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Courts cannot adopt a hyper technical approach when hearing appeal against conviction filed by poor person or his family & by a person in custody- Delhi HC

Delhi High Court set aside the order of appellate court whereby it had dismissed an appeal filed by ‘person in custody’ due to a delay of 220 days in filing and reinstate the appeal to the Court of Additional Session Judge for hearing.

Learned Single Judge Sanjeev Sachdeva was hearing the Plea filed against the order of the appellate court which had dismissed the appeal of the petitioner solely on the ground of limitation.

In the background of the case, petitioner had filed an appeal before the appellate court challenging the Judgment & Order on Sentence wherein he was convicted for an offence under Section 392 IPC (Punishment for Robbery) and directed to undergo imprisonment for three years and to pay a fine of Rs 5000/-. The appellate court had refused to condone the delay and rejected the appeal, holding that sufficient cause had not been shown. Appellate Court noticed that the petitioner had been represented before the trial court by a private counsel and disbelieved his contention that he did not have sufficient funds to engage a private counsel.

Petitioner before the Delhi High Court in his review petition contended that he is a poor person and was incarcerated and his wife also uneducated and was not in position to arrange funds to engage a counsel and was not aware that she could approach legal aid for filing the petition. Subsequently, she approached the legal aid and the review petition has been filed through legal aid.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said, “In my view, the appellate court has committed an error in not condoning the delay. The trial court in its Order on Sentence has noticed that the petitioner has two minor children besides his wife and old parents and he is the sole bread earner of the family. The fact that the petitioner was represented by a private counsel before the trial court would not ispo facto implies that he had sufficient funds to engage a private counsel or appropriate legal advice to file an appeal within limitation”.

“Courts have to take a liberal approach, when appeals against conviction are filed, with some delay, by persons who are in custody. Delay does not work to the advantage of the person incarcerated. People who are incarcerated do not have the advantage that a free person has, of approaching a counsel and taking legal advice at one own free will. We live in a society where the families of a poor person in custody and families of those coming from remote areas of the country are not even aware of their legal rights and even if aware, may not have the capacity or resources to approach a counsel for legal advice or approach courts for legal aid. Courts cannot adopt a hyper technical approach, while considering an application seeking condonation of delay filed against conviction by a person in custody”, observed Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva.

Any delay in filing an appeal would be detrimental to a person who is in custody. Clearly the order of the Appellate Court in rejecting the appeal of the petitioner is erroneous and the finding that sufficient cause was not shown by the petitioner in approaching the Appellate Court is not sustainable”, said Delhi HC while setting aside the impugned order.

Read Judgment Here.

– India Legal Bureau

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