Accused has right to defence: PHC: Case sent back to trial court
PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has ruled that the constitution guarantees an accused the right to defence through a counsel; and in case an accused cannot arrange a counsel, the trial court should provide him with one. The ruling came on Thursday during the hearing of an appeal from one Noorullah Khan from Charsadda, who was handed down life imprisonment and Rs200,000 fine by a special anti-narcotics court on April 14, 2005. A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court, comprising Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan and Justice Qaim Jan Khan, set aside the conviction and referred the case back to the trial court as the witnesses were not cross-examined by the appellant’s counsel.
The bench observed that the special courts were not following these necessary requirements of law. Noorullah was arrested from Peshawar in December 2003 by the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), which claimed recovering 200kg charas from his vehicle. The ANF said the driver of the vehicle escaped. Noorullah was charged under section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997. Noor Alam Khan, Chairman of the Voice of Prisoners, appeared for Noorullah, the appellant, and contended that under section 340 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused should be represented by a pleader. Even though the CNSA was a special law, the CrPC was applicable in such cases, he said.
He said the appellant had told the trial court that his family had abandoned him. That was why he failed to hire a counsel and requested the trial judge to examine witnesses on his behalf, he said. Referring to judgments of the superior courts as well as the High Court Rules, the counsel contended that in cases punishable with death or life imprisonment where the accused was unrepresented, the trial court was duty-bound to first ascertain whether or not the accused had means to engage a counsel; and if it was determined that he could not afford a counsel on his own, then the court should arrange a counsel for him on government expenses.