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Bounden duty of Court to provide legal assistance to an individual who is unable to engage a legal counsel: Madras High Court

Courts must mandatorily provide legal assistance through Legal Service Authority to an individual who is unable to afford or engage a legal counsel. A Bench of P Velmurugan J, while adjudicating the matter in The Executive Magistrate v. The State; [Crl.M.P.No.5016 of 2021], dealt with the issue of providing legal assistance to the needy.

The case of the petitioner is that while the second respondent, Police was at regular patrolling, the petitioner was stands by suspicious and he was arrested and questioned and the second respondent initiated the proceedings under Section 107 of Cr.P.C. As per the proceedings, the petitioner executed a bond under Section 110 Cr.P.C. During the said bond period, the petitioner violated the proceedings and involved in another case in Crime No.121 of 2021 for the offence under Section 294(b), 341, 323, 324, 307 and 506(ii) IPC. Thereafter, the first respondent initiated action against the petitioner under Section 122(1)(b) Cr.P.C for the breach of bond executed by the petitioner under Section 110 Cr.P.C. Challenging the said order, the petitioner is before this Court. The learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that the petitioner was not involved in any offence and a false complaint has been foisted against him. The first respondent without affording any opportunity to the petitioner and without examining the witnesses, passed an order under Section 122(1)(b) Cr.P.C and cancelled the bail bond executed by the petitioner and imposed sentence of imprisonment for the remaining period.

The learned Government Advocate (Crl.Side) would submit that after providing sufficient opportunity only, the petitioner was produced before the second respondent for enquiry. At the time of trial, the petitioner has not raised any request regarding legal assistance, but, now, the petitioner has raised the said objection. Hence, there is no merit in this case and the same may be liable to be dismissed. Admittedly, the petitioner was arrested in suspicious and on execution of bail bond he was involved in another case in Crime No.121 of 2021 for the offence under Section 294(b), 341, 323, 324, 307 and 506(ii) IPC. Thereafter, the second respondent initiated action against the petitioner under Section 122(1)(b) of Cr.P.C for the breach of bond executed under Section 110 Cr.P.C. It is settled proposition of law, the accused, who is in custody, has to be provided with legal assistance by engaging a counsel on his own. If the petitioner is not in a position to engage a counsel on his own, it is the bounden duty of the respondents/Court to provide legal assistance through Legal Services Authority. In this case, the first respondent ought to have offered adequate time to engage a counsel to defend him or engage a counsel through Legal Services Authority.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts disposed of the criminal writ petition and stated that; “The first respondent is directed to issue fresh summons to the witnesses and also provide legal assistance to the petitioner through the Legal Services Authority, if the petitioner is not in a position to engage a counsel on his own and dispose of the case in accordance with law. Such exercise shall be completed within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The petitioner shall co-operate with the respondents for enquiry.”

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