Right to be represented in court part of due process: SC

The court also held that the right was part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution

Suprme court

The Supreme Court has held that the right of being represented in court through legal counsel is part of due process clause and is referable to the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court set aside an order passed by Allahabad High Court as the same was passed without the accused represented by a counsel in the matter.

The appeal was filed before the apex court against an order passed by Allahabad High Court dismissing criminal appeal even though the appellant was not represented in court. The high court had gone ahead and affirmed the trial court order convicting the accused of murder and sentencing him and other accused to life imprisonment.

The bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat observed, “It is well accepted that right of being represented through a counsel is part of due process clause and is referable to the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.” The court further stated that if 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 court, thus, set aside the impugned judgment and redirected the appeal to the high court for fresh consideration. The court also noted that the accused was taken in custody after the High Court dismissed the appeal and hence directed the High Court Registry to list the appeal on January 11, 2021 before the appropriate bench.

The court directed that in case there is any default on the part of the Advocate, in appearing for the accused and representing him, the High Court may consider appointing an Amicus Curiae in the matter to assist the Court.

It is pertinent to note here that Article 22(1) of the Constitution provides that any person arrested or in custody shall not be “denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice”. Hence, not only does the right of being represented in court by a legal practitioner inherent under Article 21 (right to life) but is also expressly a constitutional safeguard.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

Recently, Karnataka High Court was dealing with a petition filed against Mysore District Bar Association’s resolution precluding Bar members from representing a student who was indicted for holding a “free Kashmir” poster on the Mysore University campus. The Bar even, allegedly, went to the extent of displaying the copy of the resolution at multiple locations in the premises of Mysore Court Complex and even sent warning messages through print and e-mail to all advocate members to abide by the resolution or else face action. Formerly, the Hubli Bar Association had also passed a similar resolution to not represent Kashmiri students charged for sedition over pro-Pakistani slogans. The Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court slammed this move and the Association was forced to withdraw the resolution, as per the court’s orders.

The Supreme Court order may be read here.



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