The Madras High Court bench here on Monday directed the Superintendent of Tiruchi Central Prison and a life convict to submit reports on “the lapses in the mechanism of providing free legal aid” to prisoners by the Legal Aid Services Authority.
A division bench comprising Justices V. Dhanpalan and M. Duraiswamy issued the direction while hearing the criminal appeal petition filed by V. Veeramani, who was convicted to life term for murdering a woman and her son in 2003. The additional session’s court in Pattukottai had convicted Veeramani in 2007.
According to Veeramani, he had filed the appeal six years after the conviction because his family was economically disadvantaged and was unable to afford the legal expenses.
In their order, the judges observed that financial constraints cannot be a reason for filing an appeal 2,235 days after conviction. “If financial constraints are the reason for a convict to file an appeal after six years, we are at a loss to understand the right guaranteed to a citizen under Article 39A of the Constitution of India and the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987. All efforts are being taken by the Legal Services Authority to propagate, and reach the common man about, the availability of legal services”, the judges noted. Besides, awareness programmes on free legal aid were being held inside the prisons consistently, they observed.
The judges also directed the petitioner to submit an explanation whether or not he was aware of the right to free legal aid and adjourned the case by four weeks.