Supreme Court pointed out in M. H. Hoskot. v. State of Maharashtra, (1978) 3 SCC 544): “Judicial justice, with procedural intricacies, legal submissions and critical examination of evidence, leans upon professional expertise; and a failure of equal justice under the law is on the cards where such supportive skill is absent for one side. Our judicature, moulded by Anglo-American models and our judicial process, engineered by kindred legal technology, compel the collaboration of lawyer – power for steering the wheels of equal justice under the law”.
Free legal services to the poor and the needy is an essential element of any ‘reasonable, fair and just’ procedure. It is not necessary to quote authoritative pronouncements by judges and jurists in support of the view that without the service of a lawyer an accused person would be denied ‘reasonable, fair and just’ procedure. Black. J., observed in Gideon v. Wainwright, (1963) 372 US 335:9 L Ed 2d 799:
“Not only these precedents but also reason and reflection require us to recognise that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person held into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth. Governments, both State and Federal quite properly spend vast sums of money to establish machinery to try defendants accused of crime. Lawyers to prosecute are everywhere deemed essential to protect the public’s interest in an orderly society. Similarly, there are few defendants charge with crime, few indeed, who fail to hire the best lawyers they can get to prepare and present their defences. That Government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have the money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the widespread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but is in ours. From the very beginning, our State and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realised if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyers to assist him”.
The philosophy of free legal service as an essential element of fair procedure is also to be found in the following passage from the judgment of Douglas, J. in Jon Richard Argersinger v. Raymond Hamlion, (1972) 407 US 25:32 L Ed 2d 530 at pages 535-36:
“The right to be heard would be, in many cases of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defence, even though he has a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence. If that be true of men of intelligence, how much more true is it of the ignorant and illiterate or those of feeble intellect.
The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries but it is in ours. From the very beginning our State and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyers to assist him.
Both Powell and Gideon involved felonies. But their rationale has relevance to any criminal trial, where an accused is deprived of his liberty.
The court should consider the probable sentence that will follow if a conviction is obtained. The more serious the likely consequence, the greater is the probability that a lawyer should be appointed ….. The court should consider the individual factors peculiar to each case. These, of course would be the most difficult to anticipate. One relevant factor would be the competency of the individual defendant to present his own case. (emphasis added)”