Summons Definition and Substituted service of summons

Meaning, Types and Substituted Service of Summons

Summons are issued by the court for the appearance of the accused, any party, or witness, or the presentation of any legal document. It is a clear and specified document. The summons contains the time and date of appearing in the specified court. The person, to whom the summons has been served, has to appear in the court on the date, specified under the summons. The summons can be served in civil cases as well as criminal cases. We are going to discuss the summons meaning, Types of summons and substituted service of summons. So now, let’s start the article with the meaning of summons.

Meaning of summons

The meaning of summons is to order a person to come into the court. It is the simple form of the legal process which is issued by the court for enforcing the attendance of persons or any document at a specified time given in summons. The court can give the summon for a person or any document.

The main purpose of the summons is to inform the defendant in the case that the plaintiff has filed a legal suit against him. Almost every time, the service of summons is done with an attached copy of the complaint where the plaintiff has given his facts of the complaint.

Although the person who has the name on the summons has to appear in person in the court if not possible or not mentioned in the summons, the person can send his advocate who has the knowledge of the facts of the case or he can give answers related to the case.

The things which should be considered in case of summons are:

  • It should be clear and specified,
  • It must be attested by the seal of the court
  • There must be the name and address of the person summoned
  • There must be the date, time and place given in the summon when the person summoned is required to present in the court
  • Summon must contain the nature of the offence committed.

The summons which do not bear all these things are invalid.

The objects of the summons are to:

  • Providing the information to the defendant that a suit has been instituted against him.
  • For the principle of natural justice
  • The court may direct the defendant to file a written statement in his defence

Defendant to appear

On the date, which is given under the summons, the defendant has to appear in the court:

  • In-person
  • By the advocate who can answer all material questions relating to the suit
  • By the advocate of pleader with the person who can answer to all such questions.

Types of summons

There are mainly three types of summons given under the law. So, let’s discuss each one of them:

Civil Summons

These are the judicial types of summons which are given under the civil case to appear in court and respond to the plaint filed by the plaintiff. This is to inform the defendant that a civil suit has been instituted against him.

This summons can be sent by person or identity to another person or legal identity to appear in court to respond to the suit filed against them.

Generally, a civil summons is served in the case related to compensation for damages, the loss occurred due to the defendant.

Examples of Civil cases in which Civil summons served:

Criminal Summons

The types of summons which are sent to the person to appear in the criminal court in the criminal case are called Criminal summons.

There can be different types of summons that can be served in criminal cases like a notice to appear in the court, traffic summons, to present the document in the court, etc. The police officer also has the power to give criminal summons in minor cases.

In the criminal summons, the charges will be mentioned in the case or the fact on which you got this summons will be written.

There are various types of Criminal summons like, 

Citation summons– The summons given to the person to appear in court for minor charges are called citation summons. The police officer can also give this summons to the person. For example, if the police officer catches a person drinking alcohol in a prohibited area, the police officer can serve him a summon to appear in court.

Notice to appear- In this type of summons, the person has to present in court for criminal charges. Such summons are issued before the person is formally charged. For example, if the person is caught shoplifting, the police officer will provide him with a Notice to appear in court. The charges will be applied to the person when the evidence of shoplifting is provided in court. 

Traffic summons- The cases in which a person breaks the traffic rules. The person will get a criminal summons as the person has broken the rules. Such types of summons serve the person to appear in court and respond to the allegation imposed on him. For example, if a person is driving his car and he is drunk. The police caught that man. Now, the person may get the traffic summons to appear in court.

Administrative Summons

These types of summons are sent by the administrative body which is authorised by law. For example, summons under arbitration, summons by tax authority etc. These types of summons can be served by administrative courts like labour courts, tax courts etc. Such courts have the power to summon the person under the jurisdiction of that court.

Summons how served?

Section 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the service of summons. It shall be served by the police officer, by an officer of the court or by a public servant.

The section also provides that it should be served to the person summoned personally by giving him the duplicate copy and taking his signs on the back of the original summons.

Service to the agent of the person

Where the suit is related to the company or any other business and the person does not reside within the local limits of the court from which the summons to the person is to be served, the service may be made on his agent or manager of the company.

Service in the case when the person summoned cannot be found

Section 64 says that if the person to whom the summon is to be served cannot be found, the summons shall be served by giving the duplicate copy to any adult male member of his family residing with him. The sign will be taken by that male on the back of the original copy.

It is to be noted that any servant of the family will not be considered a family member within the meaning of this section.

When service cannot be affected 

Where the person summoned cannot be found and section 64 fails to serve, then the serving officer shall affix the duplicate copy on the conspicuous place of the house of the person summoned where he ordinarily resides. After the affixing of the copy by the serving officer, he will report to the court and it will be declared by the court that the summons has been duly served.

Substituted service of summons

Where the court is satisfied that:

  • The defendant knowingly avoids the service
  • The reason that summons cannot be served in ordinary ways

The court shall order to do the service of summoning by affixing the copy in the conspicuous place in the court, and in the house of the person.

The court can also order to publish it in the local newspapers or any other manner as the court may think fit. By all these steps it will be believed that the service of summons has taken place.

Service on the defendant in prison

Where the person to whom the [summons] is to be served is in the prison, the summon will be served to the officer in charge of the prison.

Service where the person resides out of India

Where the person resides outside of India and has no agent in India, the summon shall be sent to the person through the post where he is residing, if there is postal communication between India and that country.

Service of summons for Public officer

In the case of a public official, the [summons] shall be served to the head of that office in which he is employed.

Service of summons on soldiers, airmen or navy persons

The summons will be served to his commanding officer with a copy of the Summons.

Consequences of Non-compliance with Summons

Ignoring a court-issued summons can have serious repercussions and undermine the judicial process’s integrity. When an individual fails to comply with a summons, the court views this as contempt of court, leading to potential legal and financial penalties. Understanding the gravity of non-compliance and the consequences that follow is crucial for anyone involved in legal proceedings.Consequences of Non-compliance with Summons

Issuance of an Arrest Warrant

One of the immediate consequences of ignoring a summons is the issuance of an arrest warrant. When a person does not appear in court as mandated by the summons, the court can issue a bench warrant for their arrest. This means that law enforcement officials have the authority to arrest the individual and bring them before the court. Arrest warrants are serious and can lead to the individual being detained until they can be brought to court. This can cause significant personal and professional disruptions.

Financial Penalties

Financial penalties are another consequence of non-compliance. Courts can impose fines on individuals who fail to appear as directed by a summons. These fines serve as a punitive measure and a deterrent to prevent future non-compliance. In some cases, the fines can be substantial, adding a significant financial burden on top of the legal issues already faced.

Contempt of Court Charges

Contempt of court charges can also result from failing to respond to a summons. Contempt of court is a legal finding that someone has disobeyed or shown disrespect for the court’s authority. This can lead to additional legal proceedings against the individual, resulting in further fines, penalties, or even jail time. Being found in contempt of court not only affects the current case but can also have lasting implications for the individual’s legal standing and reputation.

Adverse Case Outcomes

Additionally, non-compliance with a summons can adversely affect the outcome of the case itself. In civil cases, if the defendant fails to appear, the court may issue a default judgment in favour of the plaintiff. This means the court can decide the case based on the plaintiff’s evidence alone, without the defendant’s input or defence. This can lead to unfavourable rulings and financial liabilities for the non-compliant party.

In criminal cases, failing to respond to a summons can weaken the defence’s position. The court may proceed with the trial in the absence of the defendant, leading to a conviction based on the prosecution’s evidence. This can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and a permanent criminal record.

Importance of Compliance

The legal system relies on the compliance of all parties to function effectively and fairly. Ignoring a summons not only jeopardizes one’s legal standing but also hinders the court’s ability to administer justice. Individuals need to take summons seriously, seek legal advice if needed, and ensure they fulfil their obligations to the court.


The summons is provided by the legal authority to inform the person that a civil or criminal case has been filed in the court against him. The person has to react to the summon as mentioned in the court. If the person is invited into court in person, the person must do the same. The service of a summons is important in every case to make the case clean and justified from both sides.

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