The Supreme Court on Monday referred to a five-judge Constitution bench, a suo motu plea on whether those sentenced to death penalty should be given an opportunity to present their mitigating circumstances before conviction by trial courts, Bar and Bench reported.
Mitigating circumstances are arguments that accused persons can present in their defence to avoid death sentences. These circumstances could include mental health problems, trauma in early life, absence of criminal records, or other such instances which might be reasons for the judges to pass a reduced sentence.
On Monday, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia held that the larger bench will frame rules on how and when the mitigating circumstances are to be considered during trial.
“This court is of the opinion that to have clarity on the matter to grant real and meaningful hearing to accused in such case, this reference to larger bench of five judges is needed,” the judges said.
The court was hearing a suo motu plea to find out how lower courts, while deciding on whether to impose death penalty, could incorporate a comprehensive analysis about the accused person and the crime. In many cases, the accused persons are sentenced to death on the same day they are convicted of a crime.
At Monday’s hearing, the court noted that the accused persons are able to produce evidence showing mitigating circumstances only after their conviction, according to Live Law.
A detailed order is yet to be uploaded.
Last month, the judges had reserved the verdict in the case observing that, “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.”
Since the 1970s, many countries around the world have abolished capital punishment. Critics have said that it is error-ridden and unfairly targets the poor.
“I think that the death penalty is barbaric, serves no purpose, encourages violence in society and brings out the worst in us,” advocate Yug Chaudhry had told Scroll.in. “Nobody should have the right to kill, except in self-defence.”