Tamil Nadu

Constitution Bench to decide validity of death sentence

This file photo shows the remains of the TNAU bus in which three girl students were burnt alive in Dharmapuri on February 2, 2000.  

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will examine the validity of the death sentence affirmed by a two-judge Bench on the three accused — Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan — in the Dharmapuri bus burning incident in which three college girls were killed.

A Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and Adarh Kumar Goel referred the writ petition filed by Muniappan and two others for adjudication by a Constitution Bench which is to take up for hearing from tomorrow a batch of petitions on this issue.

The Supreme Court in January 2011 acting on this writ petition stayed the execution of the three when it was pleaded that a petition seeking review of the August 30, 2010 judgment was still pending disposal.

The case relates to the death of three students – Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha – of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore. The bus in which they were travelling along with 44 other students and two teachers was torched on February 2, 2000, after the conviction of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa in a criminal case. The Supreme Court had expressed shock at the brutality of the incident and upheld the death sentence.

Appearing for the convicts, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal submitted that the review petitions were still pending. One of the grounds taken in the writ petition was that all review petitions filed in death sentence cases should be heard in open court (normally they are heard in judge’s chamber) with oral arguments and if necessary the Supreme Court Rules, 1966, should be amended to bring about that change.

He also drew the Law Commission’s recommendation that all death penalty matters in the Supreme Court should be heard by a Bench of five judges, by amending the relevant Rules.

He said if the Five-Judge Bench were to conclude that the death penalty confirmed by the two judges was wrong, the August 2010 verdict would be set aside and the matter would be reheard by five judges. Hence he pleaded for posting it before a Constitution Bench, which was seized of the issue.

The Bench, while tagging the petition filed by Muniappan and two others to be listed for hearing by a Constitution Bench, also directed that petitions filed by death row convicts B.A. Umesh and Sunder (both involved in multiple murders) be tagged with those petitions.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:18:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Constitution-Bench-to-decide-validity-of-death-sentence/article11257523.ece

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