“Let hundreds do unpunished but never punish an innocent one.” This is one of the cardinal principles of the criminal law which is also embodied in the provisions of the Constitution of India. The right to free and fair trial and the right to get proper representation is the essence of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14, Right to Equality, and Article 20. An accused has the following rights that are mentioned in criminal as well as constitutional laws.
- Ex-Post Facto Laws- Right of protection against ex-post-facto laws is guaranteed under Article 20(1) of the constitution. Ex-post facto laws mean laws that have been enacted after the occurrence of any act or omission. An accused cannot be punished for ex-post-facto laws or laws which will be enforced subsequently after the commission of an offence.
- Double Jeopardy- According to Article 20(2) of the constitution no person shall be punished or prosecuted for the same offence more than once. This is called the right of protection against double jeopardy.
- Self- Incrimination- Right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) means no accused person shall be compelled to give evidence against himself or herself.
- Right to produce before a magistrate without delay- According to Article 22(2) of the constitution an arrested person has a right to appear before a magistrate within 24 hours of an arrest. Moreover, according to Section 57 of CrPC, an accused arrested without a warrant by the police cannot be detained for more than 24 hours without judicial scrutiny.
The above-mentioned rights are the constitutional safeguards to an accused person but not to forget criminal laws and jurisprudence like Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which ensures protection of the rights of an accused or arrested.
- Rights of an accused female– According to Section 46 of CrPC, an accused woman has to be arrested only by the female officer, otherwise, she cannot be touched. Moreover, the arrest of a woman after sunset and before sunrise is prohibited except in exceptional circumstances.
- Right of an arrested female under medical examination [Section 53 & 54 CrPC]- When a medical examination is carried out of an accused woman then it has to be necessarily be done under the supervision of a female registered medical practitioner.
- Right of a person when an arrest is made– According to Section 46 of CrPC, no police officer has a right to cause the death of the accused and Section 49 provides that the person arrested shall not be subjected to more restraint than is necessary to prevent his escape.
- Right to get a copy of the medical report– Section 54 of CrPC provides that an accused has a right to get a copy of the medical examination report when he is examined by the medical officer in the service of Central/State government.
- Right to know the grounds of arrest– Under Section 50(1) of CrPC, whenever a person is arrested without a warrant he/she has a right to know about full particulars of the offence and the grounds of arrest. The similar, principle is embedded in Article 22(1) of the constitution, where no person may be detained without being informed about the grounds of arrest.
- Right to information regarding the right to be released on bail– Under Section 50(2) of CrPC, where police officer arrests without warrant, any person not accused of a bailable offence, it shall be mandatory for the police officer to inform the person arrested that he is entitled to be released on bail and that he may arrange sureties on his behalf.
- Right to have a lawyer– An accused or an arrested person have a right to be defended by a legal practitioner or pleader of his or her choice. This precept is embodied in article 22(1) of the Constitution as well as Section 303 of CrPC.
- Right to free legal aid– In Khatri vs. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that the State is under a constitutional mandate to provide free legal aid to an indigent accused person according to Article 21 of the constitution.
- Right of information of arrest to a nominated person– A police officer is under a mandate to inform about the arrest of the accused to his near friends and relatives and make an entry in the register maintained by them under Section 50A of CrPC.
- Right to receive a copy of the receipt after search– It is an obligation on the officer conducting a search of all the articles other necessary apparel to furnish a copy of the receipt of the articles seized as this would ensure accountability for the seizure of articles.
- Right to know charges– Section 218 of CrPC read along with Sections 228, 246, 251 of the Code, provides that for every separate offence there shall be a separate charge. An accused shall be given adequate opportunity to defend himself and the charges of accusations must be stated to him in particular.
- Right to give evidence in a language understood by the accused– According to Section 279 of CrPC, every evidence shall be given in the language understood by the accused. In the famous case of Shivanarayan Kabra vs. State of Madras , it was held that non-compliance with Section 279(1) is considered as more irregularity not visiting the trial if there was no prejudice or injustice caused to the accused person.
- Right to get copies of the police report– It is an imperative duty of the magistrate to furnish the copies of the police report and other documents to the accused free of cost under Section 207 of CrPC.
- Right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and to produce defence evidence– Though the burden of proving the guilt is entirely on the prosecution and though the law does not require the accused to lead evidence to prove his/her innocence, yet a criminal trial in which the accused is not permitted to give evidence to disprove the prosecution case, or to prove any special defence available to him, cannot be by any standard to be considered as just and fair.
- Right to get properly and fairly examined by the court Section 313 of CrPC provides for the examination of the accused by the court. Where the accused is undefended, in such cases examination by the court is of immense help to explain the facts and circumstances. In Parichat vs. State of M.P. , it was held that Section 313 requires the courts to question the accused properly and fairly so that it is brought home to the accused in clear words the exact case that the accused will have to meet, and thereby an opportunity is given to the accused to explain any such point.
- Right of an accused to be a competent witness– According to precept under section 315 of CrPC the accused may give evidence on oath in disproof of the charges against him. He can be a competent defence witness but he cannot give evidence against himself or herself.
- Right of compensation for wrongful arrest– According to Section 358 of CrPC the court may compel any person to pay compensation to another person for causing a police officer to arrest such person wrongfully.
- Right against solitary confinement– In the celebrated case of Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration , it was held that if by imposing solitary confinement there is total deprivation of camaraderie among prisoners, it would offend the principles enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution. The court noted that continuously keeping a prisoner in fetters day and night reduces a prisoner from a human being to an animal and that this treatment was cruel and against the spirit of the constitution.
- Right against inhuman treatment– In Kishore Singh vs. State of Rajasthan  the Supreme Court held that the use of the third-degree method by police is violative of Article 21 of the constitution and directed the government to take necessary steps to educate the police as to indicate a respect for the human person.
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The accused is presumed innocent until charges are proved beyond a reasonable doubt. An accused must be given fair opportunity to prove his innocence and therefore it is of utmost importance to know about the rights of an accused or arrested person to protect him from any unfair treatment and malpractices by the police or other such investigating authorities.
This article is written by Sakshi Jain and edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.