Criminal Courts and Magistrates under CrPC

When you are new to the legal field or you are just a layman trying to understand the complex criminal law system made by the British; I guess it is not easy to understand by following our legal text (I.E law books, acts etc). Here this article will discuss Criminal court and Magistrates, special courts, their scope and power, how the system works and some related topics as well, like appeal and review court under the shadow of Code of Criminal Procedure.

Criminal Courts in general

The first section that talks about the courts is section 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (CrPC), this section is a bit tricky and confusing. Let’s find out why this section is tricky and made it clear with analysis. According to the text in the Code, it articulated;

6.  (1) Besides the Supreme Court and the Courts constituted under any law for the time being in force, other than this Code,

there shall be two classes of Criminal Courts in Bangladesh, namely:-

(a) Courts of Sessions; and

(b) Courts of Magistrates.

(2) There shall be two classes of Magistrate, namely: –

(a) Judicial Magistrate; and

(b) Executive Magistrate.

(3) There shall be four classes of Judicial Magistrate, namely: –

(a) Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Metropolitan Area and Chief judicial

Magistrate to other areas;

(b) Magistrate of the first class, who shall in Metropolitan area, be

known as Metropolitan Magistrate;

(c) Magistrate of the second class; and

(d) Magistrate of the third class.”

Here, after reading this section, to understand it you may think about a school which provide primary, secondary and higher secondary education. So we can say, there are three classes(types, steps) of classes because here each class contains several classes, for example, the primary section contains five classes (class 1-5). Similarly, the court system has three classes (for the judicial matter) and subclassed according to the CrPC, and they are;

  1. The Supreme Court
    1. High Court Division
    2. Appellate Division
  2. Sessions Courts
    1. Session Judge Court
    2. Joint Session Judge Court
    3. Additional Session Judge Court
  3. Magistrate Court
    1. Chief Judicial Magistrate
    2. Magistrate of 1stclass (Judicial)
    3. Magistrate of 2ndclass (Judicial)
    4. Magistrate of 3rdclass (Judicial)

And 4. Executive Magistrates to settle or execute executive matters (non-judicial). here the session courts and the magistrate courts are exclusively criminal courts so we will focus on this in this article. [You may follow this link to know the complete structure of the legal system of Bangladesh.]

Now, think of the teachers of our school, the teachers of the primary section can be mentioned as assistant teacher on the other hand higher secondary section of the class may have lecturers or professor or for all of them there could be some special residential teacher and some other teacher to maintain the administration bedsides day to day teaching. Similarly, as we can see our code of criminal procedure has created such classifications like;

  1. Judges (of session court)
  2. Judicial Magistrates
  3. Executive Magistrates
  4. Special Magistrate

It must keep in mind courts and judges are not the same, court is an office of a judge/magistrate on the other hand judges/magistrates (hereinafter mentioned as “judges”) are empowered to try/judge setting in such court / holding that office, the power of a judge depends on their court, a court defines the authority of a judge. A single judge can be empowered with several courts and it can be happen setting in the same physical office but his powers will change according to the title of the court. Furthermore, few courts of one class has mentioned together under the code which may seem like one single court but actually they are not, they are more likely a classification like our primary section of our school example, For example, Session courts and Magistrate court is not a single court but combination of courts and they are as follows;

  1. Sessions Courts
    1. Session Judge Court
    2. Joint Session Judge Court
    3. Additional Session Judge Court
  2. Magistrate Courts
    1. Chief Judicial Magistrate (a 1st class magistrate)
    2. Magistrate of 1stclass (Judicial)
    3. Magistrate of 2ndclass (Judicial)
    4. Magistrate of 3rdclass (Judicial)

Generally, each district has these court named the same in addition, metropolitan cities have similar courts with the same power but with slightly different name and structure, they are as follows,

  1. Metropolitan Sessions Courts
    1. Metropolitan Session Judge Court
    2. Metropolitan Joint Session Judge Court
    3. Metropolitan Additional Session Judge Court
  2. Metropolitan Magistrate Courts
    1. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
    2. Magistrate of 1stclass (Judicial)

Here is a side by side comparison for both types of court.

The Court of Sessions;

HierarchyThe Court of SessionsThe Metropolitan Session Court
ASession JudgeSession Metropolitan Judge
BAdditional Session JudgeAdditional Session Metropolitan Judge
CJoint Session JudgeJoint Session Metropolitan Judge

The Courts of Magistrates: 

HierarchyGeneralAt metropolitan area
AChief Judicial MagistrateChief Metropolitan Magistrate
BAdditional Chief Judicial MagistrateAdditional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
CSenior Judicial MagistrateMetropolitan Magistrate
DJudicial Magistrate

So where a district contains two types of area 1. General District area and 2. Metropolitan area it has two sets of similar criminal courts one set is for its metropolitan area and one set is for other areas which are outside of the metropolitan area. For example, Dhaka District has similar types of parallel criminal courts because it has both general non-metropolitan area as well as the metropolitan area. To avoid complexity hereinafter we will mention these courts as Session courts and Magistrate courts.

Court of sessions:

During the British era session courts were considered as higher courts then magistrate courts, they were formed for session division which often included few districts and they used to sat for a short period of time in each session district thus these periods were called “sessions” and named after that, but now the situation is quite different, now all the districts have their own session division and they sat their regularly, moreover, our cities have at list two session courts one for non metropolitan area and another for metropolitan area. Session courts consist of three courts,

Sessions Courts

  1. Session Judge Court
  2. Joint Session Judge Court
  3. Additional Session Judge Court

Details about sessions court is given under section 9 of the code of criminal procedure.

Judicial Magistrates and their courts

Judicial Magistrates are same as an assistant judge, the only difference is that they deal with criminal matters in lower judiciary. Almost all the criminal cases appear before the court of judicial magistrates, these courts are known as magistrate courts. They take cognizance of criminal cases and then try them or send them to the appropriate court to try. Generally accused are brought before these courts after an arrest.

Previously they were a part of Executive Magistrates and as they tried only judicial matters they were named as Judicial Magistrates but now after the separation of the judiciary after 2007, they become a part of the independent judiciary and thus their appoint procedure has changed since. Judicial Magistrates are mentioned under section 11 of the code.

Criminal Courts and Magistrates

Image: An accused appeared before the court

Executive Magistrate

An executive magistrate is empowered to execute certain tasks for the government like the collection of taxes, keeping the peace, execution of court order, maintain public safety etc. Generally, they do not have judicial power but they can take certain steps to complete their execution but they also have some judicial power under special laws.

A District Collection / District commissioner is the head of the executive magistrates of a district. More about this can be found in section 10 of the Code.

Special Magistrates

As mentioned under section 12 of the code; the government can with special procedure confer magistracy power to any person for some special/specific task.

Powers of courts (Generally)

  • High Court Division:
    • Any punishment according to law
  • Session Judge Court & Joint Session Judge Court:
    • Any punishment according to the law but have to send the decision of death penalty the High Court Division for confirmation
  • Additional Session Judge Court:
    • Up to ten years of imprisonment
  • Magistrate of 1stclass (CMM/CJM):
    • Up to five years of imprisonment (with or without solitary confinement)
    • Fine up to ten thousand taka
  • Magistrate of 2ndclass:
    • Imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, including such solitary confinement as per law
  • Magistrate of 3rdclass:
    • Imprisonment for a term not exceeding two year
    • Fine not exceeding two thousand taka

It is important to understand the classification and relation of criminal courts as well as to understand the difference between executive and judicial magistrate to have a complete picture of our criminal justice system. Understanding of these courts and authorities will help you to understand other topics like appeal, review, revision and execution of judgment etc.

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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail: [email protected]

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