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, the Supreme Court Wednesday said.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice U U Lalit, which reserved its order on guidelines regarding potential mitigating circumstances, said courts can adjourn the matter before sentencing to achieve the mitigating exercises suitably.
“Death sentence is irreversible. If it is irreversible, then every opportunity should be given to the accused (for consideration of mitigating circumstances),” the bench also comprising Justices S R Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, observed. The top court said that if on the basis of crime theory, the court comes to a conclusion that a death sentence is not warranted, then it should have the freedom to give a life term on the same day. “But if the matter requires some extra conversation towards the death penalty, their mitigating exercise must be undertaken,” it said.
Senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, who has been appointed as amicus curiae, submitted that mitigating circumstances are to be framed as per the earlier order of the apex court. The top court had earlier said there is an urgent need to ensure that the mitigating circumstances for conviction of offences that carry the possibility of a death sentence are considered at the trial stage. It had said for an offence carrying capital punishment, the state must, at an appropriate stage, produce material that is preferably collected beforehand, before the Sessions Court disclosing the psychiatric and psychological evaluation of the accused.
In criminal law, mitigating circumstances are factors that help lessen the guilt of an offender and encourage the judge to be more lenient with the sentencing.