This refers to the article “Take these men off death row” (July 6) by Prabha Sridevan. The Supreme Court has not adopted a uniform policy in confirming or rejecting an appeal arising from a death sentence awarded by a lower court. Bachan Singh’s case introduced the “rarest of rare” doctrine in criminal jurisprudence. In that case, the court conceded that “standardisation” of the sentencing process was almost impossible. In Om Prakash vs State of Haryana, the Supreme Court gave weightage to the attendant circumstances in which seven members of a family were murdered by a 23-year-old BSF jawan. His death sentence was commuted.
In the case of Bantu v. State of U.P, one of the 13 cases referred to by the writer, the court confirmed the death penalty for rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. It laid particular stress on the “social impact” of a crime. It is settled that judicial decisions of the apex court have precedent value. However, it is also settled that the highest court is not bound by its own previous decisions.
The article should wake up the authorities to the plight of the 13 death row convicts erroneously sentenced by our courts. From the various instances cited by Ms Sridevan, it is clear that the Supreme Court has taken a position that the circumstances of the criminal should be taken into consideration. It is unfortunate that two men were executed despite the stated position of the apex court on the death penalty.
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
The former judge has made a relevant appeal. Crime and punishment are age-old issues. The development of society has always been towards a more enlightened approach of dealing with the causes of the crime in exploitative and oppressive societies. There can be no worse crime than the one committed in Norway in July 2011 by racist Breivik who killed more than 70 children. Nobody in Europe seeks the blood of Breivik as people in India seek the blood of Kasab and Afzal. The law “to be hanged till death” should be changed to read as “to be imprisoned till death.”
As an advocate, I agree there are loopholes in the criminal justice system. But what about fool-proof cases in which the accused deserve capital punishment? Let us wait and see how the court deals with the cases of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab against whom there is unimpeachable evidence.
Keywords: death penalty