be followed when an accused person appears in court to show cause against an order. The essence of this section is to ensure that the accused has an opportunity to present their case and any valid reasons against the allegations made.

Understanding the Concept of Show Cause

Legal Definition of Show Cause

In legal terminology, a ‘show cause’ order is issued by a court, directing a person to justify, explain, or prove something to the court. This directive typically requires the individual to appear in court and present reasons or arguments against the enforcement of a particular action or penalty.

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Importance of Show Cause in Legal Proceedings

The ‘show cause’ mechanism is a fundamental aspect of legal proceedings. It ensures that the accused is given a fair chance to respond to allegations, thereby upholding the principles of natural justice. This procedure prevents arbitrary actions by the judiciary and ensures that decisions are made after considering both sides of the argument.

Historical Background of Section 138 CrPC

Evolution of Section 138 CrPC

The roots of Section 138 can be traced back to colonial India, where procedural laws were established to streamline the administration of justice. Over time, this section has evolved through various amendments, reflecting changes in the legal landscape and societal needs.

Key Amendments and Their Impact

Several amendments to the CrPC have impacted Section 138, each aiming to enhance procedural efficiency and fairness. These amendments have clarified ambiguities, addressed procedural gaps, and strengthened the rights of the accused while ensuring that justice is not delayed.

Procedure Under Section 138 CrPC

Initial Steps in the Procedure

The procedure under Section 138 begins with the issuance of a summons by the court, directing the accused to appear and show cause against the allegations. This is typically done after a complaint has been filed and the court deems it necessary to hear the accused’s side.

Issuance of Summons

The summons is a critical document that notifies the accused of the legal proceedings and specifies the date and time of the court appearance. It is essential that this summons is served properly to ensure that the accused is aware of the requirement to appear.

Appearance of the Accused

Upon receiving the summons, the accused must appear in court as specified. During this appearance, the accused is given an opportunity to present their arguments and evidence to counter the allegations. This step is pivotal as it lays the groundwork for subsequent legal proceedings.

Rights of the Accused Under Section 138 CrPC

Legal Rights During Summons

The CrPC guarantees several rights to the accused during the summons stage. These include the right to be informed of the charges, the right to legal representation, and the right to a fair hearing. These protections ensure that the accused can mount an effective defense.

Defense Mechanisms Available

Accused individuals can employ various defense mechanisms during the show cause proceedings. These might include challenging the jurisdiction of the court, questioning the validity of the summons, or presenting exculpatory evidence that negates the prosecution’s claims.

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Responsibilities of the Magistrate

Role of the Magistrate in Summons

The magistrate plays a crucial role in overseeing the summons process. It is the magistrate’s duty to ensure that the summons is issued correctly and that the accused is given a fair opportunity to respond. The magistrate must also ensure that the proceedings are conducted impartially and justly.

Assessing the Show Cause

When the accused presents their show cause, the magistrate must carefully evaluate the arguments and evidence provided. This assessment determines whether the case should proceed to trial or if the charges should be dismissed based on the justification provided by the accused.

Common Defenses in Show Cause Proceedings

Lack of Jurisdiction Defense

One of the common defenses used in show cause proceedings is the lack of jurisdiction. The accused may argue that the court issuing the summons does not have the authority to hear the case, thus rendering the proceedings invalid.

Procedural Irregularities Defense

Another defense is to highlight procedural irregularities in the issuance of the summons or the conduct of the proceedings. If the accused can prove that proper legal procedures were not followed, it can lead to the dismissal of the case.

Case Studies and Precedents

Landmark Judgments

Several landmark judgments have shaped the interpretation and application of Section 138 CrPC. These judgments provide valuable insights into how the courts have handled various issues related to the show cause procedure and the rights of the accused.

Analysis of Key Cases

Analyzing key cases helps in understanding the practical implications of Section 138. It sheds light on how different defenses are employed, how magistrates assess show cause, and the outcomes of such proceedings. This analysis is essential for legal practitioners and scholars alike.

Impact on Criminal Justice System

Streamlining Legal Procedures

Section 138 has played a significant role in streamlining legal procedures. By providing a clear framework for show cause proceedings, it ensures that cases are handled efficiently and that the rights of the accused are protected throughout the legal process.

Ensuring Fairness and Transparency

The procedures outlined in Section 138 promote fairness and transparency in the criminal justice system. By mandating that the accused is given a chance to respond to allegations, it upholds the principles of natural justice and prevents arbitrary judicial actions.

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Challenges and Criticisms

Common Criticisms of Section 138

Despite its importance, Section 138 has faced criticism. Some argue that the procedures can be lengthy and burdensome, potentially delaying justice. Others point out that there might be inconsistencies in how different courts interpret and apply this section.

Addressing Legal Loopholes

Addressing the criticisms and loopholes in Section 138 is crucial for its effective implementation. Continuous review and amendments are necessary to ensure that the section evolves with changing legal needs and societal expectations.

Future of Section 138 CrPC

Proposed Amendments

There are ongoing discussions about potential amendments to Section 138 to address its shortcomings. These amendments aim to simplify procedures, reduce delays, and enhance the protection of the accused’s rights.

Anticipated Changes in Legal Landscape

As the legal landscape evolves, Section 138 is expected to undergo significant changes. These changes will likely focus on improving procedural efficiency and ensuring that the criminal justice system remains fair and transparent.


In conclusion, Section 138 of the CrPC is a vital component of the Indian legal system. It ensures that the accused is given a fair opportunity to present their case and respond to allegations. While there are challenges and criticisms associated with this section, its importance in upholding justice cannot be understated. Continuous improvements and amendments will ensure that Section 138 remains relevant and effective in the ever-evolving legal landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Section 138 CrPC protects the rights of the accused by providing a clear procedural framework that ensures they are informed of the charges, given a fair hearing, and allowed to present their defense. This upholds the principles of natural justice.

Common defenses in show cause proceedings include challenging the court’s jurisdiction, highlighting procedural irregularities, and presenting exculpatory evidence. These defenses aim to negate the prosecution’s claims and prevent wrongful judicial actions.

The magistrate can ensure fairness by conducting the proceedings impartially, ensuring that the summons is issued correctly, and carefully evaluating the evidence and arguments presented by the accused. This helps in making just decisions.

Challenges associated with Section 138 CrPC include procedural delays, inconsistencies in its application, and criticisms regarding its complexity. Addressing these challenges requires continuous review and potential amendments to streamline the process.