CJI spotlights the law on death penalty
Persons on death row are priority for the Supreme Court, says Ranjan Gogoi
A series of Supreme Court decisions after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took over as top judge has seen the Supreme Court veer away the death penalty and point out lapses in the way justice is administered in death penalty cases.
For one, Chief Justice Gogoi has been heard repeatedly admonishing frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) litigants for wasting the time of the court. The CJI has expressed annoyance at how his court is straddled with such PILs when judges ought to hear the under-100 pending death penalty references.
“Every morning, these people wake up wondering when the court will hear them,” the Chief Justice said, expressing the uncertainty of prisoners in death row. The CJI said such cases are the priority for the court.
“Time and again, this Court has categorically held that life imprisonment is the rule and death penalty is the exception and even when the crime is heinous or brutal, it may not still fall under the category of rarest of rare,” the Supreme Court said in its latest order in a death penalty case.
Recently, the apex court put an end to its own practice of dismissing death penalty appeals in limine, without even assigning a reason for the decision.
Death row convicts deserve an explanation as to why the highest court of the land had concluded that they deserved to hang for their crime. “Special leave petitions filed in cases where the death sentence is awarded by the courts below should not be dismissed without giving reasons, at least qua death sentence,” a threejudge Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and Indira Banerjee observed in a recent judgment.
The Bench’s decision came in a review petition filed by Babasheb Maruti Kamble, who was condemned to the gallows for murder. Kamble had filed a review against the apex court’s earlier dismissal of his appeal against death with a two-line order which merely said: “Delay condoned. Dismissed.”
Justice Kurian Joseph, in his last solo opinion before retirement as Supreme Court judge, questioned the way courts decide that a person cannot be reformed and thus sentenced to death.
“His good conduct in prison or the fact that he has engaged in studies inside the prison walls is not considered a mitigating factor against death penalty,” Justice Kurian told
Every morning, these people wake up wondering when the court will hear them
Ranjan Gogoi Chief Justice of India