Updated: Oct 8, 2020
The Rights of an accused is normally considered as a part of human Rights. “every human being, in every society, is entitled to have basic autonomy and freedoms respected basic needs satisfied”. These are Rights given to every human. The concept of conferring Right upon an accused person is in intrinsically linked with the evolution of human Right movement. In early ancient times, the absence of formal criminal justice apparatus, the accused was deemed as a sinner. Crime was considered to be “sin” –transgression against god’s will consequently, a crime looked upon as a sinner could not claim any Right of himself. Though the medieval era had witnessed memorable reforms in the rules in terms of the accuse person's Right to self-defence, a new meaning was accorded to the human Rights perspective in the administration of criminal justice with the establishment of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) in 1948. The defence of the Right of the accused and convicted prisoner were recognized as the legitimate objective of international and national communities.
Administration of criminal justice is concerned with a crime, which specifies that an act deemed by law to be harmful for society in general, even though its immediate victim happens to be an individual. Those who commit crime are prosecuted by the State so that if found guilty or convicted by the court, they shall be punished according to law of the State. In every administration of criminal justice, a trial is conducted which helps in analysing the accused, and important question can be asked as to who can be called as an “accused”.
The word "accused" is nowhere defined in the Code (Criminal Procedure Code) nor in the Constitution of India. The word "accused" suggests a person charged with offence, when used in terms of noun it connotes as defendant/s in a trial. "Accused" used in the Code of Criminal Procedure means an "accused person" or person accused of any offence. The term "accused of any offence" indicate an accusation made in a criminal prosecution before the court or a tribunal where a person is charged of committing an act which is punishable under the IPC, 1860 or any special or local law . In ancient period crime was considered as a sin and people condemn and punish the accused with all sorts of brutalities and every possible harsh punishment. During trial inquisitorial methods were taken in use to discover the truth by doing every possible torture and other inhuman methods against the dignity of human being.
As per the Black Law Dictionary the word "Accused" is defined as “the generic name of the defendant in a criminal case” and in the Law Lexicon’s Dictionary the word "Accused" has been defined as “A person against whom an allegation has been made that he has committed an offence, or who is charged with an offence”. As per these two definitions, it may be said that as soon as a person is alleged formally to commit a crime, he is to be consider or comes in the category of accused.
Meaning of Human Rights
Human Rights are those Rights that every individual must have against the State or other public authority by virtue of being a human irrespective of any other consideration. These are the Rights that are inherent in every citizens, because of their being human. Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) mandates that- “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”. Similarly the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Protection of Prisoners also gives some basic guidelines for the treatment of prisoners and reaffirmed the tenet that prisoners do retain their FRs even while in custody.
Legal Framework of the Rights
UDHR, 1948, has recognized certain basic human Rights of an individual, including accused person. The Constitution of India, in tune with the international endeavors, provided four basic principles to govern the criminal justice system
v Presumption of innocence,
v Prevention of ex-post facto operation of criminal law
v Protection against double jeopardy
v Due process concept. Besides the Constitution, The CPC, 1973 and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, are also dealing with the protection of HRs of the accused person. In India's criminal justice system, the legal ethics is established “let the thousand of criminals be let out, but a single innocent should not be punished”. Following the said principle the judiciary requires all cases to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Constitutional Provisions Relating To the Rights of Accused
The Constitution of India confers the Right to Life and Personal Liberty on each & every citizen and the Supreme Court has interpreted it very broadly in order to include an array of Rights that have helped to strengthen the Criminal Justice System of India. The broad interpretation of Article 21 by the Judiciary has led to the inclusion of several Rights within the Right to life and personal liberty and their elevation to the status of a fundamental Right. The Rights like, Rights of prisoners, Right to compensation in case of violation of Article 21, Right against custodial violence, Right against police atrocities and illegal arrest and detention, Right of under trials against unreasonable and arbitrary handcuffing, Right to a fair and speedy trial, Right to free legal aid, Right to consult with the legal advisor, Right against any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Right to privacy, etc., have been held to be a part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
v Article 20 (1): Rights against conviction or enhanced punishment under an ex-post facto law.
v Article 20 (2): Right of protection against double jeopardy.
v Article 20 (3): Right against se Right to self -incrimination.
v Article 21.
v Article 22 (1) & (2): Right to be informed of the grounds of arrest and Right to bail.
v Article 22 (1) & (2): Right against unlawful arrest.
v Article 22 (1) & (2): Right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his own choice.
v Article 22 (1) & (2): Right to production before a Magistrate within 24 hours.
Procedural Provisions relating to the Rights of the Accused
v Sections 41, 55 and 151of CrPC: Protection against arbitrary or unlawful arrest.
v Sections 93, 94, 97, 100 and 165 of CrPC: Protection against arbitrary or unlawful searches.
v Sections-56, 57 and 76 of CrPC: Protection against arbitrary or illegal detention in custody.
v Sections50, 55 and 75 of CRPC: Right to be informed of the grounds, immediately after arrest.
v Section 49 of CrPC: Right of the arrested persons not to be subjected to unnecessary restraint.
v Sections 303,304 of CrPC: Right to consultation of lawyer of his own choice as well as Right to get legal aid at the expense of the State in certain cases.
v Sections 57 and 76 of CrPC: Right to be produced before Magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest.
v Sections 436, 437 and 439 also Sections 50 (2) and 176 of the CrPC: Right to be released on bail if arrested.
Judicial action towards protection of Rights of accused: Use of physical threat and third degree is a violation of law
The Supreme Court held that the use of “third degree” method during police custody is violative of Article 21 and directed the Government to take needful steps to educate the police so as to inculcate a respect for the human person irrespective of the act done by the person. The Court further stated that, after all, the great proposition that inspires the calling of justice- by the Bench and the Bar alike- is best expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King (Jr) in his letter from Alabama Prison: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Where human bondage is involved, being waiting is to defeat. Where justice is in jeopardy or freedom is in fetters the court is not non-aligned and acts with sensitive speed. Time is the essence where otherwise torture is the consequence. Human dignity is a dear value of our Indian Constitution not to be bartered away for mere apprehensions entertained by police officials.
The decision of the Court in Sunil Batra (II) Clothed with flesh and blood the principles laid down in Sunil Batra (I).The Supreme Court held that not merely physical threats or violence but psychic torture, atmospheric pressure, environmental coercion, firing interrogatives, proximity, overbearing and intimidator methods done in the course of interrogation by the police personnel are violative of the Right against self-incrimination guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India and further upheld the Right of an accused to secure the services of a lawyer of his choice at the time of police interrogation.
Justification of Arrest
The Supreme Court opined that the Doctrine of Personal Liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of India will be in effect expect that no arrest is made merely because it is lawful for the police to do so. The Hon'ble apex Court observed: “No arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power of arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another... No arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation about the genuineness and bonafides of a complaint and reasonable belief as to the person complicity and even so as to the need to effect his arrest... A person is not liable to be arrested merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence...Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided...”
Custodial death is seriously viewed
In a Case, 2 police officers were sentenced by The Supreme Court for harshly beating up the suspect for a purpose of extracting a confession, and their deliberate torture on non-payment of bribe which resulted in custodial death. Here, the Court observed “Brutal assaults by a person who is supposed to protect the citizens must be seriously viewed, otherwise we will help to take a stride in the direction of police raj. The punishment should be such as would deter other from indulging in such behaviour. There can be no room for leniency.”
The Supreme Court mentioned that speedy trial is implicit in the broad sweep and content of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The logic behind recognizing speedy trial as FR was that the inordinate delay in trial of criminal cases was responsible for gross denial of justice (Justice Delayed is Justice Denied) to the under trial prisoners and as such the procedure which denied speedy trial to the accused will not be just, fair and reasonable. The Court have made many provision for legal aid at State cost compulsory in cases of poor and indigent accused under trial in the criminal cases, for seeking bail and similarly also for defence at the time of trial.
Condition of jail
The Court has an opportunity to deal with certain aspects regarding the conditions of Jails. In regards to overcrowding, the Court held that though overcrowding was not unconstitutional but it affected the health of the prisoners and was an obstacle to segregation amongst convicts and hence was required to be taken care of. The court emphasized the need for health and hygiene conditions. Living with human dignity implies basic health and hygiene conditions and thus, the maintenance of such condition is the necessary component of any just, fair and reasonable procedure that arrests the liberty of an individual.
The courts of law and the purpose of law is only justice. It has been universally accepted as a human value that a person accused of any offence he/she shouldn't be punished unless he/she has been given a fair trial and his/her guilt has been proved in such trial. Our courts has recognized that the primary object of criminal procedure is just to ensure a fair trial of accused persons if someone is not properly defended by himself or by someone else and punished then that is not justice with that accused person. It is familiar finding of sociological inquiries that the actual behaviour of working within a system is determined less by the formal rules and ideals of the system than by the operational demands of their roles and their relations with other people. Talking about practice of arresting the accused before the first court appearance, the physical condition of the police lock-up are of interest. The time period spent in the custody before the first court appearance is utmost critical period. The accused often not aware of legal aid and become susceptible to improper police acts, is more likely to confess to his guilt and less likely to develop any legitimate defence which may have. He/she may often very confused or too mentally restricted to look after his own interests
- HARSHIT GUPTA
( 1ST POSITION IN 1ST ARTICLE WRITING COMPETITION)