Supreme Court wants constitution bench to set norms for death sentences

The Supreme Court Monday referred to a five-judge Constitution bench a suo motu case concerning the framing of uniform guidelines for the trial courts on granting “real and meaningful opportunity” on the issue of the sentence to the convicts held guilty for offences entailing capital punishment.

The top court said that this order is necessitated due to a difference of opinion and approach amongst various judgements, on the question of whether, after recording a conviction for a capital offence, under law, the court is obligated to conduct a separate hearing on the issue of sentence.

A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia referred to various verdicts on the issue passed by different benches of the apex court including in a 1983 judgement of Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab, where the top court, in its majority judgment, upheld the constitutional validity of the death sentence, on the condition that it could be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” cases.

The bench said this court in Bachan Singh (1983 verdict) had taken into consideration the fairness afforded to a convict by a separate hearing, as an important safeguard to uphold the imposition of the death sentence in the rarest of rare cases, by relying upon the recommendations of the 48th Law Commission Report.