Death penalty as the only punishment challenged


The Madras High Court Bench has sought the Centre’s response to a public interest litigation petition challenging Constitutional validity of Section 3(1)(g)(i) of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, which prescribes death penalty as the only punishment for certain maritime offences.

A Division Bench of Justices S. Nagamuthu and M.V. Muralidaran ordered notices to the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Law on the PIL petition filed by R. Rameez Ajmal Khan of Madurai. The petitioner had claimed that the legal provision was against Articles 14 (equality before law and equal protection of laws) and 21 (right to protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

He pointed out that Sections 3(1)(a) to 3(1)(f) list out various offences that could be perpetrated against a ship, fixed platform, cargo of a ship or maritime navigational facilities and prescribes different terms of imprisonment for those offences. However, Section 3(1)(g)(i) states that if any of those offences had led to the death of a person, then the offender concerned shall be punished with death.

Taking exception to such prescription of capital punishment without paving way for judicial discretion to impose an alternative or lesser punishment, the petitioner claimed that it was against the fundamental right to life guaranteed under the Constitution and against the call given by human rights activists world-over to abolish death sentence completely from the statute books.

He pointed out that though Indian Penal Code also prescribed death sentence for certain offences, it gives the discretion to the judges to impose lesser punishment too. Further, the Supreme Court had laid down that capital punishment could be imposed only in rarest of rare cases, he added.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 7:05:07 PM |

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