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Why HC directs govt to pay compensation for death

The Orissa HC directs the state to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to parents of deceased.



In a well-written, well-reasoned, well-articulated and well-worded judgement titled Purna Chandra Mohapatra and Another vs State of Odisha & Others in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13774 of 2005 that was delivered as recently as on January 27, 2021, the Orissa High Court has rightly directed that a sum of Rs 5 lakh be paid by the State of Odisha to one Purna Chandra Mohapatra and his wife as compensation for the avoidable death of Manoj (their son), while in their custody, on account of their (police) negligence. The State cannot exonerate itself from its liability on this score. This alone explains why the Orissa High Court has taken them to task in this leading case as was merited also!

To start with, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr S Muralidhar who authored this brilliant, bold and blunt judgment for himself and Justice Biswajit Mohanty of the Orissa High Court while stating the object of the petition sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “This writ petition was filed on 7th November, 2005 seeking, inter alia, the compensation of Rupees four lakhs to be paid to the Petitioners for the alleged custodial death of their son Manoj Kumar Mohapatra (Manoj).”

To be sure, it is then rightly stated in para 2 that, “The Petitioners had earlier filed W.P.(Crl) No. 407 of 2005 on 25th October, 2005 in this Court where the prayer was for directing the Opposite Parties to show cause as to why no action has been taken on the basis of the F.I.R. filed by the Petitioners against Opposite Party No.3 (Inspector-in-Charge, Dhenkanal Town Police Station) and seeking a fair investigation of the case. That petition, which was to be heard with the present petition was, however, dismissed for non-prosecution on 28th August, 2017.”

While laying the background, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “As far as present writ petition is concerned, it was pointed out that a representation had been made by the Petitioners on 7th June, 2005 to the District Superintendent of Police, Dhenkanal to take strong action against the concerned police personnel of the Town Police Station (PS) of Dhenkanal. The Petitioners’ case was that their son Manoj was returning home at about 2 am on 6th June, 2005 from watching a ‘melody concert’ performed at Minabazar, when the Inspector-in-Charge (IIC) of the Town PS, accompanied by some other policemen, forcibly took him to the PS. The next morning at 10.30 am the Police informed the Petitioners that Manoj had been taken to Sadar Hospital, Dhenkanal. After the Petitioners reached the Sadar Hospital, on the advice of the doctors there, Manoj was taken to the SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack by a medical ambulance. Unfortunately, he died on the way. The case of the Petitioners is that he died due to brutal torture by the Dhenkanal Police.”

To say the least, it is then stated in para 4 that, “The Petitioners have also placed on record a copy a fact-finding report of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties of Dhenkanal and Cuttack treating this to be a custodial death and calling for fair investigation to the F.I.R. No. 145 dated 7th June, 2005 under Section 302/34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then mentions in para 5 that, “The Investigating Officer (IO) Shri Ramakrishna Panda, Inspector of Police, filed a counter affidavit dated 18th April, 2006 in this Court. The version of the Police is that the deceased had entered into a foreign liquor shop in a drunken state by making a hole in the asbestos roof; that he fell down from the roof to the floor and thereafter started making unusual sounds. This attracted the police patrolling party. The shop was thereafter opened and Manoj was brought to the PS in the early hours of 7th June, 2005 and kept in the verandah for verification. At about 8.50 am when Manoj complained of pain in his abdomen and started vomiting, he was shifted to Dhenkanal Headquarters Hospital for treatment.”

Truth be told, it is then stated in para 6 that, “The affidavit states that during the post-mortem examination, six external injuries were detected, all of which were ante-mortem. However, no injuries were mentioned in the bed head ticket of the deceased while he was admitted to the Hospital. It is stated that as it was a case of custodial death, the State Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC), Odisha took charge of the investigation from the local police on 8th June, 2005. In paragraph 6 of the affidavit, it is stated as under :

“6. That it is respectfully submitted that the process of post-mortem was Video recorded. During investigation none has stated that neither Gyan Behera nor any police officer assaulted the accused-victim inside the Police Station. During investigation no evidence of assault to the deceased by the local police has been established. The Police noticed no external injury when the victim was brought to the Police Station. No third degree method and torture was applied to the deceased. As per the guidelines of NHRC the case is under investigation by the State HRPC and the investigation is under progress.””

What ensued next is then stated in para 7 that, “Thereafter, it appears that nothing substantial happened in the petition. For some reason, it appears to have not even been listed once between 2006 and 2019. Unfortunately, everyone, including the counsel for the Petitioners, appear to have slipped into a collective amnesia. It appears that on 4th December, 2019 an affidavit was filed by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), H.R.P.C., and Odisha, in which at paragraph 3 it is stated as under:

“3. That it is humbly submitted that pursuant to the direction of Addl. Director General of Police, State HRPC, Odisha, Cuttack, the matter was investigated by Sri Rabindranath Mohanty as I.O. in Dhenkanal Police Case No. 145 of 2005. After necessary investigation, on 26.12.2008 final report was submitted as Mistake of Fact, under section 302/34 IPC vide Final Form No. 193/08, dated 26.12.2008 and submitted the same before the learned S.D.J.M., Dhenkanal.””

As it turned out, the Bench then states in para 8 that, “A copy of the Final Report dated 26th December, 2008 submitted before the S.D.J.M., Dhenkanal has been enclosed with the affidavit of the DSP. What is clear from the report is that Manoj was brought to the PS in an inebriated condition at 3.20 am on 7th June, 2005. The report states that Manoj ‘was made to sit on the P.S. verandah and was detailed there with an impression that he was under influence of liquor and will be interrogated after coming to normal condition.’ (emphasis supplied) The inescapable conclusion is that although Manoj was brought to the PS admittedly at 3.20 am, and in a physically precarious condition, for over five and a half hours thereafter i.e. till 8.50 am no one bothered to even attend to him. According to the affidavit, when Sub-Inspector Harmohan Nayak returned to the PS after investigating some other case, and started interrogating Manoj, the latter complained of pain in his abdomen and ‘babbled’. It is only then, at 9 am, he was shifted to the hospital for treatment.”

Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 11 that, “Indeed it appears from the copy of the proceedings before the SDJM that despite the Petitioners having been served with the notice in the proceedings on 26th December, 2008 itself, they did not participate and file a protest petition. It appears that on 26th November, 2010 that one Sri O.P. Saran, Advocate appeared on their behalf before the learned SDJM and filed his vakalatnama. Thereafter, several hearings took place in 2011 and 2012 before the SDJM during which the Petitioners and their counsel remained absent. The last order was passed by the learned SDJM on 25th November, 2012 accepting the final closure report submitted by the IO. The final report was that it was ‘a mistake of fact’. In the absence of any protest petition, the said report was accepted by the SDJM, Dhenkanal. The position that emerged at the conclusion of the investigation was that there was nothing to prove that the death was a ‘custodial death’ caused by the police.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 12 that, “However, this does not absolve the police of their responsibilities of ensuring timely medical help to a person, who had obviously been arrested and brought in a condition of pain into the Town PS at Dhenkanal at 3.20 am on 7th June, 2005. When on their own showing the police on breaking open the foreign liquor shop found the deceased on the floor writhing in pain, there was no justification in keeping him in the PS in their custody without any medical attention from 3.20 am to 9 am. This was nothing but negligence, plainly inexcusable. The very serious cranio-cerebral injuries suffered by the deceased, even if it was due to the fall inside the shop from the roof as alleged by the Police, required immediate attention. Manoj should have been immediately rushed for medical treatment. The six hour delay was obviously fatal.”

In addition, it is then also clarified in para 13 that, “The law in regard to the liability of state functionaries for acts of negligence has been well settled in a series of decisions, many of which deal with deaths of persons while in judicial custody. These would apply with equal force to a situation of proven case of death while in police custody as a result of negligence of the police. Once a person is in the custody of the police, the security of that person’s life and liberty is in their hands. They are answerable for whatever happens to the person in their custody.”

Now coming to the relevant case laws, the Bench then states in para 14 that, “Among the early decisions of the Supreme Court dealing with the living conditions of under trial prisoners is D Bhuvan Mohan Patnaik v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1975) 3 SCC 185, where Chandrachud, J. (as the Learned Chief Justice of India then was) held as under (SCC @ 188):

“The security of one’s person against an arbitrary encroachment by the police is basic to a free society and prisoners cannot be thrown at the mercy of policemen as if it were a part of an unwritten law of crimes. Such intrusions are against the very essence of a scheme of ordered liberty. … No person, not even a prisoner, can be deprived of his ‘life’ or ‘personal liberty’ except according to procedure established by law. The American Constitution by the 5th and 14th Amendments provides, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without the due process of law”. Explaining the scope of this provision, Field J. observed in Munn v. Illinois (1877) 94 US 113 that the term “life” means something more than mere animal existence and the inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limits and faculties by which life is enjoyed. This statement of the law was approved by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Kharak Singh v. The State of UP AIR 1963 SC 1295.””

Furthermore, it is then added in para 15 that, “Justice Krishna Iyer reiterated the essentiality of fundamental rights for jail inmates in Charles Sobraj v. Superintendent, Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi (1978) 4 SCC 104 in the following passage (SCC @ 109-110):

“If a whole atmosphere of constant fear of violence frequent torture and denial of opportunity to improve oneself is created or if medical facilities and basic elements of care and comfort necessary to sustain life are refused then also the humane jurisdiction of the court will become operational based on Article 19. … prisoners retain all rights enjoyed by free citizens except those lost necessarily as an incident of confinement. Moreover, the rights enjoyed by prisoners under Articles 14, 19 and 21, though limited, are not static and will rise to human heights when challenging situations arise.””

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then holds in para 16 that, “A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court took serious note of the treatment meted out to undertrials, convicts and those awaiting death penalty in the case of Sunil Batra (I) v. Delhi Administration (1978) 4 SCC 494. The majority held as under (SCC @ 568):

“It is no more open to debate that convicts are not wholly denuded of their fundamental rights. No iron curtain can be drawn between the prisoner and the Constitution. Prisoners are entitled to all constitutional rights unless their liberty has been constitutionally curtailed [see Procunier v. Martinex 40 L Ed 2d 224 at 248 (1974)]. However, a prisoner’s liberty is in the very nature of things circumscribed by the very fact of his confinement. His interest in the limited liberty left to him is then all the more substantial.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then brings out in para 17 that, “In Neelabati Behera v. State of Orissa (1993) 2 SCC 746 it was reiterated that prisoners and detenues are not denuded of their fundamental rights under Article 21 and only such restrictions as are permitted by law can be imposed on them. It was held:

“It is axiomatic that convicts, prisoners or undertrials are not denuded of their fundamental rights under Article 21 and its is only such restrictions, as are permitted by law, which can be imposed on the enjoyment of the fundamental right by such persons. It is an obligation of the State to ensure that there is no infringement of the indefeasible rights of a citizen o life, except in accordance with law, while the citizen is in its custody. The precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution of India cannot be denied to convicts, undertrials or other prisoners in custody, expect according to procedure established by law. There is a great responsibility on the police or prison authorities to ensure that the citizen in its custody is not deprived of his right to life. His liberty is in the very nature of things circumscribed by the very fact of his confinement and therefore his interest in the limited liberty left to him is rather precious. The duty of care on the part of the State is responsible if the person in custody of the police is deprived of his life except according to the procedure established by law.””

Significantly, the Bench then holds in para 18 that, “These decisions were in cases of custodial deaths or violence while the victims were in police or judicial custody. The liability of state functionaries for acts of omission or commission constituting constitutional tort was extended to deaths or violence that occurred, not necessarily at the hands of the officials, but while in their custody. One such decision was In re Death of Sawinder Singh Grover [1995 Supp (4) SCC, 450. There, the detenu, while in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and during interrogation, jumped to his death. On the ground that the death took place while he was in their custody, the Supreme Court, after getting an enquiry conducted by the Additional District Judge, which disclosed a prima facie case for investigation and prosecution, directed both the Union of India as well as the ED to pay Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation to the widow of the deceased.”

Equally significant is what is then stated in para 19 that, “In the landmark decision D K Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 1 SCC 416, the Supreme Court observed pertinently:

“Does a citizen shed off his fundamental right to life, the moment a policeman arrests him? Can the right to life of a citizen be put in abeyance on his arrest? These questions touch the spinal court of human rights jurisprudence. The answer, indeed, has to be an emphatic ‘No’. The precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be denied to convicted undertrials, detenues and other prisoners in custody, except according to the procedure established by law by placing such reasonable restrictions as are permitted by law.””

While drawing attention to prisoners plight, the Bench then brings out in para 20 that, “In Rama Murthy v. State of Karnataka (1997) 2 SCC 642, the Supreme Court took note of a letter petition by a prisoner in Central Jail, Bangalore. It issued several directions to improve the living conditions of inmates. Among the major problems it identified as afflicting the system and which needed immediate attention was, apart from overcrowding, delay in trial, torture and ill-treatment, “neglect of health and hygiene”. On neglect of health care facilities, the Court observed as under: (SCC @ 657)

“(S)ociety has an obligation towards prisoners’ health for two reasons. First, the prisoners do not enjoy the access to medical expertise that free citizens have. Their incarceration places limitations on such access; no physician of choice, no second opinions, and few if any specialists. Secondly, because of the conditions on their incarceration, inmates are exposed to more health hazards than free citizens. Prisoners therefore, suffer from a double handicap.””

No doubt, it is then rightly added in para 21 that, “In Murti Devi v. State of Delhi (1998) 9 SCC 604 the Supreme Court found the Tihar Jail authorities negligent and awarded compensation to the Petitioner for the death of her husband, an under trial prisoner, Raj Kumar. The jail authorities made an unsuccessful attempt at convincing the Court that the deceased “was a drug addict and presumably as a consequence of withdrawal symptoms had suffered some injuries and also on account of an old injury in kidney, he had died.” The Supreme Court held that, “prompt and appropriate action in rendering medical aid in a hospital was also not given to the said deceased. … There is no manner of doubt that because of the gross negligence on the part of the jail authorities, the said Raj Kumar, an under trial prisoner in Tihar Jail, was subjected to serious injuries inside the jail which ultimately caused his death.””

It cannot be lightly dismissed that it is then observed in para 22 that, “The facts in Ajab Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2000) 3 SCC 521 were similar to the case on hand. There the deceased Rishipal was lodged in the District Jail, Meerut. According to the jail officials “Rishipal had gone to the jail hospital on 31st May, 1996 and complained of “jaundice” and weakness, yellow urine and lack of appetite. He was admitted to the jail hospital and treated for jaundice. On the evening of 31st May 1996, Rishipal started vomiting and was given treatment. The jail doctor referred him to the Medical College, Meerut where he was admitted at about 8.40 p.m. on 1st June, 1996. His condition did not improve “and he died as result of the jaundice and liver failure”. The Supreme Court termed the post mortem report as “rather misleading which narrated the cause of death as ‘shock and haemorrhage due to ante mortem injuries’.” Taking a strong view on the affidavit, the Supreme Court held as under: (SCC @ 524)

“(W)hat appears to us to be a concocted story is that set out in the respondent’s affidavits. They are, to our mind, desperate attempts to avoid responsibility for acts committed while Rishipal was in judicial custody. There can be no doubt that the respondents have not investigated the cause of death of Rishipal as they ought to have done or that, at any rate, they have not placed all relevant material before this Court. They have attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of this Court. We do not appreciate the death of persons in judicial custody. When such deaths occur, it is not only to the public at large that those holding custody are responsible; they are responsible also to the courts under whose orders they hold such custody.””

As a corollary, it is then stated in para 23 that, “The Supreme Court directed the CBI to investigate into the circumstances of Rishipal’s death and the State of UP to pay compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs.”

In yet another case, it is then stated in para 24 that, “The liability of the state to compensate for the death of a prison inmate in unnatural circumstances was reiterated in State of Andhra Pradesh v. Challa Ramkrishna Reddy (2000) 5 SCC 712. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the State of Andhra Pradesh against the decision of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh granting compensation to the family members of an under trial who got killed in an attack targeting him in the jail due to the negligence of jail authorities at sub-jail Koilkuntla. “On being lodged in jail, the deceased Challa Chinnappa Reddy and Challa Ramkrishna Reddy (P.W.1) both informed the Inspector of Police that there was a conspiracy to kill them and their lives were in danger. … In spite of the representation made by the deceased and Challa Ramkrishna Reddy, adequate protection was not provided to them…” There were two guards on duty instead of the stipulated nine. The Court held the incident to be a result of “failure to take reasonable care.””

Going forward, it is then stated in para 25 that, “The basic principle of liability of government officials for acts constituting constitutional tort was elaborated by the Supreme Court in Chairman Railway Board v. Mrs. Chandrima Das (2000) 2 SCC 465, as under:

“The Public Law remedies have also been extended to the realm of tort. This Court, in its various decisions, has entertained petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution on a number of occasions and has awarded compensation to the petitioners who had suffered personal injuries at the hands of the officers of the Govt. The causing of injuries, which amounted to tortious act, was compensated by this Court in many of its decisions beginning from Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar 1983(3) SCR 508.

Please read concluding on thedailyguardian.com

In cases relating to custodial deaths and those relating to medical negligence, this Court awarded compensation under Public Law domain in Nilabati Behera vs. State of Orissa (supra); State of M.P. v. Shyam Sunder Trivedi (1995) 4 SCC 262; People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (1997) 3 SCC 433; Kaushalya v. State of Punjab (1996) 7 SCALE (SP) 13; Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee v. State of Bihar (1991) 3 SCC 482; Dr. Jacob George v. State of Kerala (1994) 3 SCC 430; Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal & Ors. (1996) 4 SCC 37; and Mrs. Manju Bhatia v. N.D.M.C. (1997) 6 SCC 370.””

Quite rightly, it is then also observed in para 26 that, “The Supreme Court rejected the contention of the Railways that the victim herself should have approached the civil court for damages and the matter should not have been considered in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. It was held that:

“Where public functionaries are involved and the matter relates to the violation of Fundamental Rights or the enforcement of public duties, the remedy would still be available under the Public Law notwithstanding that a suit could be filed for damages under Private Law.””

Notably, the Bench then observes in para 27 that, “In Nina Rajan Pillai v Union Of India 2011 (5) AD (Del) 36 the Tihar jail authorities sought to project the death of the Petitioner’s husband while in judicial custody as being due to “natural causes”. Nevertheless a Commission of Inquiry headed by a former Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court established that ‟it is clear that it was the failure or omission of the jail authorities on several counts that were found to have resulted in such death.” It was held that “with timely medical assistance his life may have been saved. There are no mitigating factors which can explain the omission of the jail authorities in providing such timely medical assistance.” It was further held: “The basic minimum right to life and dignity should be available to every prisoner. When that non-derogable minimum standard is breached, the principle of strict liability should be invoked against the jail authorities making them answerable in law for the consequences of such breach.”

It would be pertinent to mention here that it is then aptly stated in para 28 that, “In Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons reported in (2017) 10 SCC 658 the Supreme Court reiterated the need to award compensation in cases of custodial deaths and observed:

“55. Over the last several years, there have been discussions on the rights of victims and one of the rights of victims and one of the rights of a victim of crime is to obtain compensation. Schemes for victim compensation have been framed by almost every State and that is a wholesome development. But it is important for the Central Government and the State Governments to realize that persons who suffer an unnatural death in a prison are also victims – sometimes of a crime and sometimes of negligence and apathy or both. There is no reason at all to exclude their next of kin from receiving compensation only because the victim of an unnatural death is a criminal. Human rights are not dependent on the status of a person but are universal in nature. Once the issue is looked at from this perspective, it will be appreciated that merely because a person is accused of a crime or is the perpetrator of a crime and in prison custody, that person could nevertheless be a victim of an unnatural death. Hence the need to compensate the next of kin.”

Simply put, the Bench then elucidates in para 29 that, “Reverting to the case on hand, it is evident from the report of investigation of the police themselves that Manoj remained in police custody from 3.20 am till his death more than seven hours later on 7th June 2005. Even if it is not established that the ante mortem injuries found on his person during post-mortem were caused by the Police, the law of strict liability for the negligence of the police in not meeting the basic minimum standard of care in providing him prompt medical attention would stand attracted. The police have to be held liable for the avoidable death of Manoj, while in their custody, on account of their negligence.”

Of course, the Bench then rightly points out in para 30 that, “The Court then perused the two affidavits filed on behalf of the Opposite Parties to find out if any compensation has been paid to the Petitioners for the death of Manoj while he was in the custody of the police. The Court was unable to find any statement to that effect in either of the affidavits. Mrs. S. Pattanayak, learned Additional Government Advocate, then sought time to seek instruction on this aspect. Nevertheless, the Court is of the view that the State Government should pay the compensation for the said custodial death to the parents of the deceased i.e., the Petitioners.”

Quite remarkably, the Bench then elegantly, effectively and eloquently holds in para 31 that, “On the question of the quantum of compensation that must be awarded in the instant case, the Court notes that the claimants belonged to economically weaker section of the society and have had to suffer the agony of an extraordinarily long wait of over 15 years for justice. The Court directs that a sum of Rs.5,00,000/- (Rupees five lakhs) be paid by the State of Odisha to the Petitioners as compensation for the death of their son while in police custody. The compensation amount if any already paid shall be adjusted against the aforesaid sum and the balance be paid to the Petitioners not later than 8th March, 2021.”

As we all know, Chief Justice Dr S Muralidhar who has authored this brilliant judgment is already well known for his many historic judgments on human rights in his earlier role as Judge of Delhi High Court especially in Hashimpura case and later also in Punjab and Haryana High Court and now again in his new role along with his fellow Judge – Justice Biswajit Mohanty. Human rights violations have to be taken most seriously, accorded the highest importance and this is what exactly we witness here also which alone explains why the petitioners have got Rs 1 lakh more than what they demanded as compensation for which both the Judges who have authored this highly commendable judgment deserves unqualified appreciation!

Also equally commendable is that this remarkable judgment is treasured with several landmark judgments which we have already discussed elaborately as stated in different paras of this notable judgment! It is a must read judgment and will always be remembered in the time to come!

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Legally Speaking

Analysing President’s role in making judicial appointments

The President issues the formal warrant of appointments of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as per Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution respectively to complete the constitutional formalities.



Under the Indian constitutional scheme, the President is a constitutional head of the Union Government who exercises his constitutional powers and functions on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister as per the mandate of Article 74(1) of the Constitution. However, after the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1978, the President has been empowered to return the advice to the Cabinet for its reconsideration but thereafter he is bound to accept the Cabinet’s advice if it reiterates the same. Now, this is a well-settled position after some landmark judgments of the Supreme Court such as Samsher Singh, Maru Ram, S. R. Bommai, etc. There are only a few areas where the President can act at his own discretion, but the matters relating to judicial appointments do not fall under that category. In these kinds of matters, the President acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, who takes inputs and assistance from the Union Minister of Law and Justice and other departments and agencies of the Government of India. The President issues the formal warrant of appointments of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as per Article 124 and 217 of the Constitution respectively to complete the constitutional formalities. After a few judgments of the Supreme Court on the issue of judges’ appointments, it is also well-established that the President of India has to act on the advice of the Supreme Court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in making judges’ appointments, and if the Prime Minister gives him a piece of different advice, the President should ignore the same. This reflects the primacy of the judiciary over the executive in matters related to judicial appoints. Let us elaborate on this issue with the support of judicial rulings.

In the Second Judges’ case, a 9-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court categorically observed that the President of India must act on the advice of the Supreme Court collegium in making judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts. “In view of the provision in Article 74(1), the expression ‘President’ in Articles 124(2) and 217(1) means the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head; and the advice given by the Council of Ministers has to accord with the mandate in the Constitution, or, in other words, with the construction made of Articles 124(2) and 217(1) by this Court, in discharge of its constitutional duty to interpret the Constitution. A fortiori, advice given by the Council of Ministers which binds the President and requires him to act in accordance therewith, had to be the advice given in accordance with the constitutional provisions, as interpreted by this Court”, the Apex Court ruled unequivocally. The Supreme Court also stated that the President cannot override the collegium’s view given the mandate of ‘consultation with the Chief Justice of India’ in Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution. Further, the Court went on to say: “If it were to be held that, notwithstanding the requirement of Articles 124(2) and 217(1) of mandatory consultation with the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of the High Court, the Council of Ministers has the unfettered discretion to give contrary advice, ignoring the view of the Chief Justice of India, and the President is bound by Article 74(1), to act in accordance with that advice, then the constitutional purpose of introducing the mandatory requirement of consultation in Articles 124(2) and 217(1) would be frustrated. It is for this reason, that in the matter of appointments of Judges of the superior judiciary, the interaction and harmonisation of Article 74(1) with Articles 124(2) and 217(1) has to be borne in mind, to serve the constitutional purpose. In short in the matter of appointments of Judges of the superior judiciary, the constitutional requirement is, that the President is to act in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers as provided in Article 74(1); and the advice of the Council of Ministers is to be given in accordance with Articles 124(2) and 217(1), as construed by this Court. In this sphere, Article 74(1) is circumscribed by the requirement of Articles 124(2) and 217(1) and all of them have to be read together”.

Thus, the above-mentioned observations of the Supreme Court, which have been followed consistently in the Third, and Fourth Judges’ cases also, make it clear that the President of India has to act according to the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India, not on the advice of the Prime Minister that goes against the collegium’s view. But the Supreme Court collegium is required to sends unanimous recommendations to President through the Union Minister of Law and Justice and the Prime Minister. Admittedly, the Union Cabinet does not come into the picture in making judges’ appointments and only the law minister and the Prime Minister decide the matter. Although the President and the Central Government are bound to act according to the collegium’s recommendations, they have a limited say in the entire process of making judicial appointments. The Central Government can raise objections against any recommendation of the collegium by mentioning cogent reasons about the antecedents or integrity of the recommended persons and the CJI needs to share the same with his collegium colleagues but the collegium has the power to reject the Central Government’s objections and can reiterate its recommendations which are binding on the government as well as the President.

Also, such recommendations should be passed unanimously by the collegium. If the CJI sends a recommendation by ignoring his collegium colleagues, the President is not bound to accept such recommendation. On the other hand, the four collegium members can also not send their recommendations to the President of India by ignoring the CJI. In these matters, the CJI is the main link between the collegium and the government including the President of India. This is a participative process devised to protect the independence of the judiciary.

Given the above discussion, it is submitted that the President of India has a ceremonial role in making judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts. He acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Union Law Minister in matters regarding judges’ appointments but these constitutional functionaries cannot advise him to bypass the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium. Of course, they can persuade him to return the matter to the collegium for its reconsideration by recording cogent reasons if they find something objectionable against a person recommended by the collegium. The President may ask the collegium to reconsider its recommendation and can also seek any clarification either from the collegium or the government regarding any file that is sent to him for his approval. He can also make his comments about the case and ask the government to look into the matter. The media reports indicate that in November 1998, while giving his assent to the names of judges on the file, then President K. R. Narayanan had written: “I would like to record my views that while recommending the appointment of Supreme Court judges, it would be consonant with constitutional principles and the nation’s social objectives if persons belonging to weaker sections of society like SCs and STs, who comprise 25 percent of the population, and women are given due consideration.”

Further, the President went on to note: “Eligible persons from these categories are available and their underrepresentation or non-representation would not be justifiable. Keeping vacancies unfilled is also not desirable given the need for representation of different sections of society and the volume of work which the Supreme Court is required to handle”. The President cannot do much. President Narayanan was an active President who read the file thoroughly and did not hesitate to express his views.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, in his book titled “The Presidential Years” has also criticized the collegium system in these words: “I have serious doubts about the present arrangement, and the judiciary ought to relook into the issue. The country is run by a political system in which members, who sit in Parliament and assemblies, are elected by the people. They represent the collective will of the people, and nobody can ignore this reality. The precollegium system had existed for years since 1950, and there had been no major problems that necessitated a change.”

It is submitted that the President of India has a ceremonial role in making judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts. He acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Union Law Minister in matters regarding judges’ appointments, but these constitutional functionaries cannot advise him to bypass the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium. Of course, they can persuade him to return the matter to the collegium for its reconsideration by recording cogent reasons if they find something objectionable against a person recommended by the Collegium.

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Legally Speaking




“The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

-Bill Gates

The internet has been in existence since 1960’s and the World Wide Web (WWW) since 1990’s. The internet has now become all encompassing; it touches the lives of every human being. In today’s time, social media is a well-known name for every person. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines social media as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and micro-blogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos). Now-a-days, no letter or telegram (not a play-store application) is needed to share information. A fast medium to exchange views globally has been evolved in this fast-pacing world. Social Media has radically changed the lives of the people – for good or for bad – is a questionable matter. As social media has become an inevitable part of our lives criminal activities relating to social media has also become an inseparable part of social media. The social media has given the room for criminal activities to flourish in an online mode. No person – be it individuals, government agencies or any other private companies – has been left unconscious with the advantages of social media. However, technology while providing so many perks pose threats to individuals and the world. The creation of a virtual world where people can share information, exchange pictures, become friends, play games, fall in love, fight, etc. without having actually meeting face-to-face is the major reason behind the popularity of social media. The social media has imposed threats on the security, privacy and also the dignity of the people, which has hiked the cyber violence and puts forward a challenging mess at a global level.


In recent times, there has been a spurt in the number of users of social networking sites, especially due to Covid-19 pandemic. It can be seen from the rise in the Facebook users from 2.45 billion monthly users in 2019 to 270 billion monthly active users by June 2020 with an increment rate of 12% over a year. The International Telecommunications Union estimates that almost 40% of the world’s population and over 76% of people in developed countries are now internet users. According to the Chief of NIA (National Investigating Agency), Alok Mittal, “every sixth cyber-crime in India is committed through social media.” There were around 150 cases of cyber-crimes on social media in our country in 2016, which increased to around 300 cases in 2017. Fraud cases on social media have also increased by 43% in 2018. Approximate 44,546 cases were registered under the cyber-crime head in 2019 as compared to 27,248 cases in 2018. Therefore, a rise of 63.5% was observed in cyber-crimes by National Crime Reporting Bureau. These statistics are worthy of considering the fact that along with an increase in the number of users, there has also been a spike in the cyber-crime cases.


We are generally aware of the benefits of the internet; however, its anonymous nature allows miscreants to indulge in various cyber-crimes. Taking the positive side into consideration, social networking sites allow users to connect with the families and friends within seconds residing far away from them through audio and video calls, chat-rooms and many other functions provided by it, which helps in bridging the gap between persons. The people can remain updated about the worldly affairs just with a click on their devices. The social networking sites also help in finding and providing appropriate employment and educational opportunities to finders of the same. More importantly, social media is the easiest way to express opinions and views. Therefore, social media makes life accessible and enjoyable for the people.

Nonetheless, keeping negative side in view, social media also leads to social isolation as in face-to-face interaction has become minimal in the times of pandemic. This, in turn, affects the mental, emotional, psychological health of the people and causes anxiety, fear of missing out, depression and many other issues. Privacy, these days, has become a matter of concern. The third party uses the private information of the individuals and commits cyber-bullying and cyber-theft among teenagers. The spread of obscene content on the social media makes the youth vulnerable to these things. They lose their productivity in online chatting all day. Also, the misinformation spreads faster rather than relevant one, which can be for any purpose such as advancing enmity between various ethnic and religious groups or misleading people, and aggravates virtual hate crimes.

Thus, the underlying fact is that social media has become an indispensable part of our lifestyle. And, virtual space, therefore, becomes a relatively new terrain in terms of the questions it raises about human rights and responsibilities.


Cyber-crime has not been defined in any statute or rulebook. However, it is a culmination of two terms, that is, cyber and crime. Interestingly, the word ‘cyber’ is slang for anything relating to computers, information technology and internet. And, the word ‘crime’ refers to the commission of an illegal activity. Accordingly, the term ‘cyber-crime’ can be inferred as the offences committed using the medium of computers, cyber-space, world wide web, or internet. Therefore, cyber-crimes involve a computer and a network.

Cyber-crimes are “Offences that are committed against individuals or group of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (Chat-rooms, e-mails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (SMS/MMS)”, defines Dr. Debarati Halder and Dr. K. Jaishankar.

Cyber-crimes can be broadly categorized into three groups against which these crimes can be committed, namely, individual, property and government.

• Individual – Cyber-crimes in the form of cyber-stalking, distributing pornography, trafficking and ‘grooming’ can be included under this category. These crimes are rapidly increasing worldwide.

• Property – Just as the traditional theft of property is committed, in the like manner, the stealing of the personal data can be committed over a computer by using malicious software. Cyber frauds and scams are also prevalent these days.

• Government – Cyber-crimes against government involves cyber-terrorism, which can cause devastation to public and create a panicking situation, if criminals get successful in circulating propaganda by hacking government databases. Recent ‘toolkit’ cases also form a part of this category.

Therefore, it can be sought from the above discussion that either the computer may be used for committing the offence, or the computer may be the target.


In the National Cyber-crime Reporting Portal, the following types of cyber-crimes have been discussed –

• Social Media Related Crimes

(i) Cyber Bullying/Stalking/Sexting – The attacker uses the internet and other electronic devices to continuously harass the victim. Also, bullying incidents are committed using online communication medium like e-mail, social networking sites, messengers, etc. to exploit, threaten, embarrass and humiliate the victim. Sexting includes sending and receiving of offending sexual words, pictures, or videos via technology, especially mobile phones.

(ii) E-mail Phishing – The recipient is tricked by designing a fraudulent e-mail message to be a legitimate person or organization, so that, the recipient shares personal information including passwords, bank account numbers.

(iii) E-mail and Profile Hacking – A person’s device – computer, laptop or mobile phone – is broken into by the criminal by using a variety of software and gets the access to the person’s sensitive information embedded in the device from remote location. Such information is then misused by the hacker, which causes trouble to the victim of hacking.

(iv) Fake/Impersonating Profile and E-mail – A fake profile of the victim is created in any platform and then the rumours and objectionable material on social media and instant messaging platforms is circulated to cheat or defame the victim or others.

(v) Online Job Fraud – The incident involves deceiving somebody who is seeking employment by alluring them of employment or of earning high salaries or of extra income and then cheat that person by taking money.

(vi) Online Matrimonial Fraud – The fake profiles on various matrimonial websites are created for cheating purposes.

(vii) Provocative Speech and Intimidating E-mails – The perpetrators send provocative and threatening messages on the victim’s devices by e-mail or any other electronic means.

• Online Financial Frauds

(i) Business Frauds/ E-mail Takeover – The monetary frauds are committed by compromising or taking over business e-mails.

(ii) Debit Card/ Credit Card/ E-wallet/ SIM Swap Fraud – Without the knowledge of the card-holder, the fraudulent online transactions take place in their bank accounts through debit or credit cards or e-wallets.

(iii) Fraud Call/ Vishing – These instances involve receiving of fraud phone calls that appears to be from their bank. The caller pretends to be professional bank representative. This is done with an attempt to seek personal information of the receiver such as Customer ID, Net Banking Password, ATM PIN, OTP, Card Expiry Date, CVV, etc. These fraud calls also include fake, lottery or travel scam calls.

(iv) Internet Banking Related Fraud – It is a fraud or theft committed using e-technology to illicitly remove money from a bank account or transfer money to a different bank account.

(v) Cryptocurrency Related Fraud – India is not having any legal framework to deal with cryptocurrencies. Due to this, the criminals operating on the dark or hidden web use these currencies by raising suspicious requests for business transactions in Bitcoins.

(vi) Salami Attacks – To commit financial crimes, these salami attacks are planned. These attacks involve making unnoticeable alterations to facilitate easy concealment so that it would go unnoticed.

• Other Cyber-crimes

(i) Ransomware – It is a type of computer malware that locks the data holding it as hostage on devices such as computers, laptops, mobile phones, etc. Then, the victim will be asked to pay the ransom as demanded by the perpetrator in some cryptocurrency to get the device unlocked without the guarantee of getting the data unlocked even after paying the ransom.

(ii) Cyber-attacks – There are various types of attacks that can be committed by the criminals such as – Denial of Service (DOS) Attack, Virus/Worm Attacks, Malware/Spyware Attacks. Some unknown applications are downloaded on the user’s device, which halts the functioning of the computer system and causes harm to the user.

(iii) Intellectual Property Rights Violation – IPR theft is described as the theft of copyrighted material, the theft of trade secrets and trademark violations. It also includes piracy in which the person violates the copyrights and downloads music, games, movies and software unlawfully.

(iv) Hacking – These incidents involve accessing unauthorized gain from the person’s device without their permission. It also includes website defacement in which the website is attacked that changes the visual appearance of the site or a webpage. It is also known as web-jacking.

(v) Online Trafficking – The incidents of connecting over social media to buy drugs, or other regulated, controlled or banned products, or victim’s recruitment, advertising trafficking such as women, children, laborer, child pornography, selling of organs, etc. are committed using the cyberspace.

(vi) Online Gambling – This is done by providing illegal online gambling links or content through SMS or other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Hike, etc.

(vii) Cyber-chasing – It is a process by which a person’s location is provided by using data which is available online. Geotagging has become a trend these days.

Surprisingly, there are ‘n’ number of ways of committing these crimes. The above-mentioned ways are only handful in number by which cybercrimes are committed. To prevent these crimes, India had enacted a legislation way back in 2000’s known as Information Technology Act, 2000.


Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution provides for the ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’, giving citizens the freedom to express their views by whatever medium they think fit. Therefore, the medium can be offline and online. This creates an obligation on the government that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.” Therefore, keeping pace with the changing generation, the Parliament of India enacted the Information and Technology Act, 2000, which was conceptualized on the model of United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) recommended by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Later, in 2008, the Act was amended giving a new dimension to the IT Laws in the country.

The Act was enacted with an objective “to provide legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as “electronic commerce”, which involve the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information, to facilitate electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies and further to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, the Banker’s Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to any offence or contravention committed outside India by any person.

The existing IT Act consists of 13 Chapters, having 90 Provisions and 2 Schedules. Out of these 13 Chapters, Chapter XI (Section 65 – Section 78) is of utmost importance as it provides for the offences under the Act. The Act covers the following offences –

The Act provides for a wide range of penalties to be inflicted upon the perpetrators of the above-mentioned offences. Also, the computer and other devices are made liable to be confiscated if contravenes the provisions of the Act under Section 76. Further, the Act has made certain offences compoundable. Section 77A describes that unless the offence has been committed against women, or children below the age of 18 years, or affects the socio-economic conditions of the country, it can be compounded by the competent adjudicating authority if the punishment does not exceed 3 years of imprisonment. The offences punishable with imprisonment of three years and above shall be cognizable and the offences punishable with imprisonment of three years shall be bailable. To investigate cyber offences under the Act, the police officer not below the rank of Inspector, has been given the powers. Interestingly, Section 70A and Section 70B of the Act are worth noticing as they lay out the establishment of National Nodal Agency and Indian Computer Emergency Response Team respectively for ensuring the cyber-security of the country.

Although the IT Act is not all encompassing relating to the offences it covers, but other legislations such as Indian Penal Code, 1860 fulfil the pressing priority.


To trace the evolution of cyber law regime in India, it is apt to refer to the landmark judgments delivered by the Indian Courts. The judgments are provided as under –

• Shreya Singhal v. Union of India

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the instant case, dealt with the validity of Section 66A of the IT Act. A petition was filed alleging that Section 66A violated the fundamental right of free speech and expression, thus, challenging its constitutionality. In its decision, the Court reiterated the three concepts of discussion, advocacy and incitement. It observed that “mere discussion or even advocacy of a cause, no matter how unpopular, is at the heart of the freedom of speech and expression.” It was found that “Section 66A was capable of restricting all forms of communication and it contained no distinction between mere advocacy or discussion on a particular cause which is offensive to some and incitement by such words leading to a causal connection to public disorder, security, health, and so on.” Therefore, the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 in its entirety.

Syed Asifuddin and Others v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Another

In this case, the Court held that a telephone handset covers under the ambit of “computer” as defined under Section 2(1)(i) of the IT Act. The Court, further, stated that alteration of ESN is an offence under Section 65 of the IT Act which provides for the tampering of the computer source document.

• Avnish Bajaj v. State of (NCT) of Delhi

In this case, the three persons were arrested namely – Delhi School-boy, IIT Kharagpur’s Ravi Raj and the service provider Avnish Bajaj – under Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000 and other provisions of IPC, 1860 regarding obscenity. The Court gave a judgment in favour of the service provider Mr. Bajaj stating the fact that he is nowhere involved in the broadcasting of pornographic material. The school-boy was granted bail by Juvenile Justice Board. However, the burden lies on the accused that he was merely the service provider and does not provide content.

• State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti

This case involved an accused opening a fake e-mail account in the name of the victim and posted defamatory, obscene and annoying information about the victim because of some previous differences between the victim and the accused. A charge-sheet was filed u/s 67 of the IT Act and 469 and 509 of the IPC, 1860. The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore convicted the accused person under the said offences. It is a landmark case for its efficient handling and disposal of case within 7 months from the date of filing of FIR.

SMC Pneumatics (India) Private Limited v. Jogesh Kwatra

In this case, due to the lack of direct evidence that defendant was the one who was involved in sending the defamatory, derogatory, vulgar, abusive and filthy e-mails to his employers and to different subsidiaries of the said company, the Court did not give plaintiffs the relief of perpetual injunction as prayed as the Court did not qualify the certified evidence u/s 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. However, the Court restrained the defendant from publishing or transmitting any derogatory information in the cyber-space about the plaintiffs.

The cases discussed are just a handful of instances of happening of the cyber-crimes. These crimes are exploding all over the country and the world. Despite of inexhaustive nature of the IT Act, the Indian Courts are handling these matters in the best of their capabilities to meet the ends of justice.


To cope with the challenges that this techno-savvy world put forward, revamp in the cyber-security has become an absolute necessity. There needs to be a way forward. Some of the suggestive measures that could be taken to enhance security in the cyber-space are as follows-

The proportional growth of cyber-related laws all over the globe is the first and foremost measure that needs to be taken. Due to this disproportionality, the problem aggravates. Yes, the IT Act and amendments in IPC has given India a good start, but complexities in these acts prevail.

As the cyber-crimes know no territorial boundaries, the jurisdiction becomes a debatable problem. Therefore, the concept of territorial jurisdiction under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 needs a re-look.

To prevent the loss of information and evidence, a highly technical staff to build an infrastructure related to e-crimes and investigation is the need of the hour.

Section 75 of the IT Act, 2000 discusses about the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the statute. But this could be made an effective provision only when competent authorities will issue warrants and directions for the sharing of information and evidence regarding cyber-crimes between enforcement agencies.

Along with these measures, to adjudicate the cyber-crimes, the judges having cyber and technology knowledge are exigent. Judiciary plays the role of the mediator in realizing the enactment consistent with the social order.

Finally, simple measures such as using of anti-virus software, avoiding misuse of personal information with any stranger, secured e-payments, not clicking on any unauthorized links, should be adopted by keeping vigilance and awareness intact.

These suggestions are not absolute but can definitely help in tackling cyber-crimes and enhancing cyber-security to some extent. Some reforms in the IT Act and personal awareness can be an aid in checking these e-crimes.


Surprisingly, “India was the second most cyber-attacked country in Asia-Pacific in 2020”, read the headline in The New Indian Express Newspaper. This ranking is not a good sign for a country which is having cyber-related laws. These laws are not exhaustive and, therefore, need reforms with the changing need of the hour. The conviction rate in minimal in spite of having stringent laws in the country dealing with cyber-crimes. This is because of the lack of absolute evidences. Therefore, cyber forensics is the new and emerging field and it is encouraged to detect the cyber evidences through appropriate methods. In the country where ‘Media’ is the fourth pillar of democracy, it becomes the responsibility of the media to create awareness among people and not becoming victim of these cyber-crimes itself.

Social Media is a library of information and one of the most easily accessible platform for sharing news, expressing views and spreading propaganda and revolution. It has become the part and parcel of every person’s life. Especially in the times Covid-19 pandemic where everything is happening online, the life is not imaginable without social media and social networking sites. Privacy has just remained a mere nomenclature. Almost all the sites use cookie policy to detect the tastes and preferences of the user. In addition, the incidences of publication of obscene material and the instances like that of ‘Bois Locker Room’ are increasing day-by-day. Thus, it becomes a massive requirement to ensure cyber-security when the world is moving towards a global digitalization.

The moot question of the present paper regarding the analysis of relationship between social media and crimes can be concluded by stating that ‘the relationship between social media and crimes is directly proportional.’ As social media is gaining more and more popularity, the cyber-crime is setting its foot more swiftly and inexplicably.

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Legally Speaking

Duty to defend: Lawyer’s moral obligation to represent unpopular client

Article 1 mainly focuses on the aspect of equality in dignity and rights. Equality is very essential and even social justice is intrinsically connected to it. Therefore, promoting equality helps in providing legal aid to everyone. Article 7 is even more relevant since it provides that each and every individual is equal before the law and everyone is entitled to legal protection and legal aid without any discrimination.

Jayant Malik



Maintenance of law and order within a society is of utmost importance and lawyers play a key role in ensuring that law and order is maintained. The profession of a lawyer is a noble one and a lawyer is often seen as someone who fights for the rights of individuals and defends them in the trickiest of situations. But a lawyer is not always applauded or appreciated for his acts and many a times he faces condemnation from the society for defending the guilty or who is often called as the “unpopular client”. So it can be said that the lawyer is equated to both the God and the Devil depending upon the situation.

Even within the Indian legal system the situation is no different. Often the lawyers (especially the criminal lawyers) who decide to defend a client irrespective of the offence they have committed howsoever grave it is, face condemnation and public outrage for their decision of defending such a client. Moreover it is not just the public front from where they face the heat, but they also face fury from the media houses at times. All in all, on several occasions the lawyer is associated to the actions of his client due to which he faces such condemnation. This gives rise to a very important issue i.e. whether the lawyers should be guided by ethical values and notions of justice while selecting to represent any client?.

In this piece I shall deal with this issue and discuss the whole idea of the duty that a lawyer has, to defend his client in great detail along with a client’s right to legal representation. Moreover, I would argue as to why it is important for the lawyers to represent their clients even though they are considered as unpopular clients. Over the years there has been a lot of debate on whether it is morally right for a lawyer to represent an accused. Indian society has most of the times looked down upon such advocates who have decided to defend the accused. 

Through this piece, I would further discuss the concept of “Cab Rank Rule” and would analyse why it becomes important for the lawyer to represent a client irrespective of the guilt of the accused and the thinking of the society. The piece would further throw some light on several landmark judgments wherein the criminal lawyers defended unpopular clients and fulfilled their duty and moral obligation of being a lawyer. Cases where the lawyers defended the accused irrespective of the fact that, they knew the accused had committed the offence and the whole society was against them, such as defending Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist who was involved in the 26/11 attacks, the rapists in the Nirbhaya Rape Case, the case that shook the entire nation and several such other matters. In the end, I would conclude by arguing in favour of a lawyer’s duty to defend and would try and devise a new defensive strategy that can be adopted by the lawyers to justify their actions and to fight against the moral condemnation that they face by the society or the media whenever they defend an unpopular client. 


While discussing a lawyer’s duty and the moral obligation that he has to defend his client, it is very important to understand that a client is also entitled to legal aid and representation and it becomes essential to discuss a lawyer’s duty to defend vis-à-vis a client’s right to legal representation. An individual is entitled to legal aid and representation and at times when a situation arises where the person who is in need of legal aid is not that financially sound then in such situations there are instruments which state that such person has right to free legal aid. There are several international instruments that provide for an individual’s right to legal aid and representation.

First, it is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR). A declaration that came into force so as to protect the basic human rights of the individuals. The UDHR has emphasized a lot on the welfare of poor and one of the main objectives of it has been to protect the basic fundamental rights of the people. If the Preamble of the Declaration is looked at carefully it recognises that the rights of the individuals are indeed the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. From its language it is pretty much evident that equality and justice are the main objectives of the declaration and that providing legal aid to the needy becomes sine-qua-non for the achievement of the objective enshrined in the preamble of the UDHR. Some of the relevant articles of the UDHR are Article 1, 7 and 10.

Article 1 mainly focusses on the aspect of equality in dignity and rights. Equality is very essential and even social justice is intrinsically connected to it. Therefore, promoting equality helps in providing legal aid to everyone. Article 7 is even more relevant since it provides that each and every individual is equal before the law and everyone is entitled to legal protection and legal aid without any discrimination. It also states that no person should be denied legal protection and representation just because he does not have the financial capacity and in such situations it is the duty of the state to provide all such people who are in need even if it is out of state expenditure. Moreover it is important to note that several articles of the Indian Constitution hold a close similarity with this provision such as Article 14, 15, 16 and 39A. Article 10 is also pretty relevant as it provides that everyone should get an opportunity to be heard by an independent and impartial tribunal in determination of his rights. Additionally, ‘hearing’ means that the aggrieved person should be heard through a counsel (lawyer). Furthermore, Article 50 of the Indian Constitution holds similarity with this with this provision of the UDHR and is based on a similar concept.

Another international instrument that mandates legal aid and equality before the courts is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 14(1) of the ICCPR explicitly provides that all the persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.

Moreover, Article 14(3) lists out certain minimum guarantees that an individual is entitled to while determination of any criminal charge against him, in full equality:

To be informed promptly the nature and cause of the charge against him;

To have an adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;

To be tried without undue delay;

To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;

Now looking at the Indian perspective, Article 39A of the Indian Constitution provides for the right to legal aid and representation. It provides that 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.

Importantly, we must consider the case of Hussainara Khatoon & Ors. Vs. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, a landmark judgment, where the Supreme Court held in favour of the under trial prisoners who were imprisoned for long periods without any justification. Moreover the key take away from the case is that Article 39A is a constitutional directive that emphasizes on the fact that free legal aid and a proper representation is an essential element of the ‘reasonable, fair and just’ procedure. Further this right is to be considered implicit in the guarantee of Article 21.


As discussed above the lawyer’s duty to defend arises out of a client’s right to legal aid and representation. Even the individuals who have been accused of committing heinous crimes also have right to legal aid and representation and are entitled to have a fair and just trial.

“Innocent until proven Guilty” is a well-known saying which implies that any individual cannot be convicted for a crime until he is proven guilty of committing the said offence. According to this, the onus of proving the guilt of the accused lies on the prosecution and the job of the defence counsel is to poke holes in the theory of the prosecution. Consequently, a defence lawyer plays an important role during a legal proceeding. But at times the defence lawyers face the heat of the public and media for defending clients who have been accused of committing heinous crimes such as rape, murder, an act of terrorism etc. and in such situations the dilemma that arises is “whether a lawyer should be guided by ethical values and notion of justice while selecting to represent any client” or “whether a lawyer should be affected by personal opinions and public opinions while choosing to represent a client”.

Especially in India, it is even more relevant because the public more often than not associates a lawyer to the actions of his client and questions his moral and ethical values. Moreover, the public condemns the lawyer who chooses to represent a client that is unpopular or who has committed a grave offence. In response to the aforementioned dilemma, it is first important to understand that a lawyer is an officer of the court and it is his duty to defend his client irrespective of the offence that the client has committed. In other words, a lawyer has not only a moral but also a legal and constitutional obligation to defend his clients to the best of his abilities and that a lawyer cannot allow his personal beliefs or morals to affect his professional duties. This obligation is based out of an English concept known as the “cab-rank” principle/rule.


The “cab-rank” principle basically states that every lawyer must accept the brief that comes before them and provide the necessary legal assistance unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. The principle is based on the idea of a cab driver who is standing at the head of a queue at a taxi stand and is supposed to offer his services to the first passenger who approaches for a ride.

It is also pertinent to note that Section 1 of the Advocates Act explicitly mentions about the duties of an advocate towards his client and its rule 11 is based on the “cab-rank” principle. So the “cab-rank” rule has some relevance within the Indian legal system as well. Rule 11 of the Advocates act provides that “An advocate is bound to accept any brief in the Courts or Tribunals or before any other authorities in or before which he proposes to practise at a fee consistent with his standing at the Bar and the nature of the case: “Special circumstances may justify his refusal to accept a particular brief”. This provision within the Advocates act makes it pretty much clear that the lawyer has a moral obligation to represent his client irrespective of the offence that he has committed. Usually in the practical world, it is not followed though. At times the lawyers refuses to take up a particular case because he fears that taking up such a case would invite public outrage or where he himself feels that his personal morals would not allow him to defend such a client. There have been various landmark cases where either the lawyers refused to take up the case or they faced massive public outrage for defending the accused.

One such case is the case of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only terrorist who was captured alive during the 26/11 attacks. There was a massive public outrage which was quite understandable considering the horrendous crime that he had committed killing hundreds of innocent people, but does that mean that he should have been hanged straight away without following the due process of law? The answer to it is “No”. An individual who is a dreaded terrorist also has a right to fair trial even if the offence that he has committed and charges that have been levelled against him are as clear as a daylight. In this case the Bombay metropolitan magistrate’s court bar association unanimously decided not to represent the terrorist in court and hence the government appointed Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran as a state appointed amicus curiae in the case. Post the verdict while giving an interview, Senior Advocate Ramachandran acknowledged the lawyer’s duty to defend and stated “when an accused is undefended the court appoints a lawyer to defend him. To refuse to assist the court, when asked, is a dereliction of duty”.

He further emphasized on the fact that within an adversarial system it is important for an accused to have counsel for a fair trial. He stated that a counsel is important for an accused because the accused has a right to assert his or her innocence and to poke holes in the case of the prosecution. The counsel must say everything in the favour of the accused that needs to be said.

Another prominent criminal lawyer, late shri. Ram Jethmalani also pressed on the fact that no lawyer can refuse to defend an accused until and unless there are compelling reasons for the same and it is the moral duty of a lawyer to provide his services to the accused howsoever unpopular he is. With several lawyers declining to take up the case of the terrorist Ajmal Kasab and denying to provide their services back in 2008, Mr. Ram Jethmalani stated that “there is express rule of Bar Council of India that no lawyer shall refuse to defend a person on the grounds that it will make him unpopular”. Further in an interview he state that “no lawyer has the right to say that he will not defend an accused”. So it is pretty evident that over the years, even the biggest names in the business, have advocated for a lawyer’s duty to defend even though they faced heat of the public and media for defending an unpopular client.

If we look at the Nirbhaya Rape case wherein the four accused were hanged previous year, the situation was a bit different. The lawyers representing the accused in the case gave their all to reduce the death penalty to life imprisonment and to delay the hanging. They tried their best to make a strong case for the accused even though it was an open and shut case. Although the ‘public speeches’ and ‘conduct’ of some of the Nirbhaya Lawyers may be problematic in the eyes of the people, however, they did succeed in providing qualitative legal representation to the convicts throughout the judicial proceedings. In this way, the lawyers representing the accused fulfilled their moral obligation and their duty to defend the accused despite the fact that the crime they committed was a heinous one.


In my opinion, the lawyer has a duty to defend an accused irrespective of the crime that he has committed. It is not that a terrorist or a rapist should not be punished for the crime that they have committed but punishing them is the duty of the court when there guilt is proved. A lawyer’s duty is to provide his services to the client and put in his best effort when representing the client. It is also important because if an accused be it a terrorist or rapist is not given a proper representation or an opportunity to present his case, then the fairness of the trial would come into question. When it comes to public outrage or a parallel media trial, a lawyer should not that take that into consideration while choosing a client and instead they should give priority to their professional duties. Lawyers are officers of the court and their primary duty is to provide assistance and aid to their clients and assist the court in deciding the guilt or innocence of individuals. In conclusion, I would like to recall the with wise words of the legendary criminal lawyer late Sh. Ram Jethmalani: “I decide according to my conscience who to defend. A lawyer who refuses to defend a person on the ground that people believe him to be guilty is himself guilty of professional misconduct.”

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Legally Speaking

Can government impose restriction on movement?

An analysis of restrictions being put on movement in the light of Covid-19 pandemic.




At the end of December 2019, the first case of the Coronavirus was reported from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China. Subsequently, the virus spreads around the globe. Later on, at the end of January 2020, the first case of the Coronavirus was reported from Kerala. Before this first case, Indians including the citizens and the government were indulged in their work and no one was worried about the same. However, the situation gets in its worst form in just two months. Whereby, the cases increased from one to thousands and the government have no option other than to put the whole nation under the Janta curfew. On the 22nd of March 2020, the Janta curfew was announced and from here the entire citizens were directed to remain in their homes. Furthermore, on the evening of 24th of March, 2020, as per the need of the situation, the ruling government announced the lockdown for twenty-one days whereby it restricted the movement of 1.38 Billion citizens of India. Furthermore, during this time every Everything including Shops and all other services like Flights, Buses, Trains, and all other public transport were on the stand. However, very limited things which include the essential daily goods were permitted which was also subjected to a huge restriction. Moreover, as of the 29th of May 2021, it has affected more than 100 million people and resulted in more than 3.5 million deaths globally. During this time many slogans like ‘Ghar me rahe, surakshit rahe’ were also promoted to tackle this unnatural and unwanted pandemic. In this article, we will see the constitutionality of the Lockdown. Furthermore, we will also see whether the government is authorized to infringe the ‘right to Movement’. 


The Supreme law of the land, the constitution of India by virtue of its article 19 gives the right to movement. Article 19 (1) (d) reads as:- Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc (1) All citizens shall have the right (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India. However, this article is not absolute in nature and the government can impose some restrictions on it. However the same is subject to certain conditions. Article 19 (2 ) authorizes such reasonable restrictions, which reads as:- Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. It means that if the restrictions imposed are reasonable and if it fulfills the other conditions it will not be violative of the rights given under article 19 (1) (d). In the current scenario, the lockdown was the need of the hour, and thereby it was reasonable and hence the government action was legitimate.


Epidemic Act is India’s 123- years old law which was formulated pre-independence mainly to control plague in the late 1800s. This act authorizes the central and state government to take special measures to control the epidemic. Section 2 of the act reads as :- Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—(1) When at any time the 2 [State Government] is satisfied that 2 [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the 3 [State Government], if 4 [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as 4 [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the 2 [State Government] may take measures and prescribe regulations for— (b) the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.

Furthermore, Section 2 A of the said act, talks about the power of the central government, which reads as “:-When the Central Government is satisfied that India or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, 8 [the Central Government may take such measures, as it deems fit and prescribe regulations for the inspection of any bus or train or goods vehicle or ship or vessel or aircraft leaving or arriving at any land port or aerodrome, as the case may be, in the territories to which this Act extends and for such detention thereof, or of any person intending to travel therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary.]

Disaster Management act is an act of 2005. It stipulates the establishment of a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), State Disaster Management Authorities and District Disaster Management Authorities. It was an special act which was passed with the view to tackle with the disaster including the natural as well as man-made. As per the definition provided under Section 2 (e) of the act, a disaster has been defined :- ‘disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area – arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence – which results in substantial loss of life, human suffering, or damage to and destruction of property or the environment; and its nature or magnitude is beyond the coping capacity of the community in the affected area.

Furthermore, the ‘Disaster management’ under section 2 (e) of the act is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures necessary to prevent the danger or threat of a disaster; mitigating or reducing the risk of a disaster or its consequences; capacity-building; preparedness to deal with a disaster; prompt responses to a disaster; assessing the severity or magnitude of a disaster; evacuation, rescue or relief; and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Moreover, Section 6 and Section 10 of the Act, PM Modi, who is the chairperson of the authority, declared Covid-19 as a national disaster so that the entire country has uniform lockdown regulations, which are easier to implement, especially on which services and functions are allowed and what are not. Like, just before lockdown was imposed to whole India, the state specific lockdowns and a lockdown of 82 districts by the federal government — both under the epidemics law — were inconsistent about the use of private vehicles. Under the Disaster Management Act, states are required to implement the national plans.


It is one of the Prominent acts of which are currently prevailing in India. The code of criminal procedure is procedural in nature except for some sections which are substantial in nature. Section 144 of the code plays a vital role in order to tackle the issues where the administration has to prohibit the gathering of the people at one place. This act also helps in order to tackle the current ongoing pandemic. Section 144 of the code prohibits the assembly of four or more people in an area. The competent authority prohibits any presence or movement of one or more persons in public places or gathering of any sort anywhere, including religious places subject to certain conditions. All movement of one of more persons in the city is prohibited between 9 pm and 5 am at many places.


Whether the Coronavirus is a natural virus or it is a man-made virus was a controversial issue, which was a hot topic of discussion among prominent scientists around the globe. However, this controversy doesn’t matter at all, what matters is that this virus has not only disturbed the life of people but also have taken many lives around the globe. To tackle such a pandemic Indian government has restricted the movement of its citizens. At the beginning of this article, we have seen that the question before us was that, whether such restriction imposed was legitimate or do the government has any power to impose such restrictions.

In the light of the above discussion we have seen that there are certain laws including the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973, and some special acts like the Epidemic disease Act, and Disaster Management Act which authorizes the central and state government to impose some restrictions and take some special measures to tackle such natural or man-made disaster. We can defiantly conclude ourselves that the act of the government was the need of the hour and the action taken by the government was as per the laws which are currently prevailing in the nation. Thereby, the act of the lockdown was legitimate and no rights of the citizens have been violated. The action of the government was in the interest of the citizens as well as it was justified too.

The Epidemic Act is a 123-year-old law which was formulated pre-Independence mainly to control plague in the late 1800s. This act authorises the Central and state government to take special measures to control the epidemic. Section 2 of the Act reads as: Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—(1) When at any time the 2 [State Government] is satisfied that 2 [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the 3 [State Government], if 4 [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as 4 [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

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Legally Speaking

Role of experts cannot be undermined in shaping the opinion of courts



To start with, before I venture to elaborate exhaustively on the role played by experts in shaping the opinion of the Courts, it is imperative first and foremost to understand who really an expert is. In layman’s language, an expert can be inferred as “Someone (a person) who has special knowledge, skill or experience in any particular field like foreign law, science, art, handwriting or finger impression etc by virtue of having acquired it through years of unremitting focus, learning, practice, observation and proper studies which others don’t have and which is what distinguishes them from the rest.” This alone explains why the opinion of experts is so sought after and is valued immensely in shaping the opinion of not only people but also of the Courts and very rightly so!

Quite ostensibly, Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act also discloses who all can be called experts. It says that, “When the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions upon that point of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science or art, or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are relevant facts. Such persons are called experts.” Section 45 itself proves beyond a straw of doubt that the court in all such cases when it has to pronounce judgment in a case where the opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions is required, it prefers to take the opinion of those persons who are specially skilled in it by virtue of which they are called experts and such opinion certainly constitute relevant facts. Also, here it must be borne in mind that the opinion of such experts which constitute relevant facts play a major role in shaping the opinion of the court and in arriving at a reasonable and right decision.

Be it noted, as per the Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, “Expert witness is one who has made the subject upon which he picks a matter of particular studies, practicing or observation and he must have a particular and special knowledge of the subject.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an expert is defined as “A person who, through education or experience, has developed skill or knowledge in a particular subject, so that he or she may render their opinion that will assist the fact hindered.” Sukumar Ray in his book ‘Outlines of Indian Evidence Act’ on page 156 writes that, “An expert witness is one who has made the subject upon which he speaks a matter of particular study, practice or observation; and he must have a special knowledge of the subject.” It is also pointed out by Sukumar pertaining to the object of expert opinion that, “The purpose of expert opinion is two fold. Firstly, to obtain opinion as to the matter of skill or science which is in controversy and Secondly, to exclude the opinion as to the effect of the evidence in establishing controverted facts.”

What’s more, Phipson narrates the role and duty of an expert in his own words in his book on ‘Evidence’ in 14th edition on page 829. He writes that, “An expert is not a witness of fact. His evidence is of an advisory character. The duty of an expert witness is to furnish the judge with the necessary scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of the conclusion so as to enable the judge to form his independent judgement by the application of the criteria to the facts proved by the evidence.” No sane person will ever dare to disagree with what Phipson has said. The sole job of an expert is to furnish the judge with the opinion on any matter with the necessary scientific criteria and logical reasoning by virtue of which a judge can after taking into account the opinion so furnished arrive at a rational and independent decision without getting biased in any manner!

It is worth noting here that Lawson defines expert in his book on ‘Expert Testimony’ in 2nd edition on page 229 as: “An expert is a person who has special knowledge and skill in a particular calling to which the inquiry relates.” The basic parameter of deciding the competency of an expert as put by Lord Rusell in US Shipping Board v Ship “St Albans”, 1931 PC 189 is this: “Is he peritus Is he skilled? Has he adequate knowledge?” Let me tell my readers here that ‘peritus virtute official’ means the holder of some official position which requires and, therefore, presumes a knowledge of that law. Cross in his book on ‘Evidence’ on page 322 writes that, “The courts have been accustomed to act on the opinion of experts from early time.” Thus, the value of experts in enabling the court to determine the right conclusion in any given case especially where the case hinges on the expertise opinion cannot be overstated.

There can be no gainsaying that the Apex Court in Bal Krishna Das Agrawal v Radha Devi, AIR 1989 SC 1966 points out that an ‘expert’ was defined as “a person who by his training and experience has acquired the ability to express an opinion” but an ordinary witness does not possess this quality. In Ramesh Chandra Agrawal v Regency Hospital Ltd (2009) 9 SCC 709 , it was held by the Supreme Court that, “The law of evidence is designed to ensure that the court considers only that evidence which will enable it to reach a reliable conclusion. The first and foremost requirement for an expert evidence to be admissible is that it is necessary to hear the expert evidence. The test is that matter is outside the knowledge and experience of the lay person. Thus, there is a need to hear an expert opinion where there is a medical issue to be settled. The scientific question involved is assumed to be not within the court’s knowledge. Thus cases where the science involved, is highly specialised and perhaps even esoteric, the central role of an expert cannot be disputed. The other requirements for the admissibility of expert evidence are :

1. that the expert must be within a recognised field of expertise;

2. that the evidence must be based on reliable principles, and

3. that the expert must be qualified in that discipline.”

It was also held in this very case that, “The opinion of an expert may not have any binding effect on the court. The court does not become functus officio because of an expert opinion. It is not the province of the expert to act as judge or jury.”

Needless to say, it is not always that the expert evidence is imperative. There have been many such instances where the expert evidence has been dispensed with as it was felt that the evidence of an ordinary witness is sufficient. As for instance, in Rajinder Bajaj v Indian Tanning Industries, AIR 2008 Delhi 62 (D.B.), where glaring discrepancies were visible even to the naked eye in the admitted signature and disputed signature, the Delhi High Court said that the reference to a handwriting expert in such a case was not necessary. Also, there are many such cases where the courts have held that absence of an expert report is not fatal to the prosecution case. As for instance, in Vineet Kumar Chauhan v State of UP, AIR 2008 SC 780, the Supreme Court has held that where fire-arms are used in a crime, the absence of the report of a ballistic report is not always fatal to the prosecution case.

Let me clarify here that experts evidence in no manner helps the court in interpretation of the law and is only an opinion evidence and it is entirely within the discretion of the court whether to accept it or not. In fact, in Forest Range Officer v P Mohammed Ali, AIR 1994 SC 120, it was held by the Supreme Court that, “Expert opinion is only opinion evidence and is not helpful to the Court in interpretation of the law.” Let me point out here that in another case – Fakhruddin v State of MP, AIR 1967 SC 1326, it was held by the Apex Court that, “Both under this Section and Section 47 the evidence is of an opinion, in the former by a scientific comparison and in the latter on the basis of familiarity resulting from frequent observations and experience. In either case, the Court must satisfy itself by such means as are open that the opinion may be acted upon.”

Needless to state, it thus becomes ostensibly clear that the courts must not believe unflinchingly in experts evidence and before accepting it must satisfy itself completely about whether it is worth to be acted upon or not. The guiding principle for courts who have to deal with experts opinion have been aptly summed up by Supreme Court in Dayal Singh v State of Uttaranchal, AIR 2012 SC 3046 wherein it held that, “The expert is not only to provide reasons to support his opinion but the result should be directly demonstrable. The court is not to surrender its own judgment to that of the expert or delegate its authority to a third party, but should assess his evidence like any other evidence. The purpose of expert testimony is to provide the court with useful, relevant information. The purpose of an expert opinion is primarily to assist the court in arriving at a final conclusion. Such report is not binding upon the court. The court is expected to analyse the report, read it in conjunction with the other evidence on record and then form its final opinion as to whether such report is worthy of reliance or not.” In Kanchan Singh v State of Gujarat, AIR 1979 SC 1011, it was held that credibility and competence of an expert are material questions. Where the High Court did not believe an expert the Supreme Court did not interfere.

Let me reveal here that the expert evidence which is rendered as opinion of the third person is admissible under Sections 45 to 51 of the Evidence Act. Under these provisions a third person even though he/she is unknown to the facts of a particular case is called upon by the court wherever and whenever it feels imperative to seek such opinion on a particular point on which the expert by virtue of expertise on that point is best suited to give an independent, unbiased and logical opinion by virtue of which the court can also rely on it and give a sound and logical judgment based on it. It is however solely the discretion of the court on whether to accept the opinion rendered by expert or reject it and the opinion rendered by expert is not binding on it.

Let me also reveal here that the expert opinion is a very weak type of evidence and is usually advisory in character. It also cannot be glossed over that the Courts generally refrain from passing an order of conviction solely on the basis of expert evidence because they are not conclusive and may be biased in favour of the party who calls him. As for instance, it was held in Gulzar Ali v State of Himachal Pradesh, (1998) 2 SCC 192 that, “It must be borne in mind that an expert witness , however impartial, he may wish to be, is likely to be unconsciously prejudiced in favour of the side which calls him.” Moreover, let us not be oblivious of the palpable fact that a witness who is remunerated always has an unconscious bias in favour of the party who called him even though he may not be tutored. Also, it cannot be lost on us why Wellman had very candidly remarked that, “Expert witness become so warped in their judgement by regarding the subject in one point of view, that, even when conscientiously disposed, they are incapable of expressing candid opinion.”

It is worth paying attention here that Charles Hollander in his book on “Documentary Evidence” in 8th edition in para 21-23 has quoted the observation of Cresswell in the Ikarian Reefer’s Case (1993) 2 Lloyd’s Rep 68(81) to highlight what all precautions an expert witness should take so that it remains unblemished and appears reliable for courts to fall back upon while pronouncing judgment and these are as follows : –

1. “Expert evidence presented to the Court should be, and should be seen to be, the independent product of the expert uninfluenced as to the form or content by the exigencies of litigation.

2. An expert witness should provide independent assistance to the court by way of objective unbiased opinion in relation to matters within his expertise.

3. An expert witness should state the facts or assumption upon which his opinion is based. He should not omit to consider material facts which could detract from his concluded opinion.

4. An expert witness should make it clear when a particular question or issue falls outside his expertise.

5. If an expert’s opinion is not properly researched because he considered that insufficient data is available, then this must be stated with an indication that the opinion is no more than a provisional one. In cases where an expert witness who has prepared a report could not assert that the report contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth without some qualification, that qualification should be stated in the report.

6. If after exchange of reports, an expert witness changes his view on a material matter having read the other side’s expert’s report or for any other reason, such change of view should be communicated (through legal representatives) to the other side without delay and when appropriate to the court.

7. Where expert evidence refers to photographs, plans, calculations, analyses, measurements, survey reports or other similar documents, these must be provided to the opposite party at the same time as the exchange of reports….”

Let me tell for my esteemed readers exclusive benefit that while it is true that in many cases the courts have refrained from convicting a person solely on the basis of expert evidence or opinion but what cannot be denied is that it has also accepted expert opinion many times. As for instance, in Murrarilal v State of MP, AIR 1980 SC 531, it was held by Apex Court that the opinion of finger print expert is of higher value in comparison to the opinion of handwriting expert because science of identification of finger print is so perfect and therefore the rise of an incorrect opinion is practically nonest. In Jaspal Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1979 SC 1708, it was held by the Supreme Court that the science of identifying thumb impression is an exact science and does not admit of any mistake or doubt. So, the opinion of an expert regarding identification of thumb impression is relevant within the meaning of Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act. Also, in Kanbikarsar Yadab v State of Gujarat, AIR 1966 SC 821, it was held by the Supreme Court that opinion of hair expert is admissible in evidence because by the microscopic examination of the hair it is possible to say whether they are the same or of different colours or sizes and from the examination it may help in deciding where the hairs come from.

We must also bear in mind that there have been many such cases where when there is any inconsistency and the direct evidence is not satisfactory, the evidence has been corroborated by that of expert in a particular field. As for instance, in Gurucharan Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1963 SC 340, it was held by the Supreme Court that where the direct evidence is not satisfactory or disinterested or where the injuries are alleged to have been caused with a gun and they prima facie appear to have been inflicted by a rifle, undoubtedly the apparent inconsistency can be cured or oral evidence can be corroborated by the evidence of a ballistic expert.

It is worth noting that there have been many cases where opinion of expert have been relied upon when corroborated by circumstantial or other evidence. As for instance, in Lall Chand v State of Punjab, 2010 CrLJ 699, it was held by the Supreme Court that opinion of a handwriting expert can be relied upon when due corroboration of such opinion through ocular and circumstantial evidence is provided. In yet another case – Shashi Kumar v Subodh Kumar, AIR 1964 SC 529, it was held by Apex Court that, “Expert opinion is opinion evidence and it cannot take the place of substantive evidence . It is a rule of procedure that expert evidence must be corroborated either by clear direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence.”

All said and done, it can be said with considerable certainty that the role of experts in shaping the opinion of the courts cannot be undermined as they form an inescapable opinion even though they cannot be always relied on unflinchingly and this is more true in case of handwriting experts which I have already discussed above in considerable detail. But at the same time we have also seen that on many occasions the courts have not refrained from basing their conviction on expert evidence as in the case of fingerprint expert. So it all varies from case to case but it must be underscored here that no court will ever take the risk of completely undermining the evidence of expert and whatever opinion is given by them in front of court is always taken with full seriousness and very rightly so!

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Legally Speaking

No ‘honour’ in killing the young & innocent: Fighting a long, arduous battle

‘Religion’ and ‘culture’ cannot and must not be used as excuses for murdering women, because religion and its rules are always a subjective interpretation. No ‘culture’ has the right, based on their sense of morality or integrity, to murder or mistreat women. Unfettered faith does not imply free killing and activist laws are thus the only remedy to such dishonest activities.



The so-called ‘honour crimes’ are acts of violence, typically killings, perpetrated by members of the family against women who have brought the family into supposed ‘disgrace’. A woman may be targeted by (persons in her own family) for a number of reasons, including: refusal to enter an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault, seeking divorce even from an abusive spouse or in cases of adultery. The mere notion that a woman has acted in a manner that “dissonates” her family is enough to assault her life. Our nation was extremely selective of the kind of development it underwent. At the world level with the nuclear agreement, 8% growth rates, and India’s acknowledgment of its position, it appears that ‘India shines.’ But delving deeper into this growing country’s dark secrets, we still discover widespread murder of young couples by their family members in order to preserve their ‘honor’ because of the couple’s differential social status.

The “traditional” khap panchayat claims that marriage between individuals of the same village is deemed incestuous since they are considered siblings, and thus these weddings are not ethical. The panchayat thus orders the assassination of the couple and hangs their bodies at the village crossing as an example to other prospective couples. Two adults are allowed to marry and, according to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking out against honor murders in India,

“No third person” may harass or injure them. Women are regarded as property and the vessel of family honor in India, with its patriarchal culture. And any conduct that may block the prestige of the family gives the male members an unequivocal right to kill the girl, ‘correct’ their mistakes and gain back the honor.


Honor killings, as defined by the Human Rights Watch, are “acts of violence, usually murder, perpetrated by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonour to the family by being romantically involved with or choosing to marry men outside their caste, class, or religion.” Frequently camouflaged and reported as suicides by relatives, women account for over 97 percent of honour killing victims in India itself, because “the regime of honour is not able to forgive a woman on whom suspicion has fallen” and remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman.” Often named as homicide, Honour killing is a heinous crime and a greater evil, homicides may affect public interest whereas the offence of Honour killing shakes public conscience. The lack of a specific law to deal with these particular crimes, in which ‘honour’ is the common motive, results in them being reported under myriad laws, making them nearly impossible to track. These crimes against honour being grossly violative of the constitution, attract the violation of various enactments like-

• The Indian Majority Act, 1875

• The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

• The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

• The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

• The Special Marriage Act of 1954 and

• The Indian Penal Code, 1860

In spite of being violative of the law on so many levels, honor killings are notoriously underreported – not by the media, but by the State. The institutional reluctance to enact specific laws, fearing a sway on political outcomes, results in a convenient scapegoat and the resulting underestimation.

To discover a remedy for such atrocities, it must be investigated from the very heart. The fundamental foundation of such a marital taboo in the same “gotra” is that it’s considered incest. The 1954 Hindu Marriage Act prohibits the marriage of sapindas, individuals falling in the third generation of the mother and the fifth generation of the father. In addition, marriage between specific ‘degrees of forbidden connections,’ including between sisters and brothers, is also prohibited. The law thus sets out the components for a legal marriage and excludes marriage between close family members.


Although the state action against this crime has been active, most of the state reforms have died in latency. The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2010, was introduced in Parliament, however it never progressed from its embryonic stage. On August 2010, the Supreme Court imposed the capital punishment in the case of U.P. v. Krishna Master & Ors to three defendants in the event of the ‘honour’ killing of six people in a district of Uttar Pradesh in 1991. The Divisional bench of Justices, H.S. Bedi and J.M. Panchal overturned the judgement of acquittal issued by the High Court of Allahabad after which, death penalty was handed over to them by the court. The Bench upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that: “murdering six people and squandering nearly the whole family on the weak basis for preserving the family’s honour would be one of the most unusual instances” As a condemnation of the crime,in the case of Lata Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh and others, a single Judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Markandey Katju had said, ‘’Honour killings are nothing but barbaric cold blooded slaughter and no honour is involved in such killings.’’ Thus, the stance of the judiciary, executive and the legislature on such cases, analyzed with the help of judicial precedents and other codified laws, hold such practices unacceptable. Honor killings violate various provisions and there exist distinct legislation and punishments against this, however each of these sections offer certain exceptions, and aren’t cut out for adept dealing of these crimes. For example: the Indian Evidence Act puts the burden of proof on the victims, this makes most of the crimes go unreported, as the victims don’t live to testify. A suggestive reform would be to amend it to place the burden of proof on the accused, however amending each of the provisions to meet the demands of penalizing this crime would be a futile exercise. The IPC, offers an exception for homicides, triggered by sudden provocation and honor crimes, done by family members through brutal, clever planning mostly hidden behind this. Thus is the requirement for a distinct law so that no innocent voice is stifled in demand of justice.


The government steadily took steps to prohibit honour killing by the time various laws were modified. We end our piece by referring to the most distinguished example given by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who made a substantial improvement in the case of Shakti Vahini against the Union of India in 2018, one of the most significant cases and judgement by declaring that “liberty, using the word in its practical connotation includes right to choose.” Feudal thought must dissolve into darkness and provide the pleasant path towards freedom. The right to freedom must be kept constantly and fiercely to blossom with power and splendor. Rajasthan Government has adopted strict measures and changes by adopting a new bill on the prohibition against interference in the freedom of matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition in 2019. ‘Religion’ and ‘culture’ cannot and must not be used as excuses for murdering women, because religion and its rules are always a subjective interpretation. No ‘culture’ has the right, based on their sense of morality or integrity, to murder or mistreat women. Unfettered faith does not imply free killing and activist laws are thus the only remedy to such dishonest activities.

The remedy to this problem is largely to eradicate the myths in people’s thoughts. They need to be informed about the requirements of the Hindu Marriage Act and what types of weddings are truly invalid. Given the difference in the idea of Gotras and Sapindas, they should be clarified.

‘Honour killings’ violate various provisions and there exist distinct legislation and punishments against this, however each of these sections offers certain exceptions, and isn’t cut out for adept dealing of these crimes. For example, the Indian Evidence Act puts the burden of proof on the victims, this makes most of the crimes go unreported, as the victims don’t live to testify. A suggestive reform would be to amend it to place the burden of proof on the accused, however amending each of the provisions to meet the demands of penalising this crime would be a futile exercise.

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