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Death penalty case: SC refers to 5-judge bench on framing guidelines on mitigating circumstances

In many death cases, an accused person is sentenced to death by a trial judge on the same day he is convicted of the crime.

In many death cases, an accused person is sentenced to death by a trial judge on the same day he is convicted of the crime.

The Supreme Court, in a judgment on September 19, 2022, referred to the Constitution Bench the question whether accused in death penalty cases The trial court should be given an opportunity to present the mitigating circumstances in full and detail before conviction.

In many death cases, an accused person is The hanging was condemned by the trial judge On the same day he is convicted of a crime.

While the state is given an opportunity to present grave circumstances against the accused during the entire period of trial, the accused, on the other hand, are able to present evidence showing weak circumstances in their favour, which may spare them the noose. , only later his sentence, the court noted.

Referring the matter to a five-judge bench, comprising Chief Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Ajay Rastogi, the scales are tilted against the accused in a criminal trial which can lead to an irreversible outcome. that is, the death of the accused.

Justice Bhat, who penned the judgment, said, “In such cases the accused are placed at a hopeless disadvantage, apparently with the scales tilted against them.”

In many cases Sentencing hearing is a quick formality The order of conviction will have to pass after it is pronounced.

“The accused are given an opportunity to present the most difficult situation,” Justice Bhat said.

The three-judge bench said that a similar approach on when and how to afford an opportunity to introduce mitigating circumstances before the death penalty after the offense was declared “rare than ever” was recommended by the Constitutional Bench. to be officially decided by

A reference to a larger bench to examine the issue affecting the fundamental rights of accused in death penalty cases may indicate a move from the apex court to heroic. The criminal justice system away from the death penalty on one’s own. The decision is important because it recognizes and seeks to resolve a debate as to whether the death penalty, although considered the rarest of punishment, is being administered negligently by the trial court.

During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had also opposed the sentencing of the same day, even suggesting that the entire proceedings should be adjourned after the stage of sentencing in cases in which the guilty Any person found guilty can be given death sentence as a punishment. The defense team can use the time to collect the mitigating factors.

Until now, no attempt has ever been made to dig deeper into an offender’s childhood experiences, multi-generational histories of physical and mental health issues, exposure to traumatic events, and other family, social and cultural factors. so that individual punishment can be investigated. The mitigating circumstances cited in favor of an offender when sentencing are often basic. These included the prisoner’s immediate family structure, education, and pre-arrest work.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Lalit had considered whether the mitigating circumstances should be brought to the notice of the trial court at the stage of framing of charges or even after the conclusion of the prosecution’s evidence.

The amicus curiae of the court, senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, had agreed that the trial judge should try every material or evidence which can be seen as a mitigating circumstance in the case of death.

Justice friend K. Parameshwara had said that the trial was conducted in such a way that the dice against the accused would always remain the same. He had noted that the prosecution faced dire circumstances during the entire trial against the accused, while the mitigating factors were hardly heard. Such a trial, followed by the same day’s sentencing, violated the right to equality.

“By giving the same day sentence, you are basically saying that the scale of the serious circumstances of the prosecution is heavy without giving any opportunity to bring to the fore the diluting circumstances. So the punishment for the same day is bad,” Sri Parmeshwar had submitted.

Senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, appearing for Project 39A, a working group on death penalty cases, had “highlighted the need for judicial exercise to reach the right set of parameters to determine whether the state should really Whether he should take life or not, what should he do for it. He has done it. It is a constitutional imperative that the same day sentence will be turned down.”

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