Judicial innovation helps SC avoid awarding death penalty
Context: Tattu Lodhi case verdict on child rape and murder
Judicial Innovation: Death penalty is substituted with a special category of without the benefit of release on remission for prolonged periods ranging from 25 to 30 years, if not more
Significance: It helps get rid of death penalty
Addresses the genuine concerns of the society to see justice done
An endeavour by the apex court to make no party (convict or the society) a loser
Discuss: Is capital punishment justified, even if the convict is sentenced for a gruesome crime belonging to rarest of rare cases? Also examine the opinion of the Supreme Court of India regarding death sentences
What Judicial Responsibility Must Mean in the Age of the Death Penalty?
Judicial responsibility means not just the responsibility to uphold the law; it means the overarching responsibility to do justice.
Here’s is a pertinent case which we have picked up from the article. It’s written by a High Court Judge:
In 2000, the Madras High Court (Justice Sirpurkar and I) heard an appeal against the death penalty. A school-girl was raped and murdered by three persons. It was a sensational case. The trial court found it to be a case of the ‘rarest of rare’ and sentenced them to death. We commuted the sentence to life. I received several letters asking me if I was a woman, since the deceased was a victim of sexual violence.
There was no platform from where I could say that we had not acquitted the accused, but we had commuted the sentence, for valid reasons regarding the circumstances of the accused. Sometime in 2014, I read a news item about a project in Tamil Nadu conducting courses for prisoners to rehabilitate and equip them with life skills. Among the life-term prisoners who had secured gold medals and state ranks was the first accused in the above case.
This is not submitted as an argument against the death penalty, but as an argument for upholding the right to life. The state punishes not only as a deterrent, but to reform too.
Law Commission: End death penalty, keep it for terror only
India is one of 59 countries where the death penalty is still awarded by courts.
More recently, the issue was debated in the run-up to the July 30 hanging of Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.
In 1962, the Law Commission, in its 35th report, had recommended retention of death penalty.
The death penalty has no demonstrated utility in deterring crime or incapacitating offenders, any more than its alternative — imprisonment for life. The quest for retribution as a penal justification cannot descend into cries for vengeance.
What do you think of this case?
What was the Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab & the “rarest of the rare” doctrine?
Yakub Memon’s hanging sparks debate over death penalty
Here’s what different parties had to say:
The chorus was led by Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor who said “State-sponsored killing” reduces citizens to murderers.
DMK parliamentarian Kanimozhi Karunanidhi vowed to move a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha to abolish death sentences.
Courts in India had awarded death penalty to 2,052 convicts between 1998 and 2013, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, but only three were executed.
The three executions were those of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in 2004, who was convicted for the rape and murder of a teenage girl in Kolkata, Ajmal Kasab for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and Afzal Guru for the 2001 Parliament attack.
Death warrant or ‘black’ warrant proceedings are held in the court that first ordered the sentence of death.
Ideally, the death warrant proceedings should take place only after a prisoner has exhausted all legal remedies.
The SC, in Shabnam v. Union of India case (May 2015) has laid down the key principles for black warrant proceedings.
After the decision of SC, a black warrant proceeding cannot take place without the accused and his lawyer being present.
The Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India case (January 2014) once again affirmed the rights of death row prisoners to challenge the rejection of their mercy petition on certain grounds.