Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Trial courts give death freely, but just 5% confirmed
NEW DELHI:, JULY 20, 2015 02:04 IST
Of 1,790 death sentences, 1,512 were decided by the High Courts, while the remaining were either awaiting decision or had been sent for retrials.
Just five per cent of the 1,790 death sentences handed down by trial courts in the last 15 years have been confirmed by the Supreme Court. The numbers point to wanton sentencing by the lower courts resulting in decades wasted on death row, say experts. The Centre on the Death Penalty at the National Law University, Delhi, wrote to all High Courts in the country seeking details of all death sentences handed down by trial courts in their jurisdictions over the last 15 years. All death sentences handed down by trial courts, except in terrorism cases, must go to High Court for confirmation. Madhya Pradesh was the only state which did not respond, which the Calcutta High Court’s data had so much missing information that it could not be used.
1,512 sentences were decided by the High Courts, while the remaining were either awaiting decision or had been sent for retrials. In over a quarter of these cases, the High Courts acquitted persons who had been not just convicted, but also given death sentences by the trial courts. Another half of all cases resulted in commutations. In all, less then 15 per cent of cases were confirmed by the High Courts. Bihar had the highest rate of High Court acquittals. Of the cases that went to the Supreme Court (186 cases), 10 per cent resulted in acquittals, while 60 per cent resulted in commutations.
In all, just 59 cases of the original 1,790 — or fewer than five per cent — were confirmed by the Supreme Court. In all, a third of death sentences given by trial courts resulted in acquittals at a later stage.
“Thirty per cent of death sentences handed down by trial courts result in acquittals. Can we trust a justice system to hand out death sentences when the outcome swings like this from one extreme to another?” asked Dr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry, senior advocate, who has represented death row prisoners and who strongly opposes the death penalty. “This goes to show that trial courts are handing out death sentences in cases which do not call for it and inflicting brutal and undeserved mental agony,” he added.
“It clearly shows that death penalty is unnecessarily imposed. Much of the discussion is focused on the Supreme Court but I do believe that these numbers point towards a full blown crisis in the trial courts. It is time we focussed on the manner in which the trial courts are administering death penalty,” Anup Surendranath, Director, Centre on the Death Penalty at NLU Delhi, said. Most of the people currently on death row in India are there on murder charges. As part of the Death Penalty Project at NLU Delhi, which interviewed 385 death row inmates between June 2013 and January 2015, the largest proportion of prisoners were sentenced to death for murder, and 25% of these prisoners were sentenced to death for the commission of a single murder, Mr. Surendranath said. The majority of death row inmates are poor.
In addition, 23 persons were sentenced to death under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. For such cases, the Supreme Court is the only court of redressal; only six such sentences were confirmed by the SC. For six others, the Supreme Court enhanced the sentence to death.
Source: https://www.thehindu.com/data/trial-courts-too-liberal-with-death-sentences/article7441177.ece (Accessed on 18 December 2018)