Supreme Court: Adequate Preparation Time needed to Legal-Aid Advocates Representing Accused


LI Network

Published on: 02 September 2023 at 14:35 IST

The Supreme Court has emphasized that when a legal-aid advocate is appointed to represent an accused individual, they should be afforded a reasonable amount of time to review the case file and adequately prepare to assist the Court. This observation was made by a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal.

The Primary purpose of appointing an advocate to advocate for an unrepresented appellant is to ensure that justice is served in their case, the bench noted.

The case in question involved the conviction of the accused in a murder case. During the appeal process, the High Court appointed an empaneled advocate to represent the appellant-accused. However, the High Court did not grant the advocate sufficient time to prepare, and the appeal was decided on the same day the advocate was appointed.

The Supreme Court underscored that it was the Court’s duty to provide the appointed advocate with a reasonable opportunity to review the case file and prepare adequately.

In addition to echoing the arguments made by the co-accused, the appointed advocate contended that the appellant did not share a common intention to commit the murder with the co-accused.

This submission suggested that the advocate was not adequately prepared, as there was no conviction of the appellant under Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Evidently, the advocate was unaware that Section 34 of the IPC had not been invoked by the Trial Court. Consequently, she argued as if the appellant had been convicted with the aid of Section 34 of the IPC. This situation arose because the appointed advocate was not given sufficient time to prepare.

As a result, the Supreme Court has remanded the appeal back to the High Court for a fresh consideration.

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