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Judicial innovation- special category imprisonment (a background)

  1. Swami Shraddananda v/s State of Karnataka: Such special category finds its first mention in this judgment of the Supreme Court in 2008
  2. Union of India v/s Sriharan alias Murugan: This innovation was formalised by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Rajiv Gandhi killers’ case in December 2015
  3. Tattu Lodhi case: Having saved Lodhi from the death penalty, SC stripped him of his right to apply for release from prison on remission for the next 25 years
  4. Thus, any hope Lodhi might have had for his release after serving the first 14 years was effectively extinguished
  5. SC: The prolonged period of incarceration with no hope is justice enough for the rape and murder of a defenceless child whose body was found in a gunny bag at Lodhi’s residence in 2011

Judicial innovation helps SC avoid awarding death penalty

  1. Context: Tattu Lodhi case verdict on child rape and murder
  2. 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
  3. Significance: It helps get rid of death penalty
  4. Addresses the genuine concerns of the society to see justice done
  5. 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

Compassion on death row cases

Until death penalty is abolished, courts need to humanise the law and procedure relating to death and mercy.

  1. Death row convict Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq has been given one more opportunity of an oral hearing.
  2. A 30-minute oral hearing in open court for every review petition involving the penalty is a constitutional requirement.
  3. It was not applicable to Ashfaq as his review and curative petitions had already been rejected.
  4. He was granted a concession in order that even the slightest possibility of error may be eliminated.
  5. Supreme Court has been dealing with cases culminating in the death penalty in a liberal spirit in recent years.
  6. In sept. 2014, it carved out an exception for death row cases alone by making oral hearing an integral part of ‘reasonable procedure’.
  7. In general review petitions are decided by circulation of the papers among judges not by oral hearing.

Germany won’t sign MLAT, cites death penalty

Germany has expressed its inability to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with India, citing its provision for death penalty for heinous crimes and terror activities.

  1. India has signed MLAT with 39 countries, including the United States.
  2. This is perhaps the first time a country has refused to sign the treaty on grounds of the death penalty provision.
  3. An MLAT is an agreement between two or more countries for gathering and exchanging information to enforce public or criminal laws.

Let’s discuss the case for Death Penalties

 

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

  1. India is one of 59 countries where the death penalty is still awarded by courts.
  2. More recently, the issue was debated in the run-up to the July 30 hanging of Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.
  3. 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?

Tripura assembly passes resolution against death penalty

  1. Tripura Assembly has passed a resolution to request the Union Government to amend Section 302 of the IPC to abolish capital punishment and replace it with life sentence unto death.
  2. The resolution was adopted unanimously and would be sent to union government and the Law Commission for consideration.

Yakub Memon’s hanging sparks debate over death penalty

Here’s what different parties had to say:

  1. The chorus was led by Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor who said “State-sponsored killing” reduces citizens to murderers.
  2. DMK parliamentarian Kanimozhi Karunanidhi vowed to move a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha to abolish death sentences.
  3. 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.

HT

SC should reconsider validity of death penalty, says ex-judge

  1. SC in Shanker Kisan Rao Khade vs Maharashtra, 2013 set out the principle for awarding capital punishment.
  2. Court held that capital punishment can be awarded only if there are zero mitigating circumstances.
  3. The award of death penalty should be “society-centric” and the litmus test is whether society will approve the awarding of death sentence or not.
  4. The court has to look into a variety of factors like society’s abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to the crime.

Justice or vengeance – Exploring death warrant

  1. Death warrant or ‘black’ warrant proceedings are held in the court that first ordered the sentence of death.
  2. Ideally, the death warrant proceedings should take place only after a prisoner has exhausted all legal remedies.
  3. The SC, in Shabnam v. Union of India case (May 2015) has laid down the key principles for black warrant proceedings.
  4. After the decision of SC, a black warrant proceeding cannot take place without the accused and his lawyer being present.
  5. 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.

Trial & error – A case on death penalties

The editorial makes the case for increase in number of death penalty handed out by trial courts and demands abolition of death penalty.

  1. The reason being, trial courts have close proximity to crimes than higher courts in terms of occurrence and distance.
  2. Much of the debate around the death penalty in India centers on SC rulings and observations.
  3. As trail courts handed over 1800 death penalties, only 5% of them were confirmed by SC. Therefore, there is a little attention paid to misuse of death penalty in India’s lower court.
  4. SC laid down the ‘’rarest of the rare “principle in 1980 Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab ruling.

On Yakub Memon: Every culprit entertains false hope

“O my lord, forgive this man. He knows not what he does!” Yakub Memon had screamed like a caged animal, his angry eyes fixed on the judge when the Tada Court sentenced him to death in July 2007.

The outburst stunned the courtroom into silence, but Judge P.D. Kode remained unperturbed by the drama, and went on with his business with the usual calmness associated with him.

Yakub Memon’s review petition seeking the recall of the March 21 2013 apex court order upholding his death sentence is presently before the Supreme Court which has stayed his execution.



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