The Supreme Court in a murder case while observing that the High Cout decided the appeal of the Appellant-Accused on the same day when an Advocate to represent him was appointed has remanded the matter back to the High Court for fresh consideration.

The Court held that the Advocate so appointed for the accused was not given enough time to prepare herself for the case.

The Court noted that the objective of appointing an advocate was to ensure that justice was done to him. Therefore, the High Court did not grant the advocate enough time to prepare the case.

The Bench comprising Justice Abhay S.Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal observed, “The object of appointing an advocate to espouse the cause of the appellant who was unrepresented was to ensure that justice is done to him. The High Court decided the appeal on the same day on which the advocate was appointed. In this case, the advocate appointed to represent accused was not granted even a reasonable time to prepare herself”.

Advocate Ranjan Mukherjee appeared for the Appellant and Senior Advocate Ashok Kumar Panda appeared for the Respondents.

The Appellant, along with Accused no. 2, was convicted of an offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) before the Trial Court. Section 34 of the IPC was not applied in the case before the Trial Court. Accused no. 2 and the Appellant preferred separate appeals before the High Court. Although the Appellant was not being represented by any advocate. Therefore, the High Court directed the Secretary of the High Court to appoint an empanelled advocate to espouse the cause of the Appellant but the advocate was not given due period to prepare the case. The empanelled advocate was not aware that Section 34 of the IPC was not invoked by the Trial Court and therefore, argued as if the Appellant was convicted with the aid of Section 34 of the IPC. The High Court decided the matter on the same day that the advocate was appointed.

The Court observed that the Appellant will engage his advocate and therefore, it is not necessary for the High Court Legal Services Committee to appoint any advocate to espouse his cause. The Court also held, "The appellant has already undergone incarceration for a period of more than eight years. Therefore, he deserves to be enlarged on bail on appropriate terms and conditions, as may be decided by the Trial Court."

In this context, the Court directed the Appellant to be produced before the Trial Court so that he can be enlarged on bail pending the final disposal of the Criminal Appeal before the High Court.

Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the appeals.

Cause Title: Niranjan Das @ Niru Das @ Mahanto v The State of West Bengal (2023 INSC 780)

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