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In what could be a defining judgment delivered a day before his retirement, Justice Kurian Joseph today batted for re-examining the need for retaining death penalty as a punishment in statute book.
In his judgment in the case of Chhannu Lal Verma v. State of Chhattisgarh, Joseph J. while commuting the death sentence awarded to the appellant to life imprisonment, stated the following with regard to death penalty.
“Having regard also to the said Report of the Law Commission that the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684, has failed to prevent death sentences from being “arbitrarily and freakishly imposed” and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, we are of the view that a time has come where we view the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.”
The other judges on the Bench, Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta concurred with the judgment of Justice Joseph with respect to the commutation of death penalty of the appellant to life imprisonment.
However, they dissented with regard to the opinion expressed by Joseph J in relation to doing away with death penalty altogether.
“We have had the privilege of going through the erudite judgment delivered by our learned brother Justice Kurian Joseph. We are in full agreement with all that is stated in the judgment except the following observations in Para 23”, they wrote before setting out para 23 of the judgment of Justice Joseph which speaks about reconsidering death penalty in the statute book.
The two judges held that the Constitution Bench in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, has upheld capital punishment, and hence there is no need to reexamine the same at this stage.
The case was an appeal against a judgment of Chhattisgarh High Court. The High Court had confirmed the death sentence awarded to the appellant by the Sessions Judge.
Read the judgment below.