Don’t hang the convicts hurriedly and secretly, says Supreme Court

Supreme Court on in its recent judgment said that the execution of death sentence cannot be carried out in a hurried and secret manner. A bench of justices AK Sikri and UU Lalit of the Apex Court observed that proper procedure must be followed by Government authorities and execution cannot be done till the convict exhausts all remedy available to him to save his life.

Supreme Court, while quashing the execution warrants of a young woman and her lover, convicted for killing seven members of her family including a 10-month-old baby in Uttar Pradesh in 2008, noting that it was issued “in haste” by giving a go-by to mandatory guidelines.

Holding that, the death convicts cannot be denied fundamental right to life, observed that Government cannot hang condemned prisoners without giving him prior notice and allowing him to meet family members.

“Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution does not end with the confirmation of the death sentence. The basis to the right to dignity also extends to the death row convicts. Therefore, the sentence of death has to be executed with total dignity.

“That is why there are many judgments mandating the manner in which the death sentence has to be executed,” the bench said and added that “therefore the procedure prescribed by the Supreme Court and the Allahabad High Court for execution of death sentence is in consonance with Article 21”.

Apex court further observed that right to life does not end with the confirmation of the death sentence observing that the basis to the right to dignity also extends to the death row convicts. In the given case Apex Court observed that the death warrant was signed by the Sessions Judge in haste without waiting for the convicts to exhaust the available legal remedies.

Karnataka High Court commutes death to life term in Church blast case

A division bench of Karnataka High Court headed by Justice N Kumar commuted the death penalty awarded by a special court in 2008 to 7 of the convicts to life sentence in the Church blast case. High Court of Karnataka commuted the death penalty imposed on seven convicts in the 2000 serial church blast cases to life imprisonment and upheld conviction of all the 22 people belonging to the banned Deendar Anjuman Organisation, who were convicted by a Special Court in 2008. Further, the life sentence imposed on 15 other members of the sect has been upheld.

The blasts had occurred in June-July 2000 in Bengaluru, Hubballi and Wadi in Kalaburagi district. Court said that, the acts of the seven convicts does not fall under the category of “rarest of rare cases” to warrant death penalty. There was no loss of public life in the blasts and their intention was not to kill people,

It was observed by the court that, each of the accused is party to the conspiracy, and the evidence on record clearly establishes the same. Court further observed that, “They wanted to see how Hindus and Christians fight among themselves, so that peace in the society is destroyed. They printed pamphlets and circulated them, with the hope that Christians and Hindus would lock horns. In a country which believes in peaceful co-existence of all religions, the action of these is unpardonable.”

While commuting the death penalty, the bench said no loss of life was reported in the blasts and the only intent was to bring disharmony. Court further said that, “it is of utmost importance that a strong message is sent to all these misguided, evil-minded elements in society and in particular, the youth of the Muslim community to desist from indulging in any such anti-national activities lest the entire community gets a bad name. This is a country and state, which belongs to all religious denominations.”

Court even referred to Karnataka’s anthem penned by Rashtrakavi Kuvempu to describe the state as a garden of religions.

Supreme Court gives 2nd thought on death penalty

Mahima Gherani

Showing increasing distress in awarding death penalty, the Supreme Court found two main questions bothering it after Sonu Sardar was awarded death penalty by the trial court, which was accepted by the High Court and further ratified by the apex court and his merciful plea was rejected by the President.

Sonu along with his minor collaborators were arrested but three of them flee after looting and murdering the family of a Muslim scrap dealer, including two minor children and women in Chattisgarh. After committing the crime, Sonu was the only one to be held for trial and the other three absconders where yet to be arrested.

Appearing on Sonu’s side advocate Raja Ramachandran said that it had now come to light that the accused was 18 years and 2months old while committing the crime, and not 23 years as it was recorded in the judgment.

The two major questions before the Chattisgarh counsel were, Firstly whether the accused was just above the age of juvenility, and Secondly being whether it was could be clearly pin pointed that Sonu played a major role in multiple murders committed.

Interestingly, both these issues had come before the court only in February 2012.

Speaking for the accused Mr.Ramachandran said that there were no previous criminal records pending against him and nor did he ever try to escape during the jail break even though he had a fair chance. In his opinion, the court had erroneously recorded that there were no circumstances in Sonu’s favour. The State had failed in discharging his duty of proving that the convict was beyond the realm of reformation.

Taking into account all the issues that came before the court, the judgment of 2012 was that even though Sonu was young, he had committed a crime which was pre-meditated and he was a threat to the society which was one among the rarest of the rare cases where death penalty was the appropriate punishment to be given.

Death penalty convicts may be heard in open Court: SC

Supreme Court while hearing writ petitions seeking the Court to address the question as to whether review of death penalty awarded in rarest of rare cases should continue to be done in the privacy of the Judges’ chambers or transparently in open court ruled that reviewing its own decisions on death row prisoners in an open court is a fundamental right.

A Five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, decided that review of death sentence cases will be heard in open court by a Bench of three judges. The Bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, in a 4:1 majority judgment, directed that death row convicts whose death penalty have been reviewed by a Bench of less than three judges can move the Supreme Court in one month to re-open their review petitions. However, court was of the opinion that, in those cases, where the curative petition has already been decided, the death row convict will not have this opportunity to avail the same.

The judgment was based on a batch of identical writ petitions filed by eight death row convicts, of which three in the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case, Pakistani national Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq in the Red Fort Attack case of 2000, 1993 Bombay serial blasts ‘mastermind’ Yakub Memon and B.A. Umesh and Sunder, both convicted in multiple murders.

Usually death penalty matters were heard by Two-Judge Benches. The 2013 Rules extend to pending death penalty-related cases also. It says any pending death sentence matters in which a Bench of less than three judges is of the opinion that the accused deserves death, the matter concerned will be referred to the Chief Justice of India, who will in turn constitute a Three-Judge Bench to hear it.