Public Prosecutor Meaning and Functions

public prosecutor functions


Public prosecutors are appointed in almost all the common law countries as an agent of the Attorney General to represent the interest of general people in the criminal justice system. They serve as a foundation of the Rule of Law’s principle that everyone should have an opportunity of being heard (audi alteram partem). The prosecutors are duty-bound to act in a way that strikes the right balance between the competing interests of conviction of guilty, protection of citizen’s rights and freedoms and protection of the public from crimes.


Public Prosecutor has been defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure under Section 2 (u) as under:-

“Public prosecutor meaning is a person appointed under Section 24; it further includes any person acting under the directions of a Public Prosecutor.”

In India, the Prosecutors act on the directions of the Judge. Being an officer of the court, the Prosecutor is required to act in public interest and not seeking conviction by hook or crook. In Babu v. State of Kerala[1], it was stated that Public Prosecutors are the ministers of justice whose job is to assist the state to administer justice.

When Section 2(u) is read with Section 24, the following hierarchy can be traced:-

Public Prosecutor appointed by the Central Government->Public Prosecutor appointed by the State Government->Additional Public Prosecutor appointed by the State->Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the Central Government->Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the State Government.

Here, it is pertinent to note that according to the pattern prescribed by Criminal Procedure Code, the Public Prosecutors (including Additional Public Prosecutors) are required to conduct criminal proceedings in the Sessions and the High Court, while the Assistant Public Prosecutors are required to conduct proceedings on the behalf of the Magistrate’s court.


The rationale behind the appointment of Public Prosecution is that crimes committed by an individual or a group are deemed to have been committed against society. Hence it is the duty of the state to bring justice to the people or group affected by the crime. In India, the Criminal Justice system is required to function within the boundaries of the Indian Constitution, which means the Public Prosecutor needs to follow the following principles:-

  1. Presumption of innocence, until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,
  2. Right to life and personal liberty, until deprived by a procedure established by law[2],
  3. Equality before the law[3],
  4. Protection against double jeopardy[4],
  5. Protection against ex-post-facto law[5],
  6. Protection against self- incrimination[6],

What is The Role of Public Prosecutor

The Directorate of Prosecution is established with the objective of exercising supervision and scrutiny over all the prosecuting agencies. It is headed by a Director who is assisted by various subordinate rank officers and ministerial staff. The role of Public Prosecutor is the following in the investigation process:-

  1. Appearing in the Court and obtaining an arrest warrant,
  2. Obtaining search warrants to search specified premises,
  3. Obtaining Police custody remand for custodial interrogation of the accused[7],
  4. Initiating proceeding for declaring a non-traceable accused a proclaimed offender[8],
  5. Recording his advice in the Police file regarding the advisability of the prosecution.


Assistant Public Prosecutor: They scrutinize the charge sheets prepared by the investigating agencies and submit the discharge/ acquittal. They are further in charge of evaluating the evidence and filing revision petitions as well as conducting cases in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrates.

Additional Prosecutor: They conduct cases in the Sessions Court.

Chief Prosecutor: They supervise the work of Assistant Public Prosecutor in the Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.

Public Prosecutor: They supervise the work of Additional Public Prosecutor in the Sessions Court.


  1. Speedy trial: The Public Prosecutor being an officer of the Court can play the role of ensuring a speedy trial, which forms an essential part of the Right to Life enshrined under Article 21. The Prosecutors are responsible for ensuring that all the essential witnesses are called and none of the witnesses is left non-examined, further making sure that all the required documents are produced before the court in time while ensuring that no uncalled for the delay is caused to the proceeding.
  2. Sentencing: After the accused is proven guilty, the defence counsel and the Public Prosecutor are called upon to decide the quantum of the punishment. At this stage, the Public Prosecutor is required to exercise his discretion of arguing for an adequate punishment while keeping in view the gravity of the offence, the facts and the circumstances of the case. It is very important at this stage that the Prosecutor help the Court arrive at a judicious decision.


The office of the Public Prosecutors in India suffers from various incompetencies due to rigid and various unnecessary formalities. Most of the offices have inadequate staff and infrastructure


  1. The foremost problem is lack of quality law education in most of the Law Colleges in India.
  2. Further, the earnings are very low as compared to the ones that can be earned in open markets. The only way to remedy this situation is by improving the salary structure.
  3. A national-level institute needs to be set up to impart proper training upon the aspiring candidates.


In the final analysis, a Public Prosecutor is an officer of the Court assisting in just and equitable impartation of justice. He is required to be fair to the opposite party while trying to act for the good of society. The guiding principle of any Prosecutor should be justice, equity, and a good conscience and not just the letter of law.

[1] (1984 KLT) 165

[2] Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

[3] Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

[4] Article 20 (2) of the Indian Constitution.

[5] Article 20 (1) of the Indian Constitution.

[6] Article 20 (3) of the Indian Constitution.

[7] Section 167 of Cr. P.C.

[8] Section 82 of Cr.P.C.

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