Date: 2 December, 2020
by Ambica Sharma
States should not expect good conduct from others when their behaviour is blameworthy, unjust and illegal.
A Fair trial is an open trial by an impartial judge in which all parties are treated equally.
The right to a fair trial is one of the fundamental guarantees of human rights and rule of law, aimed at ensuring the administration of justice.
A fair trial consists of just and proper opportunities permitted by law to prove innocence.
PRINCIPLES OF FAIR TRIAL
The right to be heard.
The right to have a counsel.
The right to be judged by an independent, impartial and a competent judge.
Right to have a knowledge of accusation
Right to free legal aid
Protection against illegal arrest
Right to bail
Prohibition on double jeopardy
Right against self-incrimination
RIGHTS UNDER STATUTES AND INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS
Legal assistance to an underprivileged person facing trial whose life and personal liberty is at risk is not only authorised by the Constitutions and the Code of Criminal Procedure but by International Covenants and Human Rights Declaration.
Articles 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declares that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal.
Article 14(1) of the International covenants on civil and political rights (ICCPR) says everyone shall be equal before the court and tribunals.
Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all.
Article 21 of the Constitution states that no one can be deprived of his own life and personal liberty except rendering to the procedure established by law.
Article 22(1) of the Constitution gives the right to be defended by a legal practitioner.
Section 304 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides Legal aid to accused at State expense in the following certain cases-
(1) Where, the accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has no adequate means to involve a pleader;
(2) The High Court may, with the prior sanction of the State Government, make rules providing for-
(a) The mode of selecting pleaders for defence;
(b) The services to be permissible to such pleaders;
(c) The payable amount to such pleaders by the Government;
(3) The State Government may direct that the provisions of subsections(1) and (2) shall apply in reference to any class of trials before other Courts within the State as they apply in relation to trials before Courts of Session.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978 AIR 597), it was held by a Constitution Bench of this Court that the process for depriving a person of his life or liberty should be fair, reasonable and just.
A criminal case decided against an accused in the absence of a counsel is not fair or just in nature. It is only a lawyer who is conversant with the law who can properly defend an accused during a criminal case.
Hence, if a criminal case was decided against an accused in the absence of a counsel, there will be a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.