The Delhi High Court has observed that the right of cross-examination to any accused is the most vital part of a criminal trial.

The bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that “There is no doubt that right of cross-examination to any accused in a criminal case to discredit the witnesses and to test veracity of the statement is the most vital part of a criminal trial.”

The Court made this observation while dealing with the plea by an accused who was convicted for the offences punishable under Section 399/402 of the Indian Penal Code without being effectively represented by a lawyer.

Advocates Gayatri Nandwani (DHCLSC) and Mudita Sharda appeared for the accused whereas APP Naresh Kumar Chahar appeared for State.

The Court noted that the Trial Court failed to provide effective legal aid to the accused/applicant.

The Court noted that none of the witnesses has been cross-examined in this case.

The Court observed that it is a case where the accused remained unrepresented and unaided during the entire effective stages of trial.

“The present case was being tried for an offence of preparation of dacoity which attracts punishment upto 10 years. No legal aid was available to the accused almost throughout the trial, most glaringly, at the time of final arguments and recording of evidence.”, the Court observed.

The Court noted the absence of cross-examination has resulted in gross miscarriage of justice and the Court has to guard against such an eventuality.

“The constitutional guarantees of free and fair trial should remain meaningful to the poor of the country and the judiciary has to remain vigilant to protect the interest of the disadvantaged groups also.”, the Court noted further.

The Court acquitted the accused of all charges while observing that the trial in itself was vitiated due to non-assistance of accused by legal aid counsel.

The Court noted “This is a classic case where all cannons of justice were kept aside while passing the impugned judgment as the accused was not provided legal aid which he was entitled to get under the Constitution of India as well as under Cr.P.C. The accused has faced trial for last 15 long years. At times, though the agony of a person undergoing trial is not mentioned on the paper while a Judge writes a judgment, the trial which has been prolonged beyond 15 years is an agony itself. The stress of facing a criminal trial is punishment unannounced in a case, as the present one.

Cause Title- Sunil v. State (Neutral Citation No. 2023/DHC/000036)

Click here to read/download Judgment