Death Penalty Current Affairs - 2020

What is “Collective Conscience” invoked by Indian Courts in Death Penalty cases?

Project 39A was conducted by a team of National Law University, Delhi. According to the project, the Indian Courts invoke “Collective Conscience” of the society in most of the death penalty cases.

Project details

The study chose three states and Union Territories namely Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra. These states were chosen as they ranked high in awarding capital punishments

Findings

The study has found out that around between 2000 and 2015, 72% of cases of Delhi trial courts that awarded death penalty has invoked “Collective Conscience”. In Madhya Pradesh, this was invoked in 42% of death penalty cases and in Maharashtra it was invoked in 51% of death penalty cases.

In all these cases, the courts opined that the crime was heinous to shake the “collective conscience” of the society. Thus, the harshest punishment is being sentenced.

Recommendations of Law Commission

The Law Commission in 2015, headed by Justice A P Shah proposed to abolish capital punishments. However, the commission had made the proposal only to non-terrorism cases. According to the commission, India is one among few countries that still carry out executions. The other countries that practice executions include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China. By the end of 2014, 98 countries had abolished death penalty.

Nirbhaya Case Convicts Hanged to Death in Tihar Jail

On March 20, 2020, four convicts of the Nirbhaya Gang Rape were hanged to death in Tihar Jail.

Highlights

In September 2013, a fast track court convicted them with death sentence. Several curative and mercy petitions were filed by them at the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. In 2017, the Supreme Court upheld death penalty. Recently, in 2020, the Supreme Court refused to take in the petitions.

Article 145

Article 145 of the constitution allows the Supreme Court to frame its own rules. Under the Article, the SC rules its own proceedings, cases handled by the it, transferred to high courts, etc. It has powers to stay proceedings, grant bail, allocate number of judges to sit in a bench, etc.

With this power, the apex court refused to consider the petitions of the accused.

Criminal Law (Amendment) act, 2013

The act was also called Nirbhaya Act. The act made several changes to the punishments of rape and sexual harassment accused. Also, the other laws such as Indian Penal code, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Indian Evidence Act were all amended.

J S Verma Committee

Six days after the Nirbhaya incident GoI constituted a judicial Committee under J S Verma. The judicial changes were made according to the recommendations of the committee.