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Supreme Court reserves verdict on whether ‘same-day sentencing’

  • Published
    18th Aug, 2022

The Supreme Court recently raised doubts about whether a person should be sentenced to death on the same day he or she is convicted of a crime.


Key Issue:

  • The cardinal issue is whether a convict, sentenced to death merely hours after conviction has enough time to present mitigating circumstances which led him to commit the crime.
  • Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had opposed same-day sentencing, even suggesting that the entire proceedings should be adjourned after the stage of conviction in cases in which a person can be put to death as a form of punishment if found guilty. The defence team could use the time to collect mitigating factors.

The Recent Case:

  • In Manoj & Ors. versus State of Madhya Pradesh issued procedural guidelines to ensure that lower courts consider mitigating circumstances of an accused person at the stage of sentencing.
  • In this judgment, the court commuted the death sentence of all the three accused persons to life imprisonment based on the probability of reformation.
  • The convict must be given adequate opportunity to collect relevant material, lead evidence, and present arguments on why they do not deserve the death sentence. This requires presenting what are called ‘mitigating circumstances’
  • During the hearing, SC mused whether the mitigating circumstances ought to be brought to the attention of the trial court at the very stage of framing charges or even after the conclusion of the prosecution evidence.

Same Day Sentencing:

  • Section 235(2) of the CrPC provides for a bifurcated trial, where the conviction and sentencing are meant to be separate proceedings.
  • In asking for and imposing the death sentence, Bachan Singh provides the framework for conducting sentencing hearings.

Procedural guidelines established in recent judgment of the Supreme Court:

  • A psychological evaluation of the accused is close to the commission of the offence.
    • This serves as a baseline that will help appellate courts to evaluate the convict’s progress towards reformation during the period of his incarceration.
  • Additional information about the accused, including his socio-economic background, criminal antecedents, education, and information about his family.
    • The defence also has a right to produce evidence towards establishing all mitigating circumstances in his favour.
  • The reports of the probation officer to assess the convict’s jail conduct and a fresh psychological evaluation, in case there is a large gap between the appellate stages of the matter.
    • These reports and assessments will help the court decide whether there is a probability that the convict can be reformed, rehabilitated, and reintegrated into society.
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