CJI spot­lights the law on death penalty

Per­sons on death row are pri­or­ity for the Supreme Court, says Ranjan Go­goi

The Hindu - - NATION - Kr­ish­nadas Ra­jagopal

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.

De­serve ex­pla­na­tion

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

The Hindu.

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