Supreme Court to hear Centre's plea on victim-centric guidelines

Publish Date: 31 Jan, 2020 02:26 PM   |   Sj Desk  

New Delhi: The Supreme Court, on Friday, agreed to hear a plea by the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking modification in the guidelines to be followed in the case of death row convicts, making it more victim and society centric.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant said: "We have the victim's suffering in mind. We have already laid down the law."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended the convicts on death row eventually make gains from the loopholes in the guidelines, which eventually end up being accused-centric instead of victim-and society-centric.

"These guidelines in absence of further guidelines (fixing the loopholes), there is a vacuum," Chief Justice said adding, "what is the nature of guidelines you want?.... We will make it clear altering the conviction in Shatrughan Chauhan case."

Facing the heat for procedural delay in the execution of death sentence of four convicts in Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its January 2014 judgement, which did not specify deadline for availing legal remedies. MHA said the convicts, in heinous crimes, under the garb of Article 21 take the judicial process for a ride.

The application seeks the top court - fix a time limit for convicts on death row to file curative petition; Mercy petition should be filed within 7 days of death warrant; and execution within 14 days after mercy plea is rejected.

The MHA in its application submitted before the top court that while taking care of the rights of the convicts, "It is more important and need of the hour to lay down guidelines in the interest of the victims, their families and in larger public interest, lest the convicts found to be guilty of such horrible, and dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and heinous offences would be permitted to play with the majesty of law and prolonged the execution of the sentence awarded to them in accordance with the law."

The MHA contends that the judicial system conducts elaborate scrutiny, through a phased legal process, with respect to the execution of death sentence.

The Supreme Court through a common judgment and order on January 21, 2014 (Shatrughan Chauhan) and other connected matters, filed either by the convicts awarded death sentence or by their family members or by others like People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), laid down certain guidelines with respect to the procedure to be followed for filing mercy petitions and the execution of the death sentence keeping in account the interest of the death row convicts.

"These guidelines, however, do not take into account an irreparable mental trauma, agony, upheaval and derangement of the victims and their family members, the collective conscience of the nation and the deterrent effect which the capital punishment intends to make", said the MHA in the application.