Accused has Right to be Represented by a Lawyer in the Court: Supreme Court

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Allahabad High Court dismissed an appeal filed by a man in a 1987 murder case, noting that his counsel had not appeared during the hearing of his case. While HC dismissed the man’s appeal, the Apex Court, while resorting it, asked the High Court to consider taking it for hearing at an early date and also said that it was open for the High Court to appoint an amicus curiae to assist it when the petitioner was not represented before it through the lawyer in the matter.

It is well accepted that right of being represented through a counsel is part of due process clause and is preferable to the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, a bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit said.

In case the advocate representing the cause of the accused, for one reason or the other was not available, it was open to the court to appoint an amicus curiae to assist the court but the cause, in any case, ought not to be allowed to go unrepresented, the bench, also comprising Justices Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat, said in its December 18 order.

The order was passed by the Apex Court while hearing a plea filed by the convict against the judgment of April 2017, which dismissed the petitioner’s appeal which challenged the Trial Court’s Judgement, awarding him a life-term in a murder case. It noted the submission of the petitioner’s lawyer that the appeal was disposed off by the High court in the absence of any representation on behalf of the appellant.

The Bench constituted in the Supreme Court noted that the man was not presented by any lawyer through the hearing and took onto the matter and affirmed the view taken by the trial court. In the circumstances, we have no other alternative but to set aside the judgment passed by the High Court and to restore criminal appeal to the file of the High Court to be disposed of afresh, said the Apex Court.

It was duly noted by the court that the man was taken into custody while his appeal stood pending in the High Court, which was filed by him when he was out on Bail.

The Bench, while examining the facts of the case said,

“In the circumstances, we request the high court to consider taking up criminal appeal. For hearing at an early date and in order to facilitate the exercise, we direct the registry of the high court to list the appeal before the appropriate court on January 11, 2021 for directions.”

“The convict shall appear before the high court through advocate on January 11 and in case of any default, the high court may consider appointing an amicus curiae to assist it in the matter. During the pendency of the matter before the high court, the appellant shall continue to remain in custody,” added the Bench, while disposing of the plea.


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