SC rap makes Haryana pull up its law officers

19 September 2015

After the Supreme Court's recent criticism of the Haryana government's ''lack of assistance'' in criminal cases pending before the court, the state's additional chief secretary (home) P K Mahapatra has issued strict guidelines to law officers of the state asking them to coordinate better with the police and prisons departments.

Mahapatra warned the law officers that non-compliance would result in their ''disengagement''.

The Supreme Court, taking a serious view of what it termed the ''lax approach'' of the state government in conducting and representing ongoing criminal cases, had summoned the Home Secretary and warned him that he would be ''held liable'' in case of default in the future, and action would be taken against him.

On 10 September, while hearing a criminal appeal pertaining to reduction of sentence of an accused arrested on charges of abduction, a bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana felt that the state government was not providing ''adequate'' assistance to the court in the particular case.

''The court is not receiving any assistance from the state of Haryana in the present case. Such lack of assistance from the state of Haryana has been felt by this bench in other cases also,'' it said.

Referring to the particular case, the court said, ''The appeal of the state is against the alteration of the conviction of the accused respondent from Section 364A IPC and sentence of life imprisonment to one under Section 364 IPC and sentence of imprisonment for ten years.

The substantive sentence as on date against the respondent accused Ravinder Kumar, is, therefore, ten years under Section 364 IPC. It has been brought to our notice that the accused Ravinder Kumar has been in custody for nearly 15 years. It is not known whether such custody is in connection with any other case.''

In the ''lack of any assistance on behalf of the State of Haryana and absence of requisite clarification'', the court then went on to direct the secretary (home), Government of Haryana to be personally present before the court on 15 September along with the required information and connected papers.

The 10 September order had also stated that the officer ''will also inform the court as to what steps the State of Haryana intends to take to effectively assist the court in the criminal cases that are pending before this court''.

The very next day, on 11 September, ACS (home), Mahapatra issued three-page guidelines, asking law officers/ advocates on record, to adhere to the guidelines strictly or face action.

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