By Ms. Darshini.S
In Indian law, the rights and privileges of a person accused of a crime guarantees him with a fair trial. In the initial stage i.e. 18th century these rights were limited to the process itself. But at the end of the 20th century, many countries extended this process to pre-trial and post-trial periods. As the Indian Constitution is tied to Rule of law and Democracy, the concept of a free and fair trial is a constitutional commitment for which the cardinal principle of Criminal Law revolves around the Natural Justice. In that way, even the accused or guilty person should be treated on humanitarian grounds. The law of the land should prosecute fairly to stand on its legs and the guilt of the accused should be proved beyond the reasonable doubts. The accused person enjoys certain fundamental rights; it is used to defend himself during any violation of human rights in the process. One should be protected against any arbitrary or unlawful detention. Most of the basic fundamental human rights are enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
“Let Hundred Guilty Be Acquitted But One Innocent Should Not Be Convicted”
- Sir William Blackstone (1765)
The Constitution of India gives accused person certain fundamental rights and guarantees that the authorities must respect the same during the criminal justice process which includes pre-trial and post-trial as well. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) deals with the procedural aspects of the arrest of an accused and various rights are granted to different grades of accused.
2.Legal Provisions for rights of an accused person under the Indian Constitution and Criminal Procedural Code.
Protection in respect of conviction for offences.
Article 20-“(1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.
(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”[i]
In the case Nandini Sathpathy v. P.L.Dani[ii], it was held in this case that no police officers can forcibly extract statements from the accused and the accused has all the legal rights to keep silent during investigation.
Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
Article 22(1) states that the person arrested should be informed of the grounds of arrest. Any person arrested for an offence under ordinary law should be informed as soon as may be the grounds of the arrest. No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed or knowing the reason for the detention/arrest. No person shall be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
According to Section 50(1) of Criminal Procedure Code, every police officer or other person arresting any person without warrant shall directly communicate to him about the full facts and particulars of the offence for which he is arrested or other grounds for such arrest.
Accused has the right to be defended by an Advocate.
It is one of the very important fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution in favour of the accused. Article 22(1) of the Constitution provides that no person who is arrested shall be denied the right to consult and to be defended by an advocate or any legal practitioners of his choice.
Section 303 of CrPC, states the provisions relating to the right of the person against whom proceedings are instituted to be defended. It provides that any person accused of an offence before a criminal magistrate court, or against whom proceedings are instituted under this court, may of right be defended by a pleader of his choice. The right begins from the moment of arrest person arrested.
Accused to be produced before the Magistrate Court
Article 22(2) of the Constitution states that the arrested person whoever is detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest. No such person shall be detained in custody beyond the quoted period without the authority of a magistrate.
Section 56 of CrPC, states that a police officer arresting without a warrant should produce the accused before a Magistrate having jurisdiction in the case or before any officer in charge of a police station without any unnecessary delay and subject to the provisions mentioned in the Constitution as to bail.
Information about the arrest to any nominated person.
Section 50A of the CrPC, according to this provision a police officer whoever is arresting under this Code shall right away give the information regarding such arrest and place where the arrested person is being held to any of his friends, relatives or such other person as may be disclosed or nominated by the accused of the purpose of giving such information.
In, D.K. Basu v. State of W.B[iii],the Supreme Court, in this case, issued some guidelines which were required to be mandatorily followed in all cases of arrest or detention.The nominated person must be told about the arrest of the accused, the arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation.
Right to bail in a bailable offence
Section 50(2) of CrPC, provides that where a police officer arrests any person without a warrant any person accused of a bailable offence has the right to be released on bail. The officer should inform the same to the accused so that he may arrange for sureties on his behalf to obtain bail. This right is the most favourable right for the accused and it should be used appropriately.
Right to Legal aid at state expense
Section 304(1) of CrPC, states that where, in a trial before the Court of Session, if an accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader, the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State.
Right to know the accusation
Section 218 0f CrPC, deals with separate charges for distinct offences - For every distinct offence of which any person is accused there shall be a separate charge, and every such charge shall be tried separately: Provided that where the accused person, by an application in writing, so desires and the Magistrate is of opinion that such person is not likely to be prejudiced thereby, the Magistrate may try together all or any number of the charges framed against such person[iv].
Examination of accused by a medical officer
Section 54 of CrPC, provides an important provision that is the examination of arrested person by a medical officer. It states that before producing the accused before the magistrate the accused will be examined by a medical officer in the service of Central or State Government and if the medical officer is not available then, in that case, the examination is done by a registered medical practitioner.
After the examination of the arrested person the medical officer shall prepare the record of such examination, mentioning therein any injuries or scars of violence upon the person arrested, and the approximate time when such injuries or marks may have been inflicted.
This is a vital provision in favour of the accused, this will reveal whether the accused was tortured during the custody or harassed by any of the police officer in charge or any other person before the trial.
Right to be a competent witness
According to the provisions in Section 315 of CrPC, any accused person of an offence before a Criminal Court shall be a competent witness for the defense in his case and may give evidence on oath in disproof of the charges made against him or any person charged together with him at the same trial.
Right to Speedy Trial
According to Section 437(6) of CrPC, an accused has the right to a speedy trial that is, if the trial of a person accused of a bailable offence is not achieved within 60 days from the first date fixed for taking evidence in the case, such person shall, if he is in custody during the whole of the mentioned period, he will be entitled to be released on bail to the satisfaction of the magistrate unless, for reasons to be recorded in writing, the magistrate otherwise directs.
Post-trial rights depend on the outcome of the trial. As said earlier rights are of two types of pre-trial and post-trial, the accused person has certain rights once his trial is over. If the accused is acquitted by the court and has been proven guilty then he has the right to appeal. On the other hand, if he was proven guilty then the accused has the right to get a copy of the judgment by applying in the court for future references. And he also has a right to obtain protection from the police if there are reasons to believe that there is a threat to his life post acquittal.
The Constitution of India and various legal acts give an accused person certain rights, so that his life as a prisoner is dignified and pleasant, and also to make sure that the innocent are not being punished. Although these rights are essential for any convicted or an accused person to maintain and balance their spiritual status as a human being, the ineffectiveness of the Indian law enforcement system prevents the accused from exercising these rights. However, the Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and various NGOs in the countries are working with considerable results for this cause. However, citizens need to know what rights they can exercise if they are unfortunately imprisoned; they should remember that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”.