Legal Counsel has to be appointed by the Court to represent an accused, where such accused is unrepresented, SC reiterates

A PIL in the SC urging for a direction to allow the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya case the option of donating their organs after their likely execution

The case of Shaik Mukthar & Others vs. the State of Telangana in Criminal Appeal No(s). 1753 of 2019. The appeal was filed questioning the Judgment given by the High Court of the State of Telangana at Hyderabad on 20th March 2019 in Criminal Appeal No. 1140 of 2013. The bench had confirmed the conviction of appellants for the offence under the Section 498A of Indian Penal Code of 1860 in which sentence was for two years of imprisonment and the trial court had sentenced to undergo three years of imprisonment. The bench of Supreme Court found that the advocate was absent to represent the convicts before the bench of High Court of Telangana, Hyderabad and appellants shouldn’t have been penalized. The bench had reflected on the case, Rakesh and Others vs. the State of Madhya Pradesh, 2011(12) SCC 512 were the then bench had opined that in the interest of Justice to appoint Amicus Curiae to assist the court in representing the accused, who are unrepresented. The matter may be referred to the Legal Services Committee by the Court, which may appoint advocate to represent the accused. The High Court of Telangana didn’t refer the case to Legal Services Committee or appointed Amicus Curiae to represent the accused in the case. The bench concluded that the matter is fit to be remitted to the High Court. 

The Incident took place in the year 2011 and accused were in custody for eight months. The accused- 1 in the case, the husband of deceased was charged separately under section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), in the case Trial Court and High Court had convicted him. He didn’t question the judgment of conviction and consequently undergoing life imprisonment. The prosecution had relied upon the evidence provided by witnesses in the case to prove that the appellants had committed the offence which is punishable under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code. 

The bench consisting of Justices Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and R. Shubhash Reddy found the conviction of the accused is maintainable under the Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 but the sentence was reduced to the period already undergone and wanted to release the accused, who have already undergone in custody and should be released forthwith if not required in any other case.

Key-Features:-

  • If the accused is unrepresented, either be represented by Amicus Curie or to refer the matter to Legal Services Committee to appoint Advocate. 
  • Section 498-A is non-bailable and a cognizable offence. 
  • 498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—For this section, “cruelty” means—

(a) Any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is intending to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

  • The incident occurred in the year of 2011 and accused have been in custody for eight months.
  • The bench reduced their sentence to the period as they have already undergone the imprisonment. 

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference:-

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