Supreme Court Sets January 2024 for Hearing to Deliberate onto address the issue of Same-Day Sentencing in Death Penalty Cases

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: November 23, 2023 at 10:20 IST

The Supreme Court has announced its decision to schedule hearings in January 2024 to address the issue of whether same-day sentencing is appropriate in cases involving capital punishment or the death penalty.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, leading the bench, directed the registry to specify the exact date of the hearing within January 2024.

This development follows a previous bench, headed by then Chief Justice UU Lalit and including Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, which observed conflicting judgments on providing an accused with a hearing before imposing a death sentence.

Acknowledging the absence of a consistent framework for separate hearings in death penalty cases, the Supreme Court initiated a suo moto petition and referred it to a 5-judge bench.

In today’s proceedings, Ms Vidhi Thakkar, appointed counsel assisting Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave (amicus curiae), was designated as the nodal counsel. The court instructed that all compilations be submitted by December 15, 2023.

Senior Advocate Dave outlined the impetus behind the suo moto proceedings, citing instances where psychological evaluations were not conducted in numerous death sentence cases.

He emphasized the need for a structured process, stating, “Same-day sentencing in capital punishment cases cannot be permitted,” and argued that it is the court’s duty to consider mitigation circumstances.

Project 39A, an intervenor in the case, contended that, in addition to addressing the time gap in same-day sentences, the right to counsel should encompass the right to mitigation assistance for a fair trial. They argued, “If mitigation is an essential part of the right to defence, the right to fair trial through counsel would also incorporate appropriate mitigation assistance.”

The suo moto petition was initiated due to the absence of a uniform framework for separate hearings in death penalty cases, taking into account the Manoj & Ors. v. State of Madhya case’s concerns.

This case emphasized the importance of a separate hearing and the necessity of a background analysis of the accused, considering factors such as social milieu, age, education, past trauma, family circumstances, psychological evaluation, and post-conviction conduct when deciding on the imposition of the death penalty.

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