HC upholds fundamental right of accused to legal aid

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New Delhi, Nov 22 (UNI) The Delhi High Court today upheld the Fundamental Right of an accused of being represented before the court.

Justice V B Gupta, hearing a petition of an unrepresented accused, quoted a Supreme Court decison to order his conviction by the lower court quashed.

The petitioner Khurshid, who faces allegation of being caught red handed while removing scrap material in a factory on March 31, 2005, was sentenced to two-year-RI by the trial court.

According to the petitioner, he was too poor to engage the services of a lawyer. Nor could he get any legal aid, the petitioner added. The state prosecutor also submitted before the court his agreement over unqualified right of an accused to be legally represented.

Justice Gupta reiterated that not only CrPC, but also Article 39 A of the Constitution laied down a Directive Principle to the state for equal justice and free legal aid.

The apex court held in 1986 that the Fundamental Right of free legal assistance at state cost of a person, accused of such offence as may involve jeopardy to his life or persoanl liberty, is implicit in the requirement of reasonable, fair and just procedure prescribed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

Besides, the court is under an obligation to inform the accused that if he is unable to engage the services of a lawyer on account of poverty or indigence, he is entitled to obtain free legal services at State cost, the order read.

Hence, the conviction of an unrepresented accused reached without so informing him has to be set aside, the trial being vitiated due to violation of his Fundamental Right, the order mentioned.

The judge held it undesirable for the petitioner even to be re-tried.

UNI

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