Rights of Indigent Persons under CPC and CrPC

Updated: Mar 14

Capability of justice being accessable by all, is one of its integral facets. The concepts enshrined in our Constitution under Article 14 of equality before law and rule of law suggests the very idea to be applied by the Indian Judiciary system. Article 14 embodies the principle of “non-discrimination”.[1] One may say that the concept of equality is diverse and doesn’t refer necessarily to the one intended here. But that is not all. The language ranging from that of Pramble to the other parts of the Constitution, deal with this aspect of providing justice to all sections of society, irrespective of their economic status as well.

Justice V.R Krishna Iyer endevours to draw a nexus between justice and the indigent sections of people.[2] The essence of his study which we later found in the Code of Criminal Procedure under section 304, can be marked in the words and the reference of the American Supreme Court and the case of Cideon v Wainwright[3] respectively, stating that an indigent person has a right to be provided with a legal aide at the expense of the State. Imbibing this principle Indian lawmakers have included this in our criminal procedural code. The scope of legal aid is not only limited to the accuseds, but even the victims of crime; one who shall obtain justice consequently but may not get crushed in the process. Here comes the scheme of victim compensation under the CrPC. Under section 357 the victim of the crime can ask for compensation and rehabilitation from the State through the respective Legal Services Authority. The principles of legal aid do not exhaust here, we shall see them further as per section 312 expressing where the provision for compensation of witnesses and complainants lie, by the State. Though this particular provision cannot be counted as a right of the mentioned; it denotes the equitable treatment before law in order to impart correct form of justice.

Giving certain waivers in criminal proceedings alone, cannot make justice equitable, a similar sentiment is important in the civil law too. The Code of Civil Procedure does take care of the indigents. Rule 1 of Order 33 of CPC proves to be a testament in this manner. This particluar provision of law provides not only a standard definition of “an indigent person” but provides a crucial right to sue in a civil matter as an indigent person with the aid of the State. But the civil law is not as charitable as the criminal law. The said provision also provides that the said applicant if fails to succeed the suit, he shall have to submit the court fees as calculated upon the value of the suit pursued. This indeed kills the very purpose of introducing such a provision in the first place, though the Code goes on to fill in the formalities of providing rights to indigent people; by providing right to reappeal to indigent persons under Order 44. But by a simple analysis that these provisions are merely textual lacking practicability. Because as pointed by Justice Iyer further in his report[4] these provisions do not have any practical approach; the person who’s already traumatised by his poverty and has once been let down when he failed, he shall not have the courage and resources left at all, to fight for his right again, hence leading to the failure of the justice delivery system at the hands of the elaborate litigation system and opression of procedure.

Hence we see that the current law does provide the provisions for the indigent persons, but the lack of applicability due to the ever-sinking litigation system in India restrains from fulfilling its objective.

But the Indian Judiciary seldom has come to the rescue to these provisions, as examplified in the case of Sushil Kumar Thomas v. Skyline Buildings[5] where the Supreme Court asserted crucially that a person cannot be barred from claimimg court fee exemption U/O 44 of CPC merely because such a claim was rejected U/O 33 of CPC by the Trial Court.

Another innovative approach by the reverant Court can be viewed in the case of Union Bank of India vs Khader International[6] where a company was allowed to sue U/O 33 of CPC.

Thus we see the balance for the good is somehow kept up!


References

1. M.P Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 8 th Edition.

2. Justice V.R Krishna Iyer, Report of the Expert Committee, Processual Justice to the People, May, 1973.

3. 372 U.S. 335.

4. supra note 2.

5. SLP (C) No. 19516 of 2014.

6. (2001) 5 SCC 22


Author - Pragati Gupta

Student at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

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