Presence of lawyers must for trial: SC
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Last Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011, 23:59
New Delhi: Criminal matters cannot be decided in the absence of the defence lawyer as it would cause prejudice to convicts/accused and is violative of the fundamental right to liberty, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The apex court said if no lawyer is available to assist the accused, then the court concerned should appoint an amicus curiae(court officer) to assist it in the case.

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra passed the ruling while upholding the appeal filed by Md Sukur Ali challenging a judgement of the Guwhati High Court which dismissed his criminal appeal as his counsel was not present when the matter came up for hearing.

"We are of the opinion that even assuming that the counsel for the accused does not appear because of the counsel's negligence or deliberately, even then the court should not decide a criminal case against the accused in the absence of his counsel since an accused in a criminal case should not suffer for the fault of his counsel.

"In such a situation the court should appoint another counsel as amicus curiae to defend the accused. This is because liberty of a person is the most important feature of our Constitution. Article 21 which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty is the most important fundamental right of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution," the bench said.

The apex court said any civilised society ought to offer legal assistance to a convict/accused as even in earlier days hardened criminals were given the benefit of defence lawyers irrespective of the gravity of the crime committed by them.


First Published: Friday, February 25, 2011, 23:59

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