The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the amici curiae appointed in two death sentence references to consult with Project 39A of the National Law University, Delhi on the issue of mitigating circumstances in such cases [State of Kerala v. Nino Mathew; State of Kerala v. Muhammed Ameer-ul-Islam]..A Division Bench of Justices Alexander Thomas and Sophy Thomas noted that mitigating circumstances in death penalty cases is a developing area in its infancy, and that Project 39A is a pioneering agency in research into the subject.It directed amici curiae Mitha Sudhindran and Saipooja to report back on the feasibility of conducting mitigating investigation in the two cases through Project 39A."Counsel for parties, prosecutor, and amici curiae may examine legal position as to the stage at which the mitigation investigation has to be commenced and completed, especially as to whether it has to be conducted now or only after appeals have been heard on merits," the order stated..In the 2016 case of the rape and murder of a Dalit law student, the Court directed the amici curiae to ascertain the feasibility of conducting a study on mitigating circumstances in Assam as the convict, Muhammed Ameer-ul-Islam, hailed from there..The Court issued the order while considering two death sentence references.One was to confirm the death sentence awarded to Nino Mathew, who was convicted by a trial court in the 2014 twin murder case in Kerala's Attingal.Another was to confirm the death sentence awarded to Muhammed Ameer-ul-Islam by a trial court for the rape and murder of a Dalit law student of the Ernakulam Government Law College, in 2016.Both references have been tagged with appeals moved by the convicts against the judgments of the trial court in their respective cases..Background of the two cases.Attingal Twin MurdersThe two accused in the case, Nino Mathew and Anu Shanthi, were found guilty of murder by the Thiruvananthapuram Principal Sessions Court in 2016, two years after the incident. Mathew, a software engineer in Technopark, had allegedly gone to Shanthi's house and introduced himself as Shanthi's husband Lijeesh's friend. On entering the home, he stabbed the latter's mother and son to death.Lijeesh was also attacked, but escaped the attempt on his life with injuries and was able to alert the neighbours. Within 24 hours of the incident, the State police arrested Nino, who confessed to the crime. They later arrested Shanthi as well, after an extra-marital affair between her and Mathew accused came to light.The duo were charged for murder, criminal conspiracy, attempt to destroy evidence and theft. The charge of transmitting obscene material in electronic form was also added, after the police found some explicit videos of the two on Mathew's digital devices.Mathew was given the death sentence, while Shanthi was sentenced to life imprisonment.Recently, the Supreme Court granted bail to Shanthi..Law Student Rape and MurderThe mutilated corpse of the victim, a law student from Government Law College, Ernakulam, was found in her house at Perumbavoor on the morning of April 28, 2016. The incident provoked mass outrage amongst the student fraternity and human rights activists across the state. The case also acquired a casteist undertone, as Jisha’s family lamented their apparent ill-treatment by neighbours in the area.Online social media campaigns launched by student activists played a crucial role in mobilizing reactions and mounting pressure on the government to bring the guilty to account.Ameer-ul-Islam, a migrant worker from Assam, was eventually hauled up and accused of having committed the crime after he broke into the victim's house in a drunken stupor the night before. He was arrested in July 2016 at Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu.The trial, which had commenced in April 2016 at the Ernakulam Sessions Court, concluded in December 2017. Islam was found guilty by the trial court based on DNA evidence and testimony offered by witnesses. Special Judge N Anilkumar sentenced him to death, noting that given the brutality of the crime and the profound impact it has had on people, the case was fit to be termed as one falling within the rarest of the rare cases. Ameerul was also sentenced to four terms of rigorous imprisonment that were to run concurrently. He is currently lodged at the Central Prison in Viyyoor, Kerala. However, he recently moved a plea before the Supreme Court seeking transfer from Kerala to a jail in Assam. The top court issued notice and sought the response of the State governments of Kerala and Assam. The plea for prison transfer is likely to be heard next in January 2023.