Updated: Jun 1
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Prof.(Dr.) Priya Sepaha
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An amicus curia is a Latin word which means, ‘friend of the court. He/she is a person appointed by the court who is a specialist in any specific area along with the legal knowledge who can assist a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case in the form of a brief. He is not a party to a case and should not be appointed by a party to maintain the transparency and unbiased decision. The Court appoints him and the court itself provides his fees/consultation. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court.
Amicus curiae in the India legal system
The appointment of Amicus curiae in India can be in both civil and criminal cases.
1. Criminal cases- According to Supreme Court jurisdiction quoted “If a petition is received from the jail or in any other criminal matter if the accused is unrepresented then an Advocate is appointed as amicus curiae by the Court to defend and argue the case of the accused”.
2. Civil cases - The “Court can appoint an Advocate as amicus curiae if it deemed fit it necessary in case of an unrepresented party; the Court can also appoint amicus curiae in any matter of public importance or in which the interest of the public at large is involved”.
Recent Guidelines by Supreme Court of India:
In Anokhilal v. State of M.P. Criminal Appeal No.62-64, 2014, the Court also issued specific guidelines concerning the appointment of Amicus Curiae in cases where it is likely that life imprisonment or death may be served as a penalty:-
1. Either the learned Advocates who have put in a minimum of 10 years practice at the Bar alone can be appointed as Amicus Curiae or through legal services to represent an accused in all cases where there is a possibility of a life sentence or death sentence.
2. Senior Advocates of the Court must first be considered to be appointed as Amicus Curiae in all matters dealt with by the High Court concerning confirmation of death sentence.
3. Some reasonable time may be provided to enable the counsel to prepare the matter, whenever any learned counsel is appointed as Amicus Curiae. There cannot be any hard and fast rule on that behalf. However, a minimum of seven days may generally be appropriate and adequate.
4. Any learned counsel, who is appointed as Amicus Curiae on behalf of the accused, must generally be granted to have meetings and discussion with the concerned accused.