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HC raps state on convict rights

Ranchi, Aug. 2: Jharkhand High court has taken strong exception to convicts being denied their right to appeal sentences, it’s order seeking an explanation from the government prompted by one whose appeal was filed after 222 days against the specified time-frame of 60 days.

In its judgment, the court has directed the home secretary and inspector general of prisons to file an affidavit to explain why convicts’ appeals were delayed without any plausible reasons.

A division bench of Justice D.N. Patel and Justice P.P. Bhatt was hearing a criminal appeal by one Dinesh Digar.

Digar’s appeal was filed after a delay of 222 days which led the court to seek an affidavit from the two senior government officers.

The statutory time allowed for an appeal against a sentence of punishment and conviction is 60 days. Appeals filed beyond that period have to be accompanied by a separate petition for “condonation” of the delay.

The court order, passed on July 28, said it was the right of every convict to appeal against his/her imprisonment and conviction. The was guaranteed in the Constitution which mandated “equal justice and free legal aid.”

The court also directed IG (prisons) to ensure that an explanation was sought from Dumka Central Jail superintendent on why Digar’s appeal was not filed through the legal aid clinic.

The judges said that all jails in the state had a legal aid clinic and their role was to provide assistance to those convicts who cannot hire services of an advocate to contest their case.

The jail superintendent is supposed to either refer the matter to the legal aid clinic or forward the matter to Jharkhand Legal Services Authority to prefer the appeal through their panel of lawyers, the bench observed.

The court also directed the IG (prisons) to issue a circular to all jail superintendents to review the status of convicts and undertrials whose cases were not being properly represented in court.

The next hearing is on August 25.