Understanding the Crucial Role of Public Prosecutors Under Section 24 CrPC

The Indian criminal justice system is a complex machinery where various players, including public prosecutors, play a pivotal role. Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) lays down the provisions for the appointment and duties of public prosecutors.

section 24 crpc

This article delves into the significance of public prosecutors under Section 24 CrPC, their responsibilities, and the impact they have on the administration of justice in India.

Bare Act. Section 24 Cr.P.C.
Public Prosecutors.


(1) For every High Court, the Central Government or the State Government shall, after consultation with the High Court, appoint a Public Prosecutor and may also appoint one or more Additional Public Prosecutors, for conducting in such Court, any prosecution, appeal or other proceeding on behalf of the Central Government or State Government, as the case may be.
(2) The Central Government may appoint one or more Public Prosecutors for the purpose of conducting any case or class of cases in any district or local area.
(3) For every district, the State Government shall appoint a Public Prosecutor and may also appoint one or more Additional Public Prosecutors for the district:
Provided that the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor appointed for one district may be appointed also to be a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor, as the case may be, for another district.
(4) The District Magistrate shall, in consultation with the Sessions Judge, prepare a panel of names of persons, who are, in his opinion fit to be appointed as Public Prosecutors or Additional Public Prosecutors for the district.
(5) No person shall be appointed by the State Government as the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the district unless his name appears in the panel of names prepared by the District Magistrate under sub-section (4).
(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5), where in a State there exists a regular Cadre of Prosecuting Officers, the State Government shall appoint a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor only from among the persons constituting such Cadre:
Provided that where, in the opinion of the State Government, no suitable person is available in such Cadre for such appointment that Government may appoint a person as Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor, as the case may be, from the panel of names prepared by the District Magistrate under sub-section (4).

2[Explanation.--For the purposes of this sub-section,--
(a) "regular Cadre of Prosecuting Officers" means a Cadre of Prosecuting Officers which includes therein the post of a Public Prosecutor, by whatever name called, and which provides for promotion of Assistant Public Prosecutors, by whatever name called, to that post;
(b) "Prosecuting Officer" means a person, by whatever name called, appointed to perform the functions of a Public Prosecutor, an Additional Public Prosecutor or an Assistant Public Prosecutor under this Code.]
(7) A person shall be eligible to be appointed as a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) or sub-section (3) or sub-section (6), only if he has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years.
(8) The Central Government or the State Government may appoint, for the purposes of any case or class of cases, a person who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than ten years as a Special Public Prosecutor:
3[Provided that the Court may permit the victim to engage an advocate of his choice to assist the prosecution under this sub-section.]
(9) For the purposes of sub-section (7) and sub-section (8), the period during which a person has been in practice as a pleader, or has rendered (whether before or after the commencement of this Code) service as a Public Prosecutor or as an Additional Public Prosecutor or Assistant Public Prosecutor or other Prosecuting Officer, by whatever name called, shall be deemed to be the period during which such person has been in practice as an advocate.]

STATE AMENDMENTS
Karnataka--
Amendment of section 24.-- In section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Central Act 2 of 1974) (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act) in sub-section (1),--
(i) the words and punctuation mark "or the State Government shall", shall be omitted; and
(ii) for the words "appoint a Public Prosecutor" the words "or the State Government shall appoint a Public Prosecutor" shall be substituted.
[Vide Karnataka Act 20 of 1982, s. 2.]

Maharashtra
Amendment of section 24.-- In Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (2 of 1974) in its application to the State of Maharashtra:--
(a) in sub-section (6), the proviso shall be deleted;
(b) after sub-section (6), the following sub-section shall be inserted, namely:--
"(6-A) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (6), the State Government may, subject to the provisions of sub-sections (4) and (5), appoint a person who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years, as the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the district.".
[Vide Maharashtra Act 33 of 2014, s. 2.]

Maharashtra
Amendment of Section 24 of Act II of 1974.--In section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), in its application to the State of Maharashtra,--
(a) in sub-section (1), the words ", after consultation with the High Court," shall be deleted;
(b) in sub-section (4), for the words "in consultation with the Sessions Judge," the words "with the approval of the State Government," shall be substituted.
[Vide Maharashtra Act 34 of 1981, s. 2]

Madhya Pradesh--
Amendment of Section 24.--In Section 24 of the principal Act.--
(i) in sub-section (6), for the words, "brackets and figure "Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5)", the words, brackets, letter and figures "Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5), but subject to the provisions of sub-section (6-A)" shall be substituted and shall be deemed to have been substituted with effect from 18th December, 1978;
(ii) after sub-section (6), the following sub-section shall be inserted and shall be deemed to have been inserted with effect from 18th December, 1978, namely:--
"(6-A) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (6), the State Government may appoint a person who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than seven years as the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the district and it shall not be necessary to appoint the Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the district from among the person constituting the Cadre of Prosecuting Officers in the State of Madhya Pradesh and the provisions of sub-sections (4) and (5) shall apply to the appointment of a Public Prosecutor Additional Public Prosecutor under this sub-section";
(iii) in sub-section (7), after the words, bracket and figure "sub-section (6)", the words, brackets, figure and letter "or sub-section (6-A)" shall be inserted and shall be deemed to have been inserted with effect from 18th December, 1978; and
(iv) in sub-section (9), for the words, brackets and figure, "sub-section (7)", the words, brackets, figures and letter "sub-section (6-A) and sub-section (7)" shall be substituted and shall be deemed to have been substituted with effect from 18th December, 1978.
[Vide Madhya Pradesh Act 21 of 1995, s. 3.]

West Bengal--
In Sub-section (6) of section 24 of the principal Act, for the words "shall appoint a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor only", the words "may also appoint a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor" shall be substituted.
[Vide West Bengal Act 26 of 1990, s. 3.]

West Bengal
In sub-section (6) of section 24 of the principal Act, the proviso shall be omitted.
[Vide West Bengal Act 25 of 1992, s. 3.]

STATE AMENDMENT
Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh (UTs).--
Section 24.-- After sub-section (6), insert the following sub-section, namely:--
"(6A).-Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) and sub-section (6), the Government of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir may appoint a person who has been in practice as an Advocate for not less than seven years as Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for High Court and for the District Courts and it shall not be necessary to appoint Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the High Court in consultation with High Court and Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor for the District Court from amongst the person constituting the cadre of Prosecution for the State of Jammu and Kashmir."
[vide the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of Central Laws) Order, 2020, vide notification No. S.O. 1123(E), dated (18-3-2020) and vide Union Territory of Ladakh Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Order, 2020, notification No. S.O.3774(E), dated (23-10-2020).]

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh (UTs). --
Section 24.--In sub-section (7), for "sub-section (6)", substitute "sub-section (6) or sub-section (6A)"
[Vide Order No. 3807(E) dated 26th October, 2020, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 (w.e.f. 26-10-2020).]

Uttar Pradesh
In section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 "
(a) in sub-section (1), after words "Public Prosecutor" the words "and one or more Additional Public Prosecutors" shall be inserted and be deemed always to have been inserted :
(b) after sub-section (6), the following sub-section shall be inserted and be deemed always to have been inserted, namely :--
"(7) For the purposes of sub-section (5) and (6), the period during which a person has been in practice as a pleader, or has rendered service as a Public Prosecutor, Additional Public Prosecutor or Assistant Public Prosecutor shall be deemed to be the period during which such person has been in practice as an advocate."
[Vide Uttar Pradesh Act 33 of 1978, s. 2]

Uttar Pradesh
In section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, hereinafter referred to as said Code :"
(a) in sub-section (1), the words "after consultation with the High Court," shall be omitted;
(b) sub-section (4), (5) and (6) shall be omitted.
(c) in sub-section (7), the words "or sub-section (6)" shall be omitted.
[Vide Uttar Pradesh Act 18 of 1991, s. 2]

Bihar
2. Amendment of Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Act II of 1974) in its application to the State of Bihar.--For sub-section (6) of Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Act II of 1974) the following sub-section shall be substituted and shall always be deemed to have been substituted namely: --
"(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5) wherein a State there exists a regular cadre of Prosecuting Officers, the State Government may also appoint a Public Prosecutor or an Additional Public Prosecutor from among the persons constituting such cadre."
[Vide Bihar Act 16 of 1984, s. 2]

Introduction to Section 24 CrPC

Section 24 CrPC delineates the appointment, qualifications, and duties of public prosecutors in India. Public prosecutors act as the representatives of the state, ensuring that justice is served by prosecuting offenders and safeguarding the rights of victims. Their role is instrumental in the effective functioning of the criminal justice system, making it imperative to understand the nuances of Section 24 CrPC.

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The Role of Public Prosecutors in the Indian Criminal Justice System

Public prosecutors, under the provisions of Section 24 CrPC, hold a unique and significant position in the criminal justice system. They are responsible for presenting the case against the accused in a fair and impartial manner. Their duties extend beyond merely securing convictions; they are also tasked with ensuring that justice is administered equitably, respecting the legal rights of both the victims and the accused.

Appointment and Qualifications

Section 24 CrPC specifies the criteria for the appointment of public prosecutors. The state government appoints public prosecutors for the high court and for each district. The qualifications typically include a degree in law and a certain number of years of experience in the legal field. The appointment process is designed to ensure that only competent and experienced individuals serve as public prosecutors, upholding the integrity of the judicial process.

Duties and Responsibilities

Public prosecutors have a wide array of responsibilities. They must prepare and present cases in court, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and provide legal advice to law enforcement agencies during investigations. Their duty is to seek justice rather than merely securing a conviction. This involves evaluating the evidence impartially, and if the evidence is insufficient, they must refrain from pursuing a case further.

Challenges Faced by Public Prosecutors

Despite their crucial role, public prosecutors often face numerous challenges. These include heavy caseloads, limited resources, and sometimes, undue pressure from various quarters. The effectiveness of public prosecutors can be significantly hindered by these challenges, impacting the overall administration of justice.

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Significance of Section 24 CrPC in Ensuring Fair Trials

Section 24 CrPC is fundamental in ensuring that trials are conducted fairly and justly. The section aims to maintain a balance between the prosecution and the defense, ensuring that the accused receives a fair trial while the victims’ rights are also protected. This balance is critical for maintaining public confidence in the judicial system.

Safeguarding the Rights of the Accused and Victims

One of the primary responsibilities of public prosecutors is to uphold the rights of both the accused and the victims. They must ensure that the prosecution is conducted without prejudice and that the legal process is followed meticulously. This dual responsibility is central to the criminal justice system’s goal of delivering fair and impartial justice.

Impact on the Criminal Justice System

The impact of public prosecutors on the criminal justice system cannot be overstated. Their role in presenting evidence, arguing legal points, and guiding the jury or judges through the complexities of the case is crucial. Effective public prosecutors contribute to the timely and just resolution of cases, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the criminal justice system.

Case Studies Highlighting the Role of Public Prosecutors

Several landmark cases in India have underscored the importance of public prosecutors. Analyzing these cases provides insight into how public prosecutors operate within the framework of Section 24 CrPC and the challenges they encounter. These case studies illustrate the practical application of the provisions of Section 24 CrPC and highlight the real-world impact of public prosecutors on the justice system.

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Case Study 1: The Nirbhaya Case

The Nirbhaya case is a stark reminder of the critical role public prosecutors play in high-profile criminal cases. The public prosecutor in this case worked tirelessly to present the evidence, ensure the accused were prosecuted under the appropriate sections of the law, and ultimately secure justice for the victim. This case highlights the importance of diligent and dedicated public prosecutors in delivering justice.

Case Study 2: The Jessica Lal Murder Case

In the Jessica Lal murder case, the role of the public prosecutor was instrumental in securing a conviction despite initial setbacks. The case exemplifies how public prosecutors must navigate challenges such as influential defendants and media scrutiny while steadfastly pursuing justice.

Training and Development for Public Prosecutors

To effectively fulfill their duties, public prosecutors require ongoing training and professional development. This ensures they are well-versed in the latest legal precedents, forensic science advancements, and investigative techniques. Continuous education is vital for public prosecutors to remain effective in their roles and to handle complex criminal cases competently.

Training Programs and Workshops

Various training programs and workshops are organized for public prosecutors to enhance their skills. These programs cover a wide range of topics, including legal research, courtroom procedures, and ethical standards. Participation in these programs helps public prosecutors stay updated with the latest developments in criminal law and ensures they are equipped to handle diverse and challenging cases.

Importance of Continuing Legal Education

Continuing legal education is crucial for public prosecutors. It allows them to keep abreast of changes in legislation, judicial pronouncements, and emerging trends in criminal justice. By engaging in lifelong learning, public prosecutors can maintain high standards of professional competence and ensure the effective administration of justice.

The Future of Public Prosecution in India

The landscape of public prosecution in India is evolving. With advancements in technology, changes in legal frameworks, and increasing awareness of victims’ rights, the role of public prosecutors is becoming more dynamic. Future reforms and initiatives aimed at strengthening the public prosecution system will further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the criminal justice system.

Technological Advancements

Technological advancements are reshaping the way public prosecutors operate. The use of digital evidence, forensic tools, and case management software is becoming increasingly common. These technologies help public prosecutors manage their caseloads more efficiently and present evidence more effectively in court.

Legal Reforms and Policy Changes

Legal reforms and policy changes aimed at improving the public prosecution system are on the horizon. These reforms may include measures to reduce caseloads, increase resources, and provide better support for public prosecutors. Such changes will be instrumental in enhancing the overall effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Conclusion

Public prosecutors, under the provisions of Section 24 CrPC, play a vital role in the Indian criminal justice system. Their responsibilities extend beyond mere prosecution to ensuring that justice is administered fairly and equitably. Despite facing numerous challenges, public prosecutors continue to be the linchpins of the judicial process, upholding the principles of justice and the rule of law. As the legal landscape evolves, the role of public prosecutors will continue to be pivotal in shaping a just and equitable society.

Frequently Asked Questions

Public prosecutors are appointed by the state government, and their qualifications typically include a degree in law and several years of legal experience.

Public prosecutors in India often face challenges such as heavy caseloads, limited resources, and undue pressure from various quarters, which can hinder their effectiveness.

Ongoing training ensures that public prosecutors remain updated with the latest legal precedents, forensic science advancements, and investigative techniques, maintaining their professional competence.

Technological advancements, such as digital evidence and forensic tools, help public prosecutors manage caseloads more efficiently and present evidence more effectively in court.

Future reforms may include measures to reduce caseloads, increase resources, and provide better support for public prosecutors, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the criminal justice system.