By: Gunjan Basrani
In the Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra|
|CITATION||AIR 1978 SCC 1548, (1978) 3 SCC 544.|
|DATE OF THE CASE||17th August, 1978|
|APPELLEANT||Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot|
|RESPONDENT||State of Maharashtra|
|BENCH/JUDGES||Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Justice D.A. Desai Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy|
|LEGAL PROVISIONS||Sections 417, 467, 468, 471, and 511 of Indian Penal Code. Section 304 and Section 363 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Articles 19, 21, 22, 136, 142 and 39-A of the Constitution of India.|
India is a country of wide spread illiteracy and because of the prevailing illiteracy the majority of the people are not aware of their legal system and about their constitutional rights. People who are aware of their legal system and constitutional rights are not in a condition to utilize them because of their economic and social backwardness. They are unable to avail the services of the legal counsel in case of the violation of their rights as it has become the costly affairs. Therefore, the Parliament of India incorporated Article 39-A of the Constitution of India by the 42nd Amendment of Constitution in 1976 to impart free legal aid to the diverse sections of the population.
According to P.N. Baghwati, “The legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society so that the missionary of administration of justice becomes easily accessible and is not out of reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement of its given to them by law, the poor and illiterate should be able to approach the courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining justice from the courts. Legal aid should be available to the poor and illiterate, who don’t have access to courts. One need not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid.” In simple words, Legal Aid implies giving free legal assistance to the poverty-stricken masses who cannot avail the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority. It is a constitutional right as it is guaranteed by Article 21 and 39-A of the Constitution of India.
The landmark judgement in the case of Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra established the importance of the legal aid and assistance in India.
At the time of formulation of Constitution of India, all the aspects, importance, and necessity of human’s life upliftment was considered as the motto of Constitution. Out of all this, the rights and duties of every individual was kept on dominant side. Every person is eligible to live with his rights and justice, what should be granted when needed. Free legal aid and assistance is one of the vital issues that was not properly confronted in the texts of Constitution at the initial stage of formation of Constitution. Several cases were held, several judgments were passed regarding the supremacy of the rights
Taking in the view, the precedent, Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, Article 19 along with Article 21 as in the case, the bench observed that fair legal procedures are included in the personal liberty of any individual of India. So as in this case what we are going to discuss gave the landmark decision on the free legal aid and assistance that should be provided to the prisoner or any person who is poor or needy. According to the Articles 142 read with Article 21 and 39-A of the Constitution of India that the Constitution gives the power to the Courts to assign a lawyer for the imprisoned individual for full justice if the prisoner sentenced punishment of imprisonment is unable to perform his statutory or constitutional right of appeal including special permission to appear.
Later on, various cases were discussed on the rights of prisoners and right to live with dignity in jail, for instance, the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar but the main ingredients to all these certain aftermath cases can be solved by this very case of M.H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra (1978).
FACTS OF THE CASE
The Petitioner, Dr. Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot was a Reader in Saurashtra University who maintained to be a M.Sc and Ph.D holder. He was booked for the felony of venturing to concoct degree-certificates of the University and he was convicted of a grave crime under Sections 417, 467, 471 and 511 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was condemned to simple lifetime confinement and a penalty on the ground that he belonged to a middle-class family, that the modern emphasis is on the corrective aspect of punishment which cannot be ignored and that the Public Prosecutor had no objection to the light sentence.
Thereupon, the Appellant and the State, both lodged discrete appeals in the High Courts. The Appellant argued against his conviction while the State filed the suit for increasing the sentence of imprisonment. The High Court enunciated the judgement in 1973 dismissing the plea of the Appellant and increasing the imprisonment for three years.
A Special Leave Petition was filed by the petitioner in the Supreme Court of India after four years of the judgement of the High Court, i.e., in 1978. This delay is reasoned due to the late delivery of the copy of the judgement to the petitioner by the High Court.
ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
- Whether the Special Leave Petition by the petitioner is maintainable in the Supreme Court or not?
- Whether the Right to Free Legal Aid is covered under Article 21 of the Constitution of India?
Arguments from the Petitioner’s Side
- The learned counsel from the petitioner’s side contended that on December 10, 1973, the petitioner requested for the copy of the verdict of High Court through the jail administrations under Section 363(2) and Section 387 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, the copy of the judgement was never delivered to him.
- It was further argued that as a result of non-delivery of the documents the petitioner lost his right to appeal through Special Leave Petition and the petitioner was forced to come up with a condonation petition after obtaining another certified copy from the High Court.
- The learned counsel also highlighted the fact that there was no signature of the petitioner on the register for receiving the copy of the judgement. Hence, it is evident that the copy of the judgement was never handed over to the petitioner.
Arguments from the Respondent’s Side:
- The learned counsel from the respondent’s side argued that his client was not responsible for the delay.
- It was contended that a clerk did dispatch the copy of the verdict of the High Court but later on it was taken back on the grounds that it needs to be enclosed with a mercy petition to the Government for remission of sentence.
- As a result of the aforementioned fact, the copy of the judgement was delivered to the petitioner in 1978.
PROVISIONS RELATED TO THE CASE
The Constitution of India, 1949
- Article 19
Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India guarantees to the citizens of India the following six fundamental freedoms:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression
- Freedom of Assembly
- Freedom to form Association or Unions or Co-operative Societies
- Freedom of Movement
- Freedom to Reside and Settle
- Freedom of Profession, Occupation, Trade or Business
The restrictions on these freedoms are provided in clauses 2 to 6 of Article 19 of the Constitution.
- Article 21
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees protection of life and personal liberty. It states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
- Article 22
Article 22 provides protection against arbitrary arrest and detention.
- Article 39-A
The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
- Article 136
Under Article 136, the Supreme Court in its discretion may grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter, passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India. This is called ‘Special Leave Petition’ (SLP).
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Section 304
Legal aid to accused at State expense in certain cases.
(1) Where, in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader, the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State.
(2) The High Court may, with the previous approval of the State Government, make rules providing for-
(a) the mode of selecting pleaders for defence under sub- section (1);
(b) the facilities to be allowed to such pleaders by the Courts;
(c) the fees payable to such pleaders by the Government, and generally, for carrying out the purposes of sub- section (1).
(3) The State Government may, by notification, direct that, as from such date as may be specified in the notification, the provisions of sub- sections (1) and (2) shall apply in relation to any class of trials before other Courts in the State as they apply in relation to trials before Courts of Session.
- Section 363
Copy of judgement to be given to the accused and other persons.
(1) When the accused is sentenced to imprisonment, a copy of the judgment shall, immediately after the pronouncement of the judgment, be given to him free of cost.
(2) On the application of the accused, a certified copy of the judgment, or when he so desires, a translation in his own language if practicable or in the language of the Court, shall be given to him without delay, and such copy shall, in every case where the judgment is appealable by the accused, be given free of cost: Provided that where a sentence of death is passed or confirmed by the High Court, a certified copy of the judgment shall be immediately given to the accused free of cost whether or not he applies for the same.
(3) The provisions of sub- section (2) shall apply in relation to an order under section 117 as they apply in relation to a judgment which is appealable by the accused.
(4) When the accused is sentenced to death by any Court and an appeal lies from such judgment as of right, the Court shall inform him of the period within which, if he wishes to appeal, his appeal should be preferred.
(5) Save as otherwise provided in sub- section (2), any person affected by a judgment or order passed by a Criminal Court shall, on an application made in this behalf and on payment of the prescribed charges, be given a copy of such judgment or order or of any deposition or other part of the record: Provided that the Court may, if it thinks fit for some special reason, give it to him free of cost.
(6) The High Court may, by rules, provide for the grant of copies of any judgment or order of a Criminal Court to any person who is not affected by a judgment or order, on payment, by such person, of such fees, and subject to such conditions, as the High Court may, by such rules, provide.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Section 417
Punishment for cheating: Whoever cheats shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
- Section 467
Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.: Whoever forges a document which purports to be a valuable security or a will, or an authority to adopt a son, or which purports to give authority to any person to make or transfer any valuable security, or to receive the principal, interest or dividends thereon, or to receive or deliver any money, movable property, or valuable security, or any document purporting to be an acquittance or receipt acknowledging the payment of money, or an acquittance or receipt for the delivery of any movable property or valuable security, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
- Section 471
Using as genuine a forged [document or electronic record]: Whoever fraudulently or dishonestly uses as genuine any [document or electronic record] which he knows or has reason to believe to be a forged [document or electronic record], shall be punished in the same manner as if he had forged such [document or electronic record].
- Section 511
Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code says that the punishment for attempting to commit offences is punishable with the imprisonment for life or other imprisonments. It says that whosoever attempts to commit an offence will be punishable under this section either with the imprisonment or life imprisonment. If any attempt did for the commission of an offence then there will be no provision made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, he will be punished for the imprisonment for the provided term which may extend to the one-half for the life or with a fine provided for the offence or by both.
“One component of fair procedure is natural justice.”
In the case of Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra, the concept of free legal was discussed and concluded to be the part of the Indian Constitution. In this case, a Special Leave Petition was filed by the petitioner after four years of the verdict of High Court as the copy of the judgement was furnished to the petitioner after four years of the judgement.
The Supreme Court rejected the Special Leave Petition pleaded by the petitioner as the Court could not meddle with the concurrent findings of the two lower Courts. The Court further discussed Article 21 in this reference. It asserted that ‘freedom is what freedom does’ and Article 21 states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law” means the procedure which is fair and reasonable. Hence, the first appeal to the High Court from the Sessions Court demonstrates the value sustained in Article 21.
The Court also accentuated that the fair legal procedures is an essential part of Article 21 as illustrated in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India. Fair legal procedure includes Right to Appeal which consists of two essential ingredients: (1) service of a copy of a judgement to the prisoner in the time enable him to file an appeal, and (2) provision of free legal service to a prisoner who is indigent or otherwise disabled from securing legal assistance and these are the State responsibilities under Article 21. Hence, any Jailor who deliberately withholds the copy of the judgement and interfere the process of the Court violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Court further laid emphasis on Article 142 read with Article 21 and 39-A of the Constitution which empower the Court to allot lawyer for the imprisoned individual for full justice if the prisoner sentenced punishment of imprisonment is unable to perform his statutory or constitutional right of appeal including special permission to appear.
In the case of Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra, the petitioner was convicted under Sections 417, 467, 471 and 511 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and was condemned to simple lifelong imprisonment till the rising of the Court and a fine. Thereafter, two petitions were filed one by the State and on by the petitioner in the High Court. The High Court dismissed the petition of the petitioner and increased the term of imprisonment to three years. The petitioner knocked the door of the Supreme Court through Special Leave Petition in 1978. Although the High Court gave its judgement in 1973. This delay was due to the late delivery of the copy of the judgement to the petitioner. The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition yet it thought it appropriate to discuss and highlight the provision of free legal aid and assistance.
In my opinion, the judgement is pertinent as the case not only discuss about the position of the free legal aid and assistance in India but it goes to an extent and discuss about the right to appeal of the prisoner, duties of the authorities in furnishing the copies of the verdict and the duty of the State to provide legal services.
 https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-82-legal-aid-and-awareness-in-india-issues-and-challenges.html [last visited on May 19, 2022]
 https://www.legisscriptor.com/post/m-h-hoskot-v-state-of-maharashtra-1978-air-1548-1979-scr-1-192 [last visited on May 19, 2022]
 Supra note 2.
 https://lawtimesjournal.in/madhav-hayawadanrao-hoskot-vs-state-of-maharashtra/ [last visited on May 20, 2022]
 Supra note 2.
 Supra Note 3.
 Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India,1949.
 Article 21 of the Constitution of India,1949.
 Article 22 of the Constitution of India, 1949.
 Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, 1949.
 Article 136 of the Constitution of India, 1949.
 Section 304(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 304(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 304(3) of the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 363(6) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
 Section 417 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
 Section 467 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 Section 471 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
 Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1949.
 Supra note 2.
 JN Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, 325 (55th Edition)
 Supra note 2.