The Supreme Court has held that a High Court cannot dismiss a revision plea on the ground that the appellant’s counsel was not present, noting that an Amicus Curiae should have been appointed in such a case.
The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee passed an order to this effect while hearing a plea filed by a daily wager who was convicted under Section 25 of the Arms Act by a Judicial Magistrate First Class back in 2015.
The appellant’s conviction was upheld by the Additional District and Sessions Judge in 2017. Thereafter, he approached the Punjab & Haryana High Court through a revision plea filed by the Legal Services Authority, Rohtak.
The High Court, by its order dated February 11 this year, dismissed the revision plea for want of the presence of the appellant and his advocate. This prompted the appellant to approach the Supreme Court.
Before the Apex Court in revision plea, the appellant argued that he was a “poor daily wager,” and had been falsely implicated in the present FIR.
It was submitted that because of insufficient means/source of income, he requested the jail authorities for legal aid in filing the criminal revision before the High Court.
In his revision plea, the appellant stated that he was informed that the matter had been adjourned, and that his non-appearance was unintentional, as he was under the “genuine belief that the matter is being pursued through the learned counsel from the legal aid”.
Coming to the aid of the appellant, the Apex Court held that instead of dismissing the revision for absence of the counsel, the High Court should have appointed an Amicus. The order states,
“The High Court, in our view, was manifestly in error in rejecting the revision in default, on the ground that the appellant’s advocate had remained absent on the previous four occasions. Since the revision before the High Court arose out of an order of the conviction under the Arms Act, the High Court ought to have appointed an Amicus Curiae in the absence of counsel, who has been engaged by the Legal Services Authority, Rohtak. The liberty of a citizen cannot be taken away in this manner.”
The Court thus set aside the orders of the High Court and ordered that the revision petition be restored to the file of the High Court.
It also directed that the appellant be let out on bail, as he was granted bail during the pendency of the earlier proceedings.