Accused been denied a fair trial, matter to be remanded back to Trial judge for de nove trial: Orrisa High Court

The appellant had no valid, proper and effective legal representation in the case which is violation of the principles enshrined under Articles 39-A and 21 of the Constitution. This was said in the case of Habil Sindhu v State of Odisha [Jail Criminal Appeal No. 132 of 2005] by Justice Shri S.K. Mishra And Justice Miss Savitri Ratho in Orissa High Court At Cuttack.

The facts of the case date back to 30.06.2005, when the trial Judge convicted the appellant and sentenced him to undergo R.I. for life for the offence under Section 302/201 of the Penal Code. Assailing his conviction under Section 302/201 of the Indian Penal Code, the appellant filed an appeal.

The Amicus Curiae has assailed the impugned judgment on various grounds pertaining to appreciation of evidence. It was contended that the appellant was not provided with effective free legal services by the State Defence Counsel (SDC). Secondly, it was contended that the trial Judge engaged a SDC to defend him, but such counsel was engaged without assessing his ability to defend the accused, who was charged with murder of three persons. Moreover, it was also contended that the counsel was engaged on the date of trial when the private defence counsel appearing for the appellant did not appear. On date of trial, no witnesses were examined on behalf of the prosecution, on the next two dates, majority of the material witnesses were examined.

Firstly, the Court observed that learned trial Judge has not recorded whether the SDC engaged by him was among the counsels short listed by the District Judges’ office to be appointed as SDC. Secondly, there is no observation by the learned trial Judge that the SDC engaged by the court to defend the appellant was in fact competent in the assessment of the learned trial Judge to defend the appellant in a complex case of a triple murder. It was also brought to notice that the SDC has not been given adequate opportunity to prepare the case. Thirdly, it can be well deciphered from the case record that the prosecution witnesses were examined in chief and then cross-examined by the defence on 17th, 18th and 19th August of 2004 and they were examined in trial of an accused charged committing murder of three persons by a SDC, who is engaged just one day prior to the examination i.e. on 16.08.2004. To this, the Court conceived that “the appellant had no valid, proper and effective legal representation in the case”.

After perusing the facts and keeping in mind the settled position of law on the subject, the Court opined that “this is a case where the accused has been denied a fair trial and it is violative of Article 39-A as well as Article 21 of the Constitution”. Hence, the appeal was disposed, conviction and the sentence was set aside and the matter was remitted back to the learned Sessions Judge, Mayurbhanj, Baripada for de nove trial. Other than that, the Court directed the learned Sessions Judge to observe the said stipulated directions while conducting the trial.

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