Fair Trial as per CrPC

This is the second part of the general principles of CrPC. If you haven't read the first part (General Principles of CrPC) then you can find the link at the end of this article. It is strongly suggested to read the first part to understand the principles of a fair trial as per CrPC.

The following are the elements for a fair trial as per CrPC:

Adversary System

The adversary system of adjudication is based on giving equal opportunities to both the parties to present their case before the court. The court in such a scenario will operate as an unbiased third party who will decide as to which party has proved his case as per requirements of law.

The adversarial system provides equal opportunity to both the parties to present their case however, in a country like India with widespread illiteracy and poverty this system is usually addressed as nothing but an abstract. It is for this reason, in India the adversarial system is not adopted in its theoretical aspect and provisions were brought into force in order to facilitate legal aid to certain individuals at State’s cost who cannot afford a trial. In fact, the right to free Legal Aid and services has been recognised as an inherent and important part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Public Hearings

In order to ensure that judges adjudicating a case do not function out of personal prejudices or whimsical bais, conducting the trial openly operates as an important instrumentality in the legal system. The concept of open courts and public hearings ensures minimum objectivity and fairness in the proceedings.

It is a mandate as per Section 327 of the code of criminal procedure, that the place where the court shall be held should be an open court which is generally accessible to the public.

Impartial Judge

In order to ensure fairness in the trial, it is important to ensure that the judge adjudicating the matter should not have a conflict of interest. This requirement is expressed in the maximum “Nemo debet esse judex in propria causa” which mandates that no man ought to be a judge in his own case. This maxim has been given statutory recognition in the form of section 479 of the code of criminal procedure which prescribes that a Judge or a magistrate shall not try or commit for trial any case in which he is a party in or in which he is personally interested except with permission of the higher appellate court. It also describes that the judge shall not hear an appeal from any judgment passed by himself.

The High Court has been empowered under section 407 of the code of criminal procedure to order for an offence be inquired into or tried by any other court. When it feels that a fail and impartial trial cannot be held in the court currently dealing with the matter.

Presumption of Innocence and burden of proof

It is another essential aspect of a fair trial under the adversarial system which is based on the principle that:

“The accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

Therefore, the burden to prove that the accused is guilty of the alleged crime is positively on the prosecution and unless the prosecution has discharged this burden the court can not announce a verdict of guilty regardless of the nature of the evidence produced by Defence.

Throughout the trial that is a constant burden on the prosecution which must be discharged by proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt

Rights of Accused

The essence of a fair trial is to enable the accused to present his case in a proper manner. In order to ensure that the accused gets a fair chance to defend the allegations which have been made against him, the code of criminal procedure recognises certain rights which are available to accused during the trial.

Right to know the details of the acquisitions levied against him is essential for the accused to prepare his defence, therefore, the code of criminal procedure through several provisions guarantees to the right of accused the right to be properly informed of the allegations which have been levied against him. When the alleged offences committed by the accused are serious in nature then the court has a duty to frame the charge in writing and then also explain the charge to the accused.

The accused also has the right to be present throughout the trial so that he can comprehend the case of the prosecution, however, there is no specific provision which can be traced by to the code of criminal procedure which specifically states this right of the accused. The same is implied by other specific provisions which empower the court to dispense with the presence of the accused in some situations.

The existence of such provision in the form of section 205, 273 and 317 means that other than under those provisions, the court cannot stop the accused from being present throughout the trial.

Section 273 of the code of criminal procedure mandates that unless otherwise provided all evidence in a trial or in any other proceeding ought to be taken in the presence of the accused. If the accused is not present before the court then the evidence must be taken in the presence of his pleader.

If evidence is taken in contravention of section 273 of the code, it violates the very basic tenets of a fair trial. Furthermore, if the language of evidence which is presented before the court in the presence of accused then he is entitled to the benefit of having evidence interpreted in a language which he understands.