Right of being represented through a lawyer is part of “due process clause”, the Supreme Court has said while setting aside the Allahabad High Court order which had dismissed an appeal filed by a man in a 1987 murder case noting that his counsel had not appeared during the hearing.
The apex court, which restored the appeal and asked the high court to consider taking it for hearing at an early date, said it was open for the high court to appoint an amicus curiae to assist it when the petitioner was not represented before it through lawyer in the matter.
“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”, a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said.
“In case 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 bench, also comprising Justices Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat, said in its December 18 order.
The top court passed the order while hearing a plea filed by the convict against the April 2017 verdict of high court which had dismissed his appeal challenging the trial court judgement awarding him life term in a murder case.
It noted the submission of petitioner’s lawyer that the appeal was disposed of by the high court in the absence of any representation on behalf of the appellant.
The bench said the high court, while noting that the man was not represented through lawyer during the hearing, went into the matter and affirmed the view taken by the trial court.
“In the circumstances, we have no other alternative but to set-aside the judgment passed by the high court and to restore criminal appeal, to the file of the high court to be disposed of afresh”, the apex court said.
It noted that the man, who was on bail while his appeal was pending in the high court, has since been taken in custody.
“In the circumstances, we request the high court to consider taking up criminal appeal. For hearing at an early date and in order to facilitate the exercise, we direct the registry of the high court to list the appeal before the appropriate court on January 11, 2021 for directions”, the bench said.
It said the convict shall appear before the high court through advocate on January 11 and in case of any default, the high court may consider appointing an amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.
“During the pendency of the matter before the high court, the appellant shall continue to remain in custody”, the bench said while disposing of the plea.
The man, along with another accused, were convicted by a trial court in the murder case and they were sentenced to life term.
One of the convicts had died during pendency of his appeal before the high court and proceedings related to him were abated.