Legal Aid matters: Supreme Court issues directions to ensure quality assistance

The Bench noted that it has been witness to similar situations of incomplete records being furnished in legal aid matters.
Legal Aid matters: Supreme Court issues directions to ensure quality assistance
Delhi State Legal Services Authority - DSLSA

Expressing concern over incomplete records being furnished to Amicus Curiae and counsel engaged by the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the apex court issued directions to ensure quality assistance in legal aid matters (Kailash Thakan v. State of Rajasthan).

The Division Bench of Justices UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat was hearing a special leave petition in which Advocate-on-Record Karan Bharihoke sought adjournment on the ground that the complete record of documents related to the instant case was yet to be furnished to him.

"Mr. Bharihoke submits that at the stage of filing of the petition, the record in the matter including the depositions of the relevant witnesses was not given… when he requested the record, some documents were given to him but not the complete record," the Court noted.

Observing that similar situations of incomplete records of cases have persisted, the Supreme Court issued the following directions to ensure adequate assistance in legal aid matters:

  1. As and when any legal assistance either through the panel of Amicus Curiae maintained by the Registry of this Court or through the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee is sought for, complete record of the case in digital form must be sent by the State Legal Services Authority or the High Court Legal Services Committee.

  2. The concerned State Legal Services Authority or the High Court Legal Services Committee must also share other relevant material and documents such as Custody Certificate disclosing the length of custody undergone by the accused.

  3. The State Legal Services Authority or the High Court Legal Services Committee must thus ensure that the entire material including the record and documents as stated above are shared with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or the Amicus Curiae Cell in the Registry of this Court so that adequate representation on behalf of the concerned accused is facilitated.

  4. Whenever any matters are received from the State Legal Services Authority or the High Court Legal Services Committee, the Amicus Curiae Cell in the Registry of this Court or the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee must ensure that the digital version of the record is shared with the concerned counsel.

Lastly, the Bench directed that a copy of these directions be sent to all State Legal Services Authorities, High Court Legal Services Committees as well as the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

[Read Judgment]

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