Rights of accused in criminal trials
Rights of accused in a criminal trial
As per the principles of criminal law, a person is considered to be innocent until he is proven as guilty.
The legal maxim here to be noted is– “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat”. This literally means– the onus of proof is on the one who declares, and not on the one who denies.
This is what correctly defines why is it important for having the rights of accused persons. Definition under various criminal laws, points out that each person has certain basic human rights.
There are a few fundamental rights of an accused person under the constitution of India. These rights are given to everyone, irrespective of the fact that a particular person is accused of a crime.
Thus, till the time the crime is not conclusively proven, there are certain rights of persons accused of crimes. In India, these rights to the accused are given in the famous frame of – ‘Let hundreds go unpunished, but never punish an innocent person’.
Rights for accused at different stages
An accused has rights at different stages under the criminal justice system. These include:
The rights of an arrested person before the commencement of his trial in court
The rights of an accused at the time of his trial in court
The rights of an arrested person post the completion of his trial in court
Pre trial rights
Pre trial rights are the rights of a person who is accused of a crime such that his freedom and liberty are not affected. At this point of time, an FIR is filed in the police station on the basis of which the police arrests a person and also searches his property. The following rights are granted here:
Right to know regarding the accusations and charges framed: Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, the rights of an arrested person under CrPC include to know the details of the offence and the charges filed against him/her.
Right against wrongful arrest: The rights of accused in India are provided only in cases where a warrant is issued. Section 57 of Criminal Procedure Code and Article 22(2) of Constitution provides rights of accused in CrPC, that he/she must be produced before a Judicial Magistrate within time frame of 24 hours of arrest.
Right against self-incrimination: A person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. This is expressly given under article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution.
Right against double jeopardy: A person cannot be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. This is also as per article 20(2) of the Constitution of India.
Bail as an important right of accused in India: The right of an accused person allows them to file a bail application to be released from the Custody of police in jail. There are three kinds of bail under Indian legal system- anticipatory bail, interim bail and bail by a bond. A bail application for normal or simple bail can be filed only in case of bailable offences. However, it is important to be known that a person can also file an anticipatory bail through his lawyer, before he is arrested.
Right to legal aid: This is an important right wherein the rights of an accused person allows him to hire a lawyer to defend them and in case, he is not able to hire a lawyer, the State has to provide free legal aid to him for his representation in court.
Right to a free and expeditious trial: The rights of accused in India has the right to fair trial in India and an expeditious trial, which shall be free from any bias or prejudice
Rights of accused during trial
The Right to be present in court during a trial: Section 273 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that all evidences and statements must be recorded in the presence of the accused or his appointed lawyer.
Right to get the copies of Documents: It is the rights of accused person in criminal trial to receive copies of all the documents filed by the prosecutor in relation to the case.
Right to be considered as innocent until proven guilty: The accused has the right to be considered innocent until his guilt is been proven in the court on the basis of evidence and statements by witnesses.
Post trial rights of the accused
Rights of the accused, in case he is declared innocent: When a person is declared as innocent and is acquitted by the court, the following rights are given to him:
Accused persons has a right to get a copy of the judgment: After acquittal, the accused is declared innocent but he has the complete right to get a copy of the judgement of the court which expressly declared the accused to be not guilty.
Right to receive protection from police if there are reasons to believe there is a threat to his life post-acquittal: Many a times it happens that even after acquittal of the accused, there is a threat to life of him from the prosecution if they are not satisfied by the judgement of the court. As a result, the accused receives threat from them. In such cases, it is the right of the acquitted person to claim protection from police against such persons giving threats.
Thus studying the various rights of the accused in criminal cases, it can be concluded that the accused has certain rights that are expressly granted by the Code of Criminal Procedure and also the Constitution of India grants the protection of fundamental rights of the accused. Article 21 is the most basic right of an individual and the accused is no exception.
These are the rights that the accused can not be deprived of under the criminal justice system. The judiciary is the protector of the rights of the citizens and any violation of such rights of the accused will lead to a strict action by the judiciary.
Article by Rahul Mishra
Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law