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Who Is An Accused Person?

“Let Hundreds Go Unpunished, But Never Punish An Innocent Person”

The Term Accused is not defined as such in the code[1] or the constitution but the general understanding is that a person who is charged with an infringement of law for which he is held liable and if convicted would be punished. In other words, an accused person is the one who is charged with the commission of the offence.[2] As per Article 20 of the Indian constitution, an offence is characterized as an act or omission rendered punishable under any statute in force at that time.[3] It is also very important to note that an accused and a convicted person are not to be viewed on equal footing. According to the Bill of Rights Ordinance, 1991 confirms that all accused persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty[4] without any reasonable doubt[5]. Blackstone once said that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”[6]. Hence an accused person has every right just like any other citizen of the country except for personal liberty[7] in compliance with law even while in custody.[8] The maxim “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” means the burden of proof is on the who suggest, not on the accused.

A trial revolves around the accused of the administration of criminal justice. The term “accused of any offence” refers to an accusation made in a criminal prosecution against an individual charged having done any act which is punishable under IPC or any special or local law before the court or a judicial tribunal[9]. In the prehistoric era, crime was viewed as sin and such crimes were punished with brutalities. To reveal the truth, during trials the accused would be tortured using inhuman methods. This is why Indian laws have made provisions for protecting the basic rights of an accused and safeguarding his dignity as a human being given all benefits of a free, fair, just and impartial trial.[10]

Initially, the rights of the accused were limited to only during the process, but from the 20th century onwards it has extended to pre-trial and post-trial benefits. In India, the provisions for accused are mentioned in CrPC and Indian Constitutional law. The Code Of Criminal Procedure provides the procedural aspect whereas The Constitutional Law guarantees fundamental rights of the accused.

Rights of accused :

  • Presumption of Innocence: the accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty ( beyond a reasonable doubt).
  • Right to know the grounds of arrest: As per Article 22 (1) and Section 50(1) of CrPC, a person arrested for an offence has the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest.[11]

No arrest can be made without a reasonable understanding after investigation or without evaluating the genuineness of the complaint or because it is lawful for the police to do so.[12]

  • Right to apply for a Bail: As per section 50(2) of CrPC, a police officer while arresting an accused (other than in cases of non-bailable offence) should inform the person that he is entitled to apply for bail and appoint sureties on his behalf.
  • Right to Hire a Lawyer: According to Article 22(1) and Section 50(3), an accused has a right to appoint a legal representative.[13]
  • Right to a free, fair and speedy trial: The accused person must be given fair and impartial justice and should be given a chance to get speedy justice for the matter because unnecessary delay may lead to gross injustice[14]. As per section 437(6) in case the accused is in detention n the trial does not happen within 60 days he has the right to be released on bail.
  • Free legal aid: As per section 304(1) of CrPC where the court is satisfied that the accused doesn’t have sufficient means to appoint a pledger to represent him the court has appointed a pledger in the expense of the State. In case of poor and indigent accused in criminal cases seeking bail, the court has made legal aid provisions by State to cover the cost.[15]
  • Right to life and liberty: according to Article 21 an accused can enjoy his right to life and liberty until and unless it is curtailed under the law which is just, fair and reasonable.
  • Right against double-jeopardy: According to Article 20(2) no person shall be held punished and prosecuted for the same offence more than once.
  • Right against self-incrimination: as per Article 20(3) no person can be compelled to be a witness against himself.[16]
  • Right to be discharged when no sufficient ground: According to section 227 of CrPC, if the judge is convinced after duly considering the case that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding then the accused may be discharged.
  • Right to present evidence: As per section 243(1) of CrPC accused has the right to present relevant evidence and defend[17] his case. In case the evidence is in a language he can’t understand, then the evidence shall be interpreted in open court in a language he can understand.[18] As per section 273 of CrPC, an accused also has the right to be present while taking evidence, when his attendance is suspended in the presence of his pleader.
  • Right of Appeal: An accused has the right to approach higher courts in case he feels he was injustice by the lower courts.[19]
  • Right to be presented before the Magistrate: As per Article 22(2), an arrested person must be presented before the magistrate within 24 hours.[20]
  • Right to cross-examination: As per section 311 of CrPC the accused has the right to be cross-examined by the prosecutor to prove his innocence.
  • Right against solitary confinement: even though isolation is one of the methods of punishment, there is some level of restriction imposed. This punishment would be a direct violation of Article 21 since the prisoner is not allowed to mingle or talk with fellow inmates. Court held that keeping a prisoner in shackles all day and restraining his movements would be cruel and against the spirit of the constitution.[21]
  • Right against inhuman treatment: An accused and has the right to live with dignity which is entitled to him by the constitution. Therefore barbarous[22] torture methods used by the jail officials against prisoners are a violation of Article 14,19 and 21.[23]

An accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The main objective of the law is to ensure justice is served and guilty is convicted. The accused being humans the Government also must secure and protect his rights as a citizen. Even though there are detailed provisions by the Constitution to safeguard the human dignity and rights of an accused we see a steady decline.[24] Many are not aware of their rights and a person who is not aware of their rights have little to no advantage. So the goal must be to educate and create awareness about one’s rights.

[1] Verma R.S., Rights of an Accused, Delhi (1999), page 9.

[2] Louis Henkin. Introduction in the international bill of rights, Columbia university press, 1981,page 15.

[3] Kedar Nath v. State of West Bengal, [AIR (1953) SC 404].

[4] Kaliram v. State of HP, [AIR (1973) SC 277].

[5] Sharda v. State of Maharashtra, [AIR (1984) SC 162].

[6] Blackstone, William Sir, (1723-80), Commentaries on the Laws of England, 15th Edn. 1809, Vol. 4, page 358.

[7] Francis Coralle v. Union Territory of Delhi, [AIR (1981) SC 74].

[8] Article : human rights of an accused person under criminal justice system in India -Dr. (Mrs) Deepak kaushik sharma & Mrs. Leena Chhabra

[9] Amin v. State, [ AIR (1958) All 293].

[10] Cr. LJ., 1980 Joumal Section, p.17; Verma R.S., op.cit., page1.

[11] Udaybhan Shuki vs. State of U.P. [(1999) CRI LJ 274].

[12] Nandini Satpathy V. P. L. Dani, [AIR (1978) SC1025]

[13] Powell v. Alabama, [287 US 45 (1932)].

[14] Motilal Saraf v. State of J&K, [(2007) 1 SCC (Cri) 180 ]

[15] Gauri Shankar Sharma V. State of U.P [AIR (1990) 709].

[16] M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, [AIR (1954) SC 300].

[17] As per Section 303 of CrPC and Article 22(1) of The Indian Constitution.

[18] As per Section 279 of CrPC.

[19] Black’s Law Distionary, 4th Ed, page 124.

[20] If the officer is not able to present the arrested within 24 hrs. The police officers will be charged with wrongful detention. Sharifbai v. Abdul Razak, [AIR (1961) Bom 42].

[21] Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, [ (1978) 4 SCC 409]

[22] Khatri v. State of Bihar, [AIR (1981) SC 92].

[23] Kishore Singh v. State of Rajasthan, [AIR (198)1 SC 625].

[24] Iyer, V. R. Krishna, Human Rights and Human Wrongs (1990), page 4.

This article is authored by Sharon Ann Babu, L.L.B (2019-22), student at Symbiosis Law School.

Also, Read – Can Accused Argue His Own Case Before The Court?

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