Friday, February 6, 2015

SC judgement on delay in execution of death sentences

NEW DELHI, September 2, 2014 In a few hours on Tuesday, a Five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will deliver judgment on whether inordinate delay in execution of death sentences amounts to, in effect, subjecting a death row convict to a double punishment of life imprisonment and death penalty. Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton Nariman, who authors the verdict for the Bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, would also primarily 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, while affording the death row convict the last opportunity to fight for his life. The judgment would be based on a batch of identical writ petitions filed by eight death row convicts, including 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. The Dharmapuri case relates to the death of three students – Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha – of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, when the bus they were travelling in along with 44 other students and two teachers were torched by the three convicts — Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan - on February 2, 2000, after the conviction of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa in a criminal case. Memon and Arif had argued in their separate petitions that years of anticipating their executions while confined in their respective jail cells has led them to suffer both mental torture. They contended that an execution now after a long term in prison would amount to serving them with both life sentence and death penalty. The convicts' petitions have separately demanded that review petitions filed against death sentence should be heard in open court by a Bench comprising from three to five judges as the issue involves taking a person’s life. They challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of judges being able to hear and dismiss review petitions by “circulation” — in judges’ chambers — rather than in open court with the convict allowed to make oral arguments. “The convict must be left with no doubt in his mind that every possible opportunity was given to him under the Constitution of India before his life was taken away following the procedure established by law,” Memon had argued in his petition. However, the judgment follows the implementation of the newly amended Supreme Court Rules 2013 from August 19. The amended rules provide that “every cause, appeal or other proceedings” in a death penalty case would be heard by a Bench of not less than three judges. Death penalty matters were usually 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 are 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. Source: [last accessed 06.02.2015]

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