Centre moves Supreme Court for modification of death penalty guidelines from convict-centric to victim-centric
Litigation News

Centre moves Supreme Court for modification of death penalty guidelines from convict-centric to victim-centric

Shruti Mahajan

The Ministry of Home Affairs has moved the Supreme Court with an application seeking a modification or a clarification of the Supreme Court's 2014 guidelines regarding the procedure to be followed for the filing of mercy pleas by death row convicts.

The Supreme Court's 2014 judgment in Shatrughan Singh Chauhan vs Union of India laid down the procedure for the filing of a mercy plea by death row convicts and for the procedure to be followed by the jail authorities.

The MHA has now prayed before the Court to set out a stipulated time frame within which such convicts may exercise their right to legal remedies such as curative petition and mercy plea.

In this regard, the MHA has urged the Supreme Court to direct that the convict file a mercy plea within seven days from the date of issuance of a death warrant by the Court. Further, it has been prayed that the jail authorities be directed to issue a death warrant within seven days from the rejection of such a plea.

This application by the MHA comes at a time when the four convicts in the Nirbhaya case have death warrant issued against them by the Trial Court. These convicts, one by one, are taking recourse to the legal remedies that are available to them. The four convicts who were earlier to be hanged on January 22 are now expected to be executed on February 1.

The Centre has submitted that the elaborate guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the Shatrughan Singh Chauhan case focus on the rights of the accused persons. The guidelines, however, does not take into account the trauma caused to the victims and their families, it is argued. In view of the same, the Centre contends that it is time that the focus needs to shift from a "convict-centric" to a "victim centric" approach.

...It is high time that this Hon’ble Court, in its inherent jurisdiction as custodial of fundamental rights of every citizen redresses the grievances of the victims, their family and that of the society whose conscience gets shaken as a result of such horrific offences and reinforces their faith in the judicial process

MHA in its Application

It is also submitted that in case of multiple convicts being awarded death penalty, it is often seen that after the rejection of a plea by one convict, the others may be advised or may choose not to initiate further proceedings. This leads to a delay in the execution of the convicts given that some States may provide for simultaneous execution of the convicts, even though separate execution is not explicitly barred.

Thus, the Centre has sought for the modification of the guidelines t a time frame is set within which death row convicts must exercise their legal remedies.

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