SC Seeks Centre's Reply on Plea Challenging Mandatory Death Penalty Under SC/ST Act
The plea said the legislature cannot compel courts and inflict upon them the 'dubious' and 'unconscionable' duty of imposing a 'preordained' death sentence.
The Supreme Court of India. (News18 Creative)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a petition challenging the provision of mandatory capital punishment under the SC/ST Act.
A bench of justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer issued notice to the Centre on a PIL filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra who has sought striking down of the mandatory death penalty provision under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, saying that several times, the court, through its constitutional powers, has struck down mandatory imposition of capital punishment.
Section 3 (2) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 stipulates mandatory death sentence in a case where an innocent member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe is convicted and is executed in consequence of a false and fabricated evidence given by the concerned accused.
The plea said the legislature cannot compel courts and inflict upon them the "dubious" and "unconscionable" duty of imposing a "preordained" death sentence.
"The legislature cannot make relevant circumstances irrelevant, depriving the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise discretion in not imposing death sentence in appropriate cases and compel them to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death," the plea said.
It also said that on different occasions when mandatory death penalty has been questioned, the apex court has struck down these provisions by holding it unconstitutional.
"As and when an occasion had arisen where the mandatory imposition of death penalty is called in question in different statutes, either this court by exercising its constitutional powers of judicial review has struck down those provisions by holding it to be unconstitutional and void or the legislature itself has amended those provisions by removing the mandatory imposition of death penalty," the plea said.
It also referred to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act which initially provided for mandatory death sentence and was amended in the year 2014 by the legislature itself and further provided for an option of awarding death sentence or any other imprisonment as specified in the Act.
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