The Supreme Court reserved its decision on Wednesday to issue guidelines on how and when mitigating circumstances should be considered during a death penalty trial.
Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Sudhanshu Dhulia stated that they would either refer the issue to a larger Bench or frame the guidelines themselves, which could overturn some previous Supreme Court verdicts.
“We’ll have to see if, in such cases, mitigating circumstances must be considered only after conviction or during trial, as per the judgments. Matters may have to be postponed so that sentencing can take place on time. Where do we fit in at that point? In the interests of fairness, I believe it should be after all prosecution evidence has been presented. Otherwise, we’ll have to refer this to a larger Bench “Justice Lalit expressed his thoughts.
The Supreme Court was hearing a case on its own motion to examine how trial courts dealing with death sentences can obtain a comprehensive analysis of the accused and the crime, particularly mitigating circumstances, in order to decide whether a death sentence should be imposed or not.
The suo motu case was filed in April while the Madhya Pradesh High Court was hearing a petition by one [email protected] Bhayu Mevati (appellant) challenging the death penalty imposed by the trial court and confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The probation officer is in charge of this task, but many times the probation officer’s analysis and report do not take into account the entire profile of the accused and may be based on interviews conducted near the end of the trial.
As a result, the Court opined that, in addition to the probation officer, if someone from the defence side is allowed to interview the accused right at the start of the trial, a comprehensive analysis can then be projected at a stage when the matter is considered from the standpoint of whether the death sentence should be imposed or not.
To address these issues, the Court converted an application filed by Project 39A of National Law University, Delhi, into a separate writ petition.
In the matter, it had also served notice on Attorney General KK Venugopal and the Member Secretary of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
Furthermore, it had appointed Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave as Amicus Curiae in the matter, who was assisted by Advocate K Parameshwar.
When the case was called up for hearing today, counsel for Attorney General KK Venugopal (who was unable to attend due to health issues) asked how every convict could not afford lawyers to present his or her case of mitigating circumstances.
“This is why we notified the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). It would be necessary to consult with High Courts and district courts to determine how many such capital punishment cases would fall into that category “said the Bench.
Siddhartha Dave, Amicus Curiae, stated that the case would have to be heard by a larger Bench.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, representing Project 39A, stated that mitigating circumstances should be presented to the trial court only after conviction, not during the trial to determine guilt or innocence.
“During the trial, only facts indicating my guilt or innocence should be presented. Mitigating circumstances should only be considered after the facts have been determined. There is no legal requirement for same-day sentencing “He stated.
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