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In case of life sentence or death sentence, learned advocates with minimum of 10 years practice alon

ANOKHILAL   v.   STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH,  CRIMINAL APPEAL NOs.62-63 OF 2014 -December 18, 2019.

A brief fact of the case is that the victim, a nine year old girl, was found missing and her body was found in an open field two days later. An FIR was registered regarding this and the appellant was arrested regarding this and after completion of the investigation a charge sheet was filed before the Sessions Court. The case was dealt with and an order passed by the Trial Court accusing the appellant u/s 302 of IPC and awarded ‘death sentence’. When the appellant approached the HC challenging his conviction and sentence, it affirmed the view taken by the Trial Court and upheld the death sentence and other sentences imposed by the Trial Court.

Thus the appellant approached the Supreme court challenging his conviction and sentence. The issue before the court is whether the free legal aid ensured a real and meaningful assistance?

The senior counsel Mr. Siddharth Luthra, appearing on behalf of the appellant argued that the way the Trial Court conducted the case has no fairness and the interest of the appellant-accused was put to prejudice on more than one count. In support of his submissions he referred Bashira vs. State of U.P. and Mohd. Hussain Alias Julfikar Ali vs. State. Also the case Hussainara Khatoon and others  v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, Patna was referred supporting his argument. Supporting the provision of free legal aid Rajoo Alias Ramakant v. State of Madhya Pradesh was referred. In Mohd. Hussain @ Julfikar Ali v. State it was held that by not providing the counsel, the accused is denied of a fair and impartial trial. In Ankush Maruti Shinde and others vs. State of Maharashtra the conviction and death sentence of certain accused were confirmed and others were imposed life imprisonment by the HC. Also Imtiyaz Ramzan Khan vs. State of Maharashtra was referred.

The court after hearing the submissions of the counsel viewed that the Trial Court should have adjourned the matter so that the Amicus Curiae could have got the sufficient time to prepare the matter. The act of the Trial court might have expedited the trial but did not further the cause of justice. As the charges and the trial were conducted the same day itself, the assistance that the appellant was entitled to could not be real and meaningful. “The concluding paragraphs of the judgment of the Trial Court show that the entire trial was completed in less than one month with the assistance of the prosecution as well as the defense, but, such expeditious disposal definitely left glaring gaps”. Also the case of V.K. Sasikala vs. State Represented by Superintendent of Police was referred supporting its observation.

Expeditious disposal is undoubtedly required in criminal matters and that would naturally be part of guarantee of fair trial. However, the attempts to expedite the process should not be at the expense of the basic elements of fairness and the opportunity to the accused, on which postulates, the entire criminal administration of justice is founded. In the pursuit for expeditious disposal, the cause of justice must never be allowed to suffer or be sacrificed. What is paramount is the cause of justice and keeping the basic ingredients which secure that as a core idea and ideal, the process may be expedited, but fast tracking of process must never ever result in burying the cause of justice”.

From the above observations the court accepted the submissions of the counsel for appellant and held that the counsel appointed for the appellant should have given sufficient opportunity to study the matter.

The court thus decided to set aside the judgments of the conviction and orders of sentence passed by the Trial Court and High Court against the appellant. Also the court issued certain norms for seeking the assistance of Amicus Curiae. They are
  1. Where there is a possibility of life or death sentence, advocate who have a minimum experience of 10 yrs in the Bar can be appointed as Amicus Curiae.

  2. In confirming the death sentence, the HC must appoint Senior Advocate of the court as Amicus Curiae.

  3. Some reasonable time should be given to the Amicus Curiae to prepare the matter. A minimum of 7 days may be considered appropriate and adequate.

  4. The Amicus Curiae who is appointed on behalf of the accused must be granted to have meetings and discussions with the accused.





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