THERE IS an old saying that it is the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches. So if you are an aggrieved or an affected party, and feel that you have a strong case to contest in the court of law, you are the better person who can plead the case and put forth your view point with authority, no matter whether you are an advocate or not. As a petitioner in person, you have a primary right to contest any of your civil or criminal case even without engaging an advocate.
According to Sunil Sethi, former president of Jammu Bar association, it is not necessary at all for a petitioner to engage a lawyer. In fact, an advocate is just a substitute and under order Three of Civil Procedure Code, an advocate is an attorney - a person appointed to act for the petitioner.
Sethi says that to appear in person in the court, one doesn’t require a law degree at all. “Even the petitioner can engage another person to plead the case. That other person also doesn’t require to be a lawyer. Simply, in such a case the permission of the court is required.
If a petitioner doesn’t have resources to engage a lawyer or cannot also plead of his own, in such case, he can approach Legal Aid committee who can engage an advocate for the petitioner on government expenses. These Legal Aid committees are at district level (headed by Sessions Judge) and at state level, headed by a judge of a High Court.
Sethi says that if a person wants to plead the case of his own, he doesn’t need to put on an advocate’s uniform. Further, if he can not write the writ petition, the same can be drafted by engaging an advocate, but the case in the court can be pleaded by the petitioner himself, if he wishes so.
It is not also necessary to engage an advocate for the entire case till it comes to its logical conclusion. “Even the petitioner has the right to change the advocate and engage another at any stage of case, opines senior Jammu and Kashmir High Court advocate SS Anand Lehar.
Dwelling upon criminal cases, Lehar says that no trial begins before an accused is given an opportunity to engage a lawyer. In case the accused is not in a position or doesn’t want to engage a lawyer, the court is bound to give him the services of an ‘Amicus Curie’- an advocate who will be asked by the Court to represent the case and the money for the same will be borne by the court.
If the accused neither engages the advocate nor takes the services of ‘Amicus Curie’, the Judge will be in that case himself examining the witness. Even the accused himself has the right to cross-examine the witnesses.
While giving reference of the law, Lehar says that under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (seeking safeguard of life and liberty of an individual), even a foreigner can approach Indian Courts and that too without an advocate. Even those who have illegally come to India or detained after crossing the border, can seek justice under this provision and can plead for liberty if detained beyond the period of detention.
So the next time, when you are engaged in any legal dispute, be it a consumer case, a civil or a matrimonial dispute, if you are sure that you can plead the case of your own, you have the right to appear before the judge - but remember, maintaining the dignity of the court is everybody’s prime duty.
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