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Q. 8 What is meant by Commencement of proceedings? [Sec 200, 201, 202] When can a complaint be dismissed?[Sec 203] 

"Commencement of proceedings" happens with the proceedings that take place after "taking of cognizance" of an offence by a magistrate under Section 190, which can happen either on a complaint by any person, a police report, any other source other than a police officer, or upon his own knowledge. However, when cognizance is take upon a complaint made by any person, it is critical to examin the complainant to ensure that the complaint is genuine before starting the trial and summoning an accused. According to 41st Law Report, everyday experience of the court shows that a vast number of complaints to the magistrate are ill founded and therefore they should be carefully considered at the very start and those which are not very convincing on the face should be subjected to further scrutiny so that an accused person is summoned only in substantial cases. What this means is that frivolous and vexatious cases that are just meant to harass an accused must be weeded out. This is exactly the objective of Section 200, which implores a magistrate to examin the compainant under oath and any witnesses. 

Section 200 says: A Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint shall examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any, and the substance of such examination shall be reduced to writing and shall be signed by the complainant and the witnesses, and also by the Magistrate.
Provided that, when the complaint is made in writing, the Magistrate need not examine the complainant and the witnesses-
(a) if a public servant acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties or a Court has made the complaint; or
(b) if the Magistrate makes over the case for inquiry or trial to another Magistrate under section 192:
Provided further that if the Magistrate makes over the case to another Magistrate under section 192 after examining the complainant and the witnesses, the latter Magistrate need not re-examine them.

In MacCulloch vs State, 1974, it was held by SC that the provisions of section 200 are not a mere formality, but have been intended by the legislature to be given effect to for the protection of the accused persons against unwarranted complaints.

It is also necessary that to start the trial process, the magistrate must be competant to take cognizance the alleged offence. Section 201 says that if the magistrate is not competant to take congnizace of an offence, he shall (a) if the complaint is in writing, return it for presentation to the proper Court with an endorsement to that effect; (b) if the complaint is not in writing, direct the complainant to the proper Court.

To further protect a person from frivolous cases arising from complaints from private parties, Section 202 empowers a magistrate to inquire into the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fit, for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding and he can postpone the issue for process for this purpose.

It is important to note that the "weeding" as envisaged by Section 200-203 is only applicable to cases where cognizance is taken by the magistrate upon a complaint by a private party. It is not applicable to cognizance taken upon a police report.

Issue of Process (Section 204)
Once it is determined that a prima facie case exists against the accused, the magistrate proceeds with the case as per Section 204 by the way of issuing a process.  Which means :
(1) 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 his summons for the attendance of the accused, 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.
(2) No summons or warrant shall be issued against the accused under sub-section (1) until a list of the prosecution witnesses has been filed.
(3) In a proceeding instituted upon a complaint made in writing, every summons or warrant issued under sub-section (1) shall be accompanied by a copy of such complaint.
(4) When by any law for the time being in force any process-fees or other fees are payable, no process shall be issued until the fees are paid and, if such fees are not paid within a reasonable time, the Magistrate may dismiss the complaint.
(5) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to affect the provisions of section 87 (Section 87:  Issue of warrant in lieu of, or in addition to, summons).


Dismissal of a Complaint - Section 203
As mentioned before, upon receiving a complaint, a magistrate can conduct an inquiry or direct investigation of the complaint under Section 202(1). Section 203 empowers a magistrate to dismiss the complaint, if, after considering the statements on oath from the complainant or his witnesses or the result of the inquiry or investigation, he believes that there are no sufficient grounds for proceeding further. He must record the reasons for dismissal. The magistrate must apply his mind on the collected statements and inquiry report to determine whether there is any merit in the complaint. However, as held by SC in Chandra Deo Singh vs Prokash Chandra Bose, 1963, the test specified by Section 203 for dismissing a complaint is only whether sufficient grounds exist for proceeding further and not whether sufficient grounds exist for conviction.  Thus, even if the magistrate does not see sufficient grounds for conviction but sees sufficient ground for proceeding further with the trial, he must not dismiss the complaint. SC further observed that where there is a prima facie evidence against the accused, even though the accused might have a defence, the issue of process cannot be refused because the hearing of defence must be done at the appropriate stage and at appropriate forum.