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The Calcutta High Court recently made it mandatory for judges across the state to inform the convicts about their right to appeal and legal aid while disposing of a case.
An appeal was filed by one Ms. Malati Sardar whose appeal took six years to reach the court due to non-appointment of a lawyer on her behalf.
Justice Joymalya Bagchi in an Appeal held that, “under such circumstances, I am of the opinion that a procedure is required to be laid down so that legal aid/assistance to every convict to prefer appeal against judgment and order of conviction and sentence is probably intimated to him at the time of delivery of judgment itself so that the fundamental right to legal assistance may be effectively availed of as a vibrant reality and does become a distant mirage in the insert letters of legal classics.”
Considering this, the court has issued following directions-
The judge while giving a judgment of conviction and sentence shall inform the convict in the language in which he understands about his right to prefer an appeal and his right to avail of legal aid. In matters where the convict want to prefer an appeal with legal aid, the judge is under an obligation from the appropriate legal services authority attached to the appellate court for necessary steps in the matter.
The fact that the right to prefer an appeal has been duly communicated to the convict shall be duly mentioned at the footnote of every judgment. Superintendent of the correctional home where the convict is residing is also required to communicate to the convict about his right to prefer an appeal and free legal aid. In the event, the convict desires to prefer an appeal with legal aid, the Superintendent shall remit necessary papers.
Secretary of the concerned legal services authority attached to the appellate court on receipt of the papers from the trial judge of the correction home authorities, as the case may be, shall immediately but not later than seven days appoint a lawyer from its panel who has sufficient knowledge and expertise to deal with such cases, to prefer and prosecute the appeal on the behalf of the appellant.
The lawyer so appointed is required to interview the convict in the correction home, file necessary pleadings in the court and prosecute the appeal as per the law. He is also required to submit his quarterly reports to the secretary of the concerned legal service authority as steps taken by him and the status of his appeal till its disposal.
Secretary, State Legal Services Authority shall circulate a copy of this order to all the Secretaries of the District and Sub-divisional Legal Services Authorities and give wide publicity to these directions amongst the general public for prompt and effective implementation of such directions.
Department is directed to communicate this order to the Director General of Correctional Services, West Bengal, who shall communicate this order to the Superintendents of all the Correctional Homes in the State of West Bengal for prompt and effective implementation of the directions.”
Registrar General of the High Court is directed to circulate a copy of this order to every judicial officer in the State of West Bengal to ensure that the aforesaid directions are duly complied with. He shall also initiate the procedure for amendment for criminal rules and orders.
Necessary amendments may be made to Chapter X of the Calcutta High Court Criminal (Subordinate Courts) Rules, 1985 so that such duty is imposed on the trial Judge at the time of delivery of judgment.