Death Penalty: Five-Judge SC Bench To Consider Framing Guidelines on Mitigating Circumstances

A bench headed by CJI U.U. Lalit said that there were "conflicting judgments" regarding the grant of hearing to an accused before imposing the death penalty.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday referred to a five-judge constitution bench a suo motu plea on framing guidelines on how and when potential mitigating circumstances should be considered by courts during trial in cases which entail the death penalty as the maximum punishment.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit said it was of the opinion that this matter required a hearing by a larger bench to have clarity and uniform approach as to when an accused, facing the death penalty as maximum sentence, is required to be heard with regard to mitigating circumstances.

“Let matter be placed before the CJI for orders in this regard,” Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said while pronouncing the verdict.

According to LiveLaw, the bench – also comprising Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia – noted that there were “conflicting judgments” regarding the grant of hearing to an accused before imposing the death penalty.

A death sentence is irreversible and every opportunity should be given to the accused for consideration of mitigating circumstances so that the court concludes that capital punishment is not warranted, the bench had observed while reserving its verdict on August 17.

The top court had taken note of the issue, saying there was an urgent need to ensure that mitigating circumstances for conviction of offences that carry the possibility of a death sentence are considered at the trial stage.

Usually, the mitigating circumstances can be placed on record after conviction.

“It is necessary to have clarity on granting real and meaningful opportunity of hearing to accused in such cases”, the bench observed, according to LiveLaw.

The case was titled as “Framing Guidelines Regarding Potential Mitigating Circumstances to be Considered While Imposing Death Sentences”.

(With PTI inputs)