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Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977)

Chapter 21 : Trial before Superior Court

144. Charge in superior court to be laid in an indictment


(1) Where an attorney-general arraigns an accused for sentence or trial by a superior court, the charge shall be contained in a document called an indictment, which shall be framed in the name of the attorney-general.

[Section 144(1) substituted by section 10(a) of Act No. 56 of 1979]


(2) The indictment shall, in addition to the charge against the accused, include the name and, where known and where applicable, the address and a description of the accused with regard to sex, nationality and age.

[Section 144(2) substituted by section 17 of Act No. 139 of 1992]


(a) Where an attorney-general under section 75, 121(3)(b) or 122(2)(i) arraigns an accused for a summary trial in a superior court, the indictment shall be accompanied by a summary of the substantial facts of the case that, in the opinion of the attorney-general, are necessary to inform the accused of the allegations against him and that will not be prejudicial to the administration of justice or the security of the State, as well as a list of the names and addresses of the witnesses the attorney-general intends calling at the summary trial on behalf of the State:

Provided that—

(i) this provision shall not be so construed that the State shall be bound by the contents of the summary;
(ii) the attorney-general may withhold the name and address of a witness if he is of the opinion that such witness may be tampered with or be intimidated or that it would be in the interest of the security of the State that the name and address of such witness be withheld;
(iii) the omission of the name or address of a witness from such list shall in no way affect the validity of the trial.

[Section 144(3)(a) substituted by section 10(b) of Act No. 56 of 1979]

(b) Where the evidence for the State at the trial of the accused differs in a material respect from the summary referred to in paragraph (a), the trial court may, at the request of the accused and if it appears to the court that the accused might be prejudiced in his defence by reason of such difference, adjourn the trial for such period as to the court may seem adequate.


(a) An indictment, together with a notice of trial referred to in the rules of court, shall, unless an accused agrees to a shorter period, be served on an accused at least ten days (Sundays and public holidays excluded) before the date appointed for the trial—
(i) in accordance with the procedure and manner laid down by the rules of court, by handing it to him personally, or, if he cannot be found, by delivering it at his place of residence or place of employment or business to a person apparently over the age of sixteen years and apparently residing or employed there, or, if he has been released on bail, by leaving it at the place determined under section 62 for the service of any document on him; or
(ii) by the magistrate or regional magistrate committing him to the superior court, by handing it to him.
(b) A return of the mode of service by the person who served the indictment and the notice of trial, or, if the said documents were served in court on the accused by a magistrate or regional magistrate, an endorsement to that effect on the record of proceedings, may, upon the failure of the accused to attend the proceedings in the superior court, be handed in at the proceedings and shall be prima facie proof of the service.
(c) The provisions of section 55(1) and (2) shall mutatis mutandis apply with reference to a notice of trial served on an accused in terms of this subsection.