news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | September 18, 2014 | 06.27 pm IST

Usually, speedy court trials are an indication of an efficient judiciary. Sometimes , the reverse could also happen if justice meted out is too fast and ends up on the erroneous side.

The Madras High Court has recently released two convicts imprisoned for life after it found that the lower court that convicted them in a murder case had unduly acted, bringing to the forefront the issue of unwarranted haste in completing ‘legal aid’ court cases in the country.

Legal aid which is provided under Section 304 code of the Criminal Procedure provides free legal service for the poor who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in a case or a proceeding in a court. However, the Madras High Court has taken a Salem trial court to task for hastily charging, convicting and then sentencing three indigent suspects in the murder of a sex worker, said The Times of India.

Kannadasan, a lawyer in Chennai who is also part of the legal aid panel told The News Minute,” Lawyers are paid only around Rs. 6000 to Rs. 7000 for a case in legal aid. When some lawyers are appointed, they do not even appear for representation in the case. So when the case comes up, it is said that the advocate for the accused didn’t turn up and the case is completed.“

In the last few years, TN has witnessed a phenomenon where trials of many such cases in district cases have been convicted in thirty or forty days.

However, Sudha Ramalingam, another senior lawyer said that it was only in civil cases that sometimes legal aid lawyers don’t turn up. “In criminal cases, the lawyers have to make an appearance,” she said.

In the case that the Madras High Court took up, three people, a rag picker Paulraj, trader Kannadasan and an autodriver Balamurugan were picked up in 2009 for the murder of a woman, who they allegedly smothered, killed and buried on the river bed in Annadanapatti village in Salem. One of them, Kannadasan died in prison while Balamurugan did not file an appeal. The other person convicted, Paulraj's case was brought to court by an advocate Philip Ravindran Jesudoss, said TOI.

The timeframe in which the trial was completed was very swift. The chargesheet against the accused was filed in three days, The following day, charges were framed and the trial began. August 15 and 16 were holidays and within the next three days all three accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, said TOI.

“It is not that speedy trials cannot be conducted. I have conducted a trial in 14 days. I was an advocate for the accused and I got an acquittal. It can be speedy but it should be conducted in the right manner, “ said Kannadasan, the lawyer.

The case in question here was not eligible to be dealt with that swiftly as even the pillow and clothes seized from the accused were not handed in for forensic examination, said The Hindu.

The issue of fair justice provided to the poor is under question here. “In the name of legal aid, lawyers are appointed. They are mere spectators. They only ask questions as a formality,” said Kannadasan.

Generally, courts have to complete a certain number of cases in a month. “Every five years or ten years a report is made of how many cases a court hears and closes,” he said.

To perform legal aid, lawyers need to develop a social-serviced mind, said Kannadasan. “ If they think about money alone, then nothing can be done,” he said.

“Will this happen to the rich and influential in this country,” asked the Madras Division Bench of Justices S. Rajeswaran and P.N. Prakash which released the convicts bringing in the larger question of the disparity in providing just, unhurried justice between the rich and the poor. In a country where cases linger in court rooms for decades, it is only fair that fast or slow, justice is provided without ambiguity.

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