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The Scope Of Commutation Of Death Sentence By State/Central Government

In this paper, I would like to explore the legal and ethical dimensions surrounding the scope of commutation of death sentences by both State and Central Governments in the context of criminal justice systems. The imposition of the death penalty has been a contentious issue worldwide, raising questions about the right to life, human rights, and the potential for wrongful convictions. Commutation, the act of reducing a death sentence to a lesser punishment, is discussed in this paper.

I would like to begin this paper by providing an overview of the historical context and evolution of capital punishment in various legal systems since ancient times in India. It examines the reasons behind the use of commutation, including considerations of clemency, rehabilitation, and the possibility of miscarriages of justice.

Furthermore, the study delves into the legal framework surrounding the authority to commute death sentences in both State and Central Governments. It discusses the separation of powers, executive discretion, and the role of the judiciary in overseeing the process. Additionally, the paper reviews landmark court cases and constitutional provisions related to commutation to understand the evolving legal landscape.

The ethical aspects of commutation are analyzed, taking into account various philosophical and moral arguments. The paper also addresses public opinion and the impact of political factors on decision-making in death penalty cases. The role of international human rights instruments and organizations in influencing the scope of commutation is explored, with an emphasis on global trends toward abolition.

In conclusion, this study contributes to the ongoing discourse on the death penalty by examining the multifaceted dimensions of commutation. It advocates for a more informed and balanced understanding of the implications of capital punishment and the importance of considering commutation as a critical component of justice systems worldwide. The findings of this research have implications for policymakers, legal practitioners, human rights activists, and individuals invested in the pursuit of fair and humane criminal justice systems and finally, discusses the President and Governor's pardoning powers as per the Constitution of India under Articles 72 and 161 on the bases of the rarest of the rare.

Objective Of The Study:
  1. To know about what is commutation of death sentence.
  2. To understand the importance of commutation of death sentence by state and central.
Literature Review:
This researcher has used various 'books, articles published in journals and various online Resources'.

Research Methodology:
The researcher has used the 'Doctrinal Method' of study to find answers to the research questions.

Scope Of The Study:
The researcher has used the Doctrinal Method of study to find answers to the research questions.

Significance Of The Study:
This study will help the reader 'understand about the commutation of death sentence by state/central Government'.

Research Questions:
  1. Whether there are legal and constitutional grounds under which state and central governments can commute death sentences?
  2. Whether the process of commuting death sentences differs between state and central governments?
Commuting death sentences by state or federal governments includes changing the death penalty into a lesser punishment, such as life in prison, and is a complicated and delicate legal and ethical matter. This procedure is part of the larger context of criminal justice and the execution of the death penalty. Commutation provides a way for governments to reevaluate the harshness of a death sentence and presents a chance to resolve issues with justice, fairness, and human rights.

Death sentences are frequently subject to legal restrictions and guidelines within a nation's criminal justice system. These rules give the executive arm of the government (state or central) the authority to examine a death sentence and choose whether to commute it to a lower penalty. It enables a reexamination of instances in which there may have been mistakes, irregularities, or mitigating factors that were not sufficiently taken into account during the trial or appeals.

The offender's mental health, age, background, and prospects for reform or rehabilitation can all have an impact on the decision to commute a death sentence. International human rights norms and duties may be taken into consideration by governments. Social perceptions of the death penalty can affect commutation decisions. The moral standards of the community they represent, as well as shifting public opinion, may be taken into account by governments. Political aspects such as the position of the in power government, pressure from interest groups, and foreign ties can occasionally have an impact on commutation.

Governmental Judgments made in the past regarding commutation, as well as accepted legal precedents and case law, can serve as a reference and source of information for current choices. To make sure they uphold legal norms and constitutional rights, commutation decisions may be subject to court scrutiny in some jurisdictions.

If a decision is thought to be arbitrary or unlawful, courts may interfere. International human rights conventions and treaties, such as those that support the elimination of the death sentence, can also have an impact on commutation decisions. Commutation may signify the intention to encourage a more positive approach to criminal justice that places more of an emphasis on reform and reintegration than vengeance, as well as a belief in the possibility of rehabilitation.

Governments may take the views and perspectives of the victims' families into account when deciding whether to commute sentences. A difficult ethical task is striking a balance between the interests and rights of victims and those of the convicted.

Ideally, the commutation procedure entails openness, responsibility, and a careful examination of the situation. This guarantees that the choice is the result of a thorough assessment of the facts.[1]

Historical Context Of Death Sentence/Penalty

In the eighteenth century B.C., King Hammurabi of Babylon's Code first established the death penalty and applied it to 25 different crimes. The death sentence was described in the Draconian Code of Athens, which established the death penalty as the only acceptable punishment for all offenses.

The offenders received death sentences that included burning, drowning, beating, impalement, and other execution techniques. Since the 10th century A.D., hanging has been the most popular means of execution in Britain. A century later, hanging was outlawed except in times of war under William the Conqueror's administration.

Comparatively to nations that impose the death penalty, countries that do not have the death penalty see fewer homicides. There has been a growth in the idea that the death penalty is an inhumane, brutal, and extremely degrading punishment being accepted on a global scale. Its totality is risky, supports violence, and makes no effort to ensure public safety or prevent violent crimes. The death sentence has been abolished throughout all major civilizations, faiths, and geographical areas. According to information provided by the UN, it is no longer used or has been abolished in more than 150 nations.[2]

The criminal justice system, which includes trials, jails, and sentencing, aims to change lawbreakers into law-abiding citizens in a variety of ways, according to the philosophies of retribution.

This idea might be criticized on the grounds that crime goes unpunished and the victim receives no justice, which would permit a collapse in social order. The goal of the reformative ideology is to take someone out of society who has done something wrong and help him become better via individualized treatment so that he may be put back in without posing a threat.

The maintenance of social peace is monitored through the criminal justice system. The deterrence concept holds that crime is less likely to be committed. The punishment meted out to the offender serves as a message to both him and other potential offenders to stop committing that crime in the future or fear facing the same punishments.[3]

A court may sentence a prisoner to death rather than life in prison under a number of provisions of the Indian Penal Code. When a statute specifies that a crime is punishable by both the death sentence and life in prison, abolitionists frequently challenge the clause.

This is disputed on the basis that the court's treatment of two prisoners who committed the same crime differently by imposing different sentences infringes on Article 14 of the Constitution. Additionally, some claim that it violates Article 245 since it gives the judiciary an excessive and disproportionate amount of legislative authority.

The main defense is that neither any standards by which the court could distinguish between the two punishments nor any guidelines by which the Court might classify them were created by the legislation. The law has left the potential for punishment undefined.[4]

In certain cases, the courts have handed down death sentences to the guilty parties, while in other cases, when the guilty parties committed the same act, the courts have handed down life sentences. It highlights the arbitrariness of the choice between a death sentence and life in prison for the defendant. Additionally, by virtue of their position, judges are expected to render unbiased decisions. As a result, the penalties shouldn't be applied arbitrarily.

Additionally, under Section 235(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the prisoner has the right to challenge his sentence at a future hearing. This protects the defendant from any possible arbitrary behavior that may be taken into account while deciding on his sentence.[5] The Indian Penal Code further stipulates under Section 354(3) that the Court must present exceptional justifications for imposing the death penalty.[6]

Factors Influencing The Decision To Commute A Death Sentence

Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a complex interplay of legal, social, ethical, and political elements must be taken into account while deciding whether to commute a death sentence. A variety of factors are taken into account when a society struggles with the seriousness of applying the death penalty. Even though every case is different, a few significant variables frequently play a role in Judgments about the commuting of a death sentence. They are:
  1. Legal Grounds and Judicial Review: Legal experts frequently stress the importance of a rigorous and impartial court review procedure. This involves checking the trial procedure for any formal irregularities, evidentiary mistakes, or constitutional rights breaches. To avoid the possibility of an irrevocable injustice, commutation may be taken into consideration if there is a legitimate question about the fairness of the trial.
  2. Human Dignity and Humanitarian Concerns: The idea of human dignity emphasizes the necessity of treating everyone with respect and compassion, especially those who have been found guilty of horrible crimes. Authorities and courts may take into account things like the offender's age at the time of the crime, any mental health problems, and the likelihood of rehabilitation. A commutation may be appropriate if it can be shown that the offender's guilt was reduced as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
  3. Public Opinion and Civil Society Advocacy: Public opinion is important and cannot be disregarded. In molding public discourse, civil society organizations, human rights organizations, religious leaders, and activists are crucial players. Their advocacy work can change public opinion and persuade decision-makers to take commutation into account, especially when there are doubts about the impartiality of the trial or the severity of the penalty.
  4. Political Considerations: Decisions about the death penalty may be influenced by the political environment. Governments may take into account the possible diplomatic repercussions of carrying out an execution. In some circumstances, commutation could be considered a means of fending off foreign criticism or preserving a positive reputation on the international scene.
  5. Judicial Precedent and Evolving Jurisprudence: The judiciary's view of the law and morality changes with time. To determine whether the death penalty is in accordance with current legal requirements and rising standards of decency, courts may look back at earlier instances, both domestically and abroad. A change in jurisprudence that limits the use of the death sentence may have an impact on commutation decisions.
  6. Victim and Family Perspectives: The victim's family's desires might be a big deciding factor. Authorities may take the family's wishes into consideration when considering whether to commute a sentence if they indicate a desire for forgiveness, closure, or a preference for a lighter punishment.
  7. Clemency Process and Executive Authority: Many legal frameworks provide executive authorities with the authority to pardon or grant mercy. In this approach, the case is evaluated holistically, taking into account issues including the likelihood of future harm, the likelihood of rehabilitation, and larger social concerns. A variety of factors, including those described previously, can affect the executive's Judgment in these situations.
  8. Religious and Cultural Beliefs: Social mores, cultural standards, and religious convictions can impact how people view justice and whether or not to commute a death sentence.
    There may be a greater sensitivity to questions of revenge and forgiveness in situations where the perpetrator's actions are seen to have been motivated by cultural or religious reasons.
  9. Potential for Rehabilitation and Reintegration: Strong justifications for commutation may include the idea of rehabilitation and the conviction that one is capable of personal change. Decision-makers may be more likely to commute a death sentence if there is proof that the criminal has undergone true rehabilitation and shown a commitment to positive change.
According to the Indian Penal Code, the decision to commute a death sentence involves many different legal, social, ethical, and political considerations. The balance between the seriousness of the offense, the offender's rights and dignity, developing legal theories, and more general community norms ultimately determines the result. This complex process of making decisions reflects how society has come to define justice, human rights, and the nature of punishment.[8]

Rarest Of The Rare Doctrine

The theory of the rarest of the rare was developed as a result of the Bacchan Singh v. State of Punjab case. In order to provide judges with more certainty about whether to inflict the harshest sentence feasible, the Supreme Court moved to overturn a rule in this case that was particular to offenses that carried a danger of death. By a majority of 4:1, the Supreme Court maintained the validity of the death sentence, and a rule was created stipulating that it should only be applied in exceptional cases. But how far this term went remains a mystery.

The death penalty is considered sacred if it is permitted as a possible punishment for the crime of homicide and if the recommended standard sentence by law for homicide is life in prison, according to the Bacchan Singh case's Ratio Decidendi. This implies that the use of the death sentence is only necessary in the most severe situations where a free decision is not taken.[9]

After that, the court endeavored to establish guidelines for determining whether misconduct belonged in the category of the rarest of the rare in Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab.

In the Macchi Singh case, the court established precise guidelines for determining when a case would qualify as one of the rarest of the rare.

The models are examined as follows:
  • Way of committing murder: When the murder is committed in a manner that is very ferocious, abhorrent, repugnant, or unforgivable in order to incite extraordinary and extraordinary rage in the network; for instance,
  • When it is decided to start a fire in the victim's home with the intention of keeping him alive.
  • When the victim is tortured by harsh deeds until they realize they are dying.
  • The point at which the victim's body has been brutally torn apart or devastated.
  • When homicide is committed out of pure depravity and cruelty, there is no rationale for doing so.
  • Socially repugnant nature of the wrongdoing: When a murder charge is brought against a member of a regressive class.
  • Size of the wrongdoing: In cases when the scale of the crime is enormous, such as when there have been several killings,
  • Characteristics of a homicide victim include being an innocent child, a vulnerable woman or person (due to advanced age or illness), an open figure, etc.[10]
In "Santosh Kumar Bariyar v. State of Maharashtra", the Supreme Court declared that the rarest of rulings must serve as the rule in order to uphold Section 354(3), establishing that life detention is the norm and the death sentence is an exception. According to Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code, the death sentence was mandatory for all guilty people who carried out an actual existence punishment.

This sentence was ruled illegal and was deleted. The court reached clear decisions in the 2008 case of "Prajeet Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar" about what can be thought of as an extraordinarily unusual situation.

The Court ruled that the death penalty would be appropriate where a murder is committed in a way that is brutal, unconventional, or offensive in order to incite the severe and extraordinary ire of the community.[11]

The Importance Of Commutation In The Criminal Justice System

Sections 54 And 55 Of Indian Penal Code - 1860

These provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, address the commuting of sentences. According to Section 54 of the Indian Penal Code, the death penalty may be substituted for any other type of punishment, while Section 55 of the same code permits the substitution of a 14-year prison sentence.

The option of a greater or lower punishment or penalty imposed by the legal system is referred to as the ability to commute a sentence. It refers to the potential for a sentence handed down as a consequence of a criminal conviction to be reduced or limited. It is possible to shorten sentences, such as a 10-year sentence to a 5-year term.[12]

An important component of the criminal justice system is commutation, which serves as a crucial tool for resolving concerns with fairness, proportionality, rehabilitation, and the system's general efficacy. Commutation is the process of reducing a criminal sentence.

Usually, this entails switching from a more severe punishment to a less severe one, which frequently includes a shorter period in jail. A closer examination of the significance of commutation in the criminal justice system is provided below:
  1. Fairness and Proportionality: Commutation aids in ensuring that punishments are reasonable and appropriate for the crimes committed. It enables a reevaluation of sentences that may have been too severe or long, better matching punishment to the gravity of the offense. By doing this, you may encourage a sense of fairness in society and keep people confident in the criminal justice system.
  2. Rehabilitation and Second Chances: Offenders who get their sentences commuted have the chance to heal and reintegrate into society. Sentences may be reduced so that offenders can take part in educational initiatives, job training, and other rehabilitation programs that will help them successfully reintegrate back into society. This emphasis on rehabilitation may help reduce recidivism rates.
  3. Humanitarian Considerations: Commutation recognizes the possibility of personal development, transformation, and atonement. It acknowledges that individuals can change over time and that lengthy sentences could not accurately describe a person's present circumstances or character. The awarding of mercy or commutation in cases where offenders have shown considerable sorrow and rehabilitation emphasizes the significance of human dignity and compassion within the judicial system.
While commutation is crucial to a fair and efficient criminal justice system, it's also crucial to strike a balance between the advantages of mercy and the need to protect the public and hold people accountable for their deeds.

Commutation decisions should be made after extensive evaluations of each case, taking into account elements including the nature of the offense, the offender's actions while confined, and the likelihood of a successful reintegration into society.[13]

Legislative Perspective On Commutation Of Death Sentence

According to "Article 72 of the Indian Constitution", the President of India has the right to commute the death penalty, a criminal conviction under a statute related to the Union's executive branch, a court martial sentence, or any other punishment.

The President has extensive pardoning authority that extends to all of India. The scope of the President's power will depend on the particulars of each circumstance. A person may be shielded by the President using his or her pardoning power from the consequences of an offense or from a punishment associated with that offense. Therefore, a pardon must be related to an offense and not just a simple infringement of a franchise clause, say legal authorities like Balakrishna.

The Governor of India has the power to issue pardons in accordance with Article 161 of the Indian Constitution. The Article addresses a variety of topics, including the Governor's ability to commute, suspend, or refund fines under specific circumstances. A pardon, reprieve, respite, or remission of penalty may be awarded to someone found guilty of breaking any law related to an issue falling under the purview of the State's executive power, or their sentence may be postponed, remitted, or commuted. As a result, this Article gives state governors the ability to commute, postpone, or remit a sentence for a person who has been found guilty of breaking a law pertaining to a subject that is under their executive authority.[14]

Judicial Approach

Dhananjoy Chatterjee V. State Of West Bengal Case:

Facts Of The Case:
  1. The appellant in this case worked for the Security and Investigating Bureau and was assigned to the Anand Apartments as a security guard.
  2. The victim, Hatel, an 18-year-old female, frequently complained to her mother about the appellant's teasing of her on the way to school and his invitation to go to the movies with him.
  3. These behaviors were brought up in a written complaint to the employer. In support of that, the employer moved the appellant to a different building. The move was supposed to happen on March 5, 1990. However, on that day, the appellant stayed to work at his position at the Anand Apartments from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. instead of reporting to the new apartment.
  4. On March 5, 1990, the victim's brother left the house for college, her father went to work, and she went to school. Around 1:00 PM, she arrived back at her house. Around 5:30 PM, the victim's mother abandoned her at home and went to a neighboring shrine.
  5. The victim's mother had already departed for the temple when the appellant arrived at the victim's flat. He informed the security guard stationed there that he needed to visit the victim's unit in order to contact the victim's employer, and the guard gave him permission to do so.
  6. To find out if the new guard had started work in the morning, the employer went to Anand Apartments at approximately 5:45 PM. He was told otherwise by the inhabitants, though. He learned via inquiries that the appellant had visited the victim's apartment. When his name was yelled out loud, he responded that he was coming down and appeared on the victim's apartment balcony. He had instructed the security guard at the victim's apartment to call him out.
  7. After a while, the appellant arrived and insisted on speaking with the employer outside the gate. Then he said that he was unable to comply with the transfer due to certain personal issues. The next day, his boss gave him instructions to follow the transfer.
  8. The victim's mother learned that the appellant had entered her flat when she arrived home. She rang the bell several times, but nobody answered. As soon as she raised the alarm, the door was shattered.
  9. The victim was discovered in her bedroom, covered in blood. Her garment was ripped, and her body and intimate areas bore signs of assault. She was quickly pronounced dead and a doctor was called.
  10. Three hours after the event, the victim's father called the police to report it, and an investigation soon followed. The bedroom yielded a number of pieces of evidence. The deceased's post-mortem report listed smothering with strangling as the cause of death.
  11. Soon after, the appellant was sought out, and 7 days later, on March 12, 1990, he was captured. He was found wearing the clothing that had been on him when the crime was committed. Additionally, a wristwatch that had been taken from the victim's residence was found in his possession.
  12. He asserted his innocence and made false accusations during the trial. He said he had traveled to his village on March 5 in order to attend a funeral service for his younger brother. The rape and murder were not seen by anyone.

Issues Of The Case:
  1. Whether the claimed perpetrator of the rape and murder of the helpless young girl was the appellant?
  2. Whether the alleged offense committed by the appellant had a motive?
  3. Does the situation qualify as the rarest of the rare cases?
  4. Whether this case establishes the statement of circumstantial evidence to be admissible in a court of Law?[16]

The High Court affirmed the lower court's decision to sentence him to death for the murder of Hatel Parekh. The accused was a security guard who was actually responsible for ensuring the protection and welfare of residents of the flats in the apartment, making this crime more heinous. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, stating that this case falls within the parameters of the "rarest of rare" doctrine.

The Supreme Court determined that an 18-year-old schoolgirl was the victim of a most brutal and savage rape and murder after learning the state of the deceased's corpse. In its thoughtful thinking, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the cold-blooded murder was an insult to society's sense of human dignity and that it also offended its judicial conscience.

The Apex Court determined that the case was "rarest of the rare and that no sentence other than the death penalty could have been imposed. It also found no mitigating factors in the case at hand. The appeal was rejected, and the death penalty was upheld.[17]

Maru Ram V. Union Of India:

Facts Of The Case:
In this case, it was argued that Section 433A of the 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure was unconstitutional since it contravened Articles 14, 20(1), 72, and 161 of the Indian Constitution. Every petition falls into one of two categories: It was argued that this Section simply prevented a government order under Section 432 that would have commuted the entirety of the remaining sentence before the offender served at least 14 years in jail.

In this instance, the prisoner did not argue that Articles 72 and 161 or Section 432 of the Crpc should apply to his or her ultimate release without a government decree.

Issues Of The Case:
  1. Whether Section 433A of the Crpc would affect Article 72 and Article 161 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether the policy framed under Article 161 for the grant of remission overrides the requirement under Section 433A Crpc?

The Supreme Court ruled that the authority granted by Article 72 must be used in accordance with the recommendation of the Central Government and not by the President acting alone, and that the President must abide by the advice of the government. Parallel to the president's authority under Article 72 is the governor's pardoning authority under Article 161.

Additionally, it has been noted that no authority, even constitutional power, should be used arbitrarily or dishonestly. The court decided that Section 433A would only be effective prospectively (as of the day it went into effect) in order to preserve it from constitutional infirmity. Additionally, it was determined that Section 433A could not limit the constitutional authority granted by Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution, which regulate how the appropriate government may use its powers under Section 432 Crpc.[18]

Kehar Singh V. Union Of India Case:

Facts Of The Case:
This concept was developed further by the Court in Kehar Singh, which is also the topic of this article. Kehar Singh was convicted of a crime under sections 120B and 302 of the Indian Penal Code in connection with the murder of the country's first lady at the time, Indira Gandhi.

When the Additional Sessions Judge ruled him guilty during the trial stage, all of his appeals to higher authorities were rejected. In their appeal for a pardon under Article 72, they contended that the guilty verdict was wrong and pleaded for mercy. It was also urged that they be permitted to participate in the oral hearing.

The President refused to pardon the offender, claiming that they couldn't debate the case's merits once the High Court made its ruling. The petitioner was also denied the right to a personal hearing. The main issue raised is whether the President is forbidden from addressing the merits of a case that the Supreme Court finally decided.[19]

The trial and subsequent legal proceedings led to his conviction and the awarding of the death penalty. However, Kehar Singh's conviction and sentence became a subject of legal and public debate due to questions about his level of involvement in the conspiracy and the fairness of the trial.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court of India upheld Kehar Singh's conviction and death sentence, along with the convictions of other co-conspirators. Kehar Singh was executed in January 1989. The case remains significant in legal discussions regarding conspiracy, capital punishment, and the handling of high-profile cases in India.[20]

Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar V. State Of Maharashtra Case:

Facts Of The Case:
The truth of the matter is that the accused concocted a plot to kidnap either Kartikraj or Abhijeet Kothari and demanded 10 lakh rupees from the victim's family. Kartikraj was ultimately taken by the suspects. He was employed by the Central Railway in Pune as a clerk.

At the time, Kartikraj's father was employed as a Manager at NABARD in Hyderabad, and he shared a home with his younger brother. The perpetrator contacted the victim's father on August 8, 2001, and demanded 10 lakh rupees. He also warned his father that they would murder the kartikraj if he did not give them money.The victim's family afterwards received several calls as well.

Ramraj urged the suspect to allow him till the next morning so he could arrange the money. Ramraj sought his buddy, a manager at NABARD in Pune, for assistance, but the friend was unable to find Kartikraj. After Ramraj's buddy made an attempt, Ramraj sent a First Information Report through fax to his workplace and urged him to "lodge the same at the Police Station in question."

A picture of Kartikraj was also included. Accordingly, a First Information Report has been lodged for crimes covered by Sections 363 and 387 of the Indian Penal Code. The Crime branch was given jurisdiction over the investigation.

The victim's younger brother called the investigating officer, API Lotlikar, and informed the officer that he had received a call from the kidnappers. The kidnappers had once again called the victim's brother and requested that he travel to Bombay with $10 million and a mobile phone.

"This led to the arrest of Kumar Gaurav (PW-1), the approver, and the accused nos. 2 and 3, Sanjeevkumar Mahendraprasad Roy and Sanothskumar Shrijailal Roy. At the Andheri Railway Station, Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar, culprit No. 1, was also taken into custody. Kartikraj's precise whereabouts were not made known, though. They presented themselves to the magistrate, who then handed down the ruling to the session judge. Later, the accused, Santosh Kumar Satish Bhushan, appealed to the Indian Supreme Court.[21]

Issues In The Case:
  1. Whether the experienced Sessions Judge erred by pardoning Kumar Gaurav (PW-1)?
  2. Whether the case at hand qualifies as one of the "rarest of rare cases," allowing the lower courts to impose the death penalty?
Provisions Of The Case:
  1. Section 363 in the Indian Penal Code
    363. Punishment for kidnapping:
    Whoever kidnaps any person from 1 [India] or from legal custody will be subject to fines and imprisonment of any type for a duration that may not exceed seven years.
  2. Section 306 in the Indian Penal Code
    306. Abetment of suicide:
    Anyone who assists in another person's suicide will be punished with either type of imprisonment for a time that can last up to 10 years and will also be subject to a fine.
  3. Section 307 in the Indian Penal Code
    307. Attempt to murder- Anyone who commits any act with the intent or knowledge that, if the act resulted in death, the person would be guilty of murder shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may not exceed ten years and shall also be subject to fine; and if the act results in injury to any person, the offender shall be subject to either [imprisonment for life] or to the punishments mentioned above. attempts made by lifers.[Anyone who violates this clause and is sentenced to life in prison] may be punished with death if they do harm.]

    Anyone who commits any act with the intent or knowledge that, if the act resulted in death, the person would be guilty of murder shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may not exceed ten years and shall also be subject to fine; and if the act results in injury to any person, the offender shall be subject to either [imprisonment for life] or to the punishments mentioned above. Attempts made by lifers. [Anyone who violates this clause and is sentenced to life in prison] may be punished with death if they do harm.
  4. Section 303 in the Indian Penal Code
    303. Punishment for murder by life-convict: Anyone who commits murder while serving a life sentence under Article 1 will be executed.
  5. Section 354(3) in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
    When a person is found guilty of a crime that carries a death sentence or, as an alternative, a life sentence or a period of years in prison, the Judgment must include the reasons for the penalty imposed, including any specific circumstances that led to the death sentence.

Relevant Case Laws:
  1. Rampal Pithwa Rahidas and Others v. the State of Maharashtra:
    We are unable to rely on his unreliable and untrustworthy testimony, and in light of this, we refrain even from expressing an opinion regarding the alleged violation of Section 306(4) IPC read with Section 307 IPC, as it is true that no statement from Ramcharan Approver was recorded until he testified as PW 49 at the trial, which is why we are unable to rely on his untrustworthy and unreliable testimony.

    The law requires the Courts to record the statement of the approver immediately after a pardon is granted to him so that he may consider himself bound by that statement, and failure to do so at the trial would subject him to prosecution. It is only after the grant of a pardon that an accused becomes a witness. This instance did not include that exercise.[22]
  2. Narayan Chetanram Chaudhary & Anr v. State Of Maharashtra: In a nearly identical circumstance-where the confessional statement was kept in a sealed cover and where the learned Sessions Judge also granted pardon-a Division Bench of this Court declined to rule that no reliance could be placed thereon simply because some delay had occurred in the pardoning process. Additionally, it was said that the inspection of the accomplice was essential. If corrected subsequently, the committing Magistrate's failure to question the approver during the committal stage would not harm the accused, according to the following:

    The Trial Court is not required by law to follow Section 306(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, and the accused has no legal right to demand that it do so. Subject only to meeting the requirements outlined in Subsection (1) of Section 307, Section 307 offers a comprehensive method for recording an accomplice's statement.

    The legislation stipulates that in order for the Court to award a pardon, the accused must provide all relevant information that comes to his attention regarding the offense and any other person involved�whether as a principal or an accessory-in its commission. When the pardon is offered by the Trial Court, Section 306(4) does not need to be followed.

    Before granting the accused Raju's request for a pardon and having him subsequently testify as a witness, the Trial Court in this instance took all necessary steps to ensure that it was in compliance with Section 306(1). We didn't discover any legal or unlawful activity throughout the process of recording PW.2's statement and granting the pardon.[23]
  3. Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab:
    The death sentence was upheld as constitutional by a Constitution Bench of this Court, which also established the relevant legal framework. The Bachan Singh (supra) case, which ended the Indian judiciary's normative ambiguity on the issue, is seen as a turning point in the history of death penalty jurisprudence in India. According to the Bachan Singh court, the constitution recognizes the death sentence. Furthermore, it was said that the revised sentencing guidelines would act as protections.

    It was assumed that the sentencing process aimed to apply the death penalty to only a few carefully chosen cases. The court affirmed the death penalty in substance and procedure based on the aforementioned justification.
  4. Saibanna v. State of Karnataka:
    The defendant in this instance was serving a life sentence. He killed his wife and daughter while on parole. He was given a death sentence by this court based on logic that virtually made the death penalty mandatory for those receiving life sentences for crimes:

    A person who has been given a life sentence is required to serve the balance of his life behind bars unless the sentence is commuted or suspended, and such a sentence cannot be compared to a set term. State of Maharashtra v. Gopal Vinayak Godse, (1961) 3 SCR 440. [24]If such is the case, imposing a second life term on the appellant would be pointless and could not be done.[25]
  5. Mithu v. State of Punjab:
    Sections 235(2) and 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure are inapplicable if a mandatory death penalty is mandated by the law, as is the case with Section 303 of the Penal Code. Hearing from the accused on the issue of punishment is pointless if the court is left with no choice but to impose the death penalty, and providing an explanation of why this was done is no longer necessary. The clear justification for the court's imposition of the death penalty in such a case is that the law requires it.

According to the Bachan Singh decision, the death penalty is legal if it is used as an alternative punishment for the act of murder, and a life term in prison serves as the minimum sentence.

In his concurring opinion, Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, J., supported the majority view and made the following observations:

In light of the context that Menka Gandhi and Bachan Singh have presented, it is difficult to conclude that Section 303 is valid. Section 303 does not cover judicial discretion. The scales of justice are taken away from the judge as soon as he deems the defendant guilty of the crime.

No law that imposes the death penalty without the involvement of the judicial intellect can be seen as fair, just and reasonable since the death penalty is so conclusive, irrevocable, and irresistible. Unavoidably, such laws must be criticized as being arbitrary and severe. Section 303 is an example of such legislation, and it must be removed together with all other destructive legislation. I agree with my Lord Chief Justice that Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code ought to be ruled unconstitutional.[26]

  1. While the High Court regarded the age of the accused as a significant factor in its decision not to carry out the death sentences for Accused Nos. 2 and 3, the Honorable Court argued that the appellant, who was just two years older and still a young man, should have been subject to the same standards. The offense was committed by the appellant and the other two accusers equally. Although it is true that he is said to have first proposed the idea of kidnapping, it is important to keep in mind that the aforementioned plan was only carried out with everyone's cooperation.
  2. According to the honorable Supreme Court, every single case must be awarded a pardon at the preliminary stage.

    The Sessions Judge was given the authority to do this under Section 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for every expectation and indication that a defendant would become slack-jawed. As a result, the Session Judge's order to award the approver a pardon is legitimate and legal.
  3. The Honourable Court ruled that because there is no specific justification for imposing the death penalty and sentenced the appellant to a rigorous life in prison, both of the state's prior appeals were rejected. In our opinion, the mitigating circumstances mentioned earlier are enough to classify this case as one of the "rarest of the rare."
  4. The Honourable Court further said that "the death penalty should not be used in this case. Therefore, the appellant is given a life term of harsh imprisonment rather than the death penalty. Both the appellant's and the State's appeals are denied, subject to the change to appellant (A1)'s sentence noted above.[27]
Ratio Decidendi:
The court was given a variety of rulings in this case, including those involving the death sentence, life in prison, and the approval of a pardon to the approver under Section 306 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court found that the pardon order was legitimate and legal after taking all the reasons and references into account. Additionally, it was decided that there was insufficient evidence to grant the death penalty and that this case did not qualify as the "rarest of rare cases."[28]

  1. The ability to commute death sentences is a key check and balance within the criminal justice system. It enables the executive branch (state and federal governments) to examine and perhaps change judicial Judgments, guaranteeing justice and averting unjust executions.
  2. Governments at all levels may decide to commute death sentences based on humanitarian considerations. A more compassionate approach to justice is made possible by their ability to take into consideration factors like mental illness, regret, rehabilitation, and the defendant's age at the time of the crime.
  3. The death sentence may cause societal attitudes to shift over time. Governments are given the power to commute death sentences, allowing the legal system to change in accordance with changing moral and ethical standards and guaranteeing that penalties are consistent with accepted norms.
  4. A more uniform and consistent approach to commutation across the nation can be achieved by centralizing the power to commute death sentences at the state and federal government levels, preventing any inconsistencies at the local level.
  5. Decisions on life and death are vulnerable to political accountability when the power of commutation is placed in the hands of elected officials. Decision-making that is ethical and transparent can be encouraged by this.

The scope of commutation of a death sentence by the state or central authority is a complex and sensitive issue that requires careful consideration of various factors, including legal, ethical, and societal perspectives. The decision to commute a death sentence involves balancing the principles of justice, human rights, and the broader public interest. Commutation provides an avenue to show mercy and compassion, particularly in cases where there might be doubts about the fairness of the trial, new evidence emerges, or the convicted person shows genuine remorse and rehabilitation.

It acknowledges the possibility of human error in the legal process and ensures that irreversible harm is not done. Supporters of commutation argue that the death penalty may not necessarily deter crime more effectively than other forms of punishment. By commuting a death sentence, the state can focus on more effective ways of ensuring public safety and preventing crime. Commutation can provide closure and healing to victims' families, sparing them from prolonged legal proceedings and the emotional trauma associated with the execution of the convicted person. The decision to commute a death sentence can be influenced by political considerations and public opinion. Balancing these factors with legal and ethical considerations is a delicate task.

  1. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, the Indian Penal Code, 36th Edition.
  2. The Indian Penal Code, M.P Tandon, 12th Edition.
  3. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 23rd Edition.
  4. K. Gaur, International perspectives on the death penalty, 39 (01), JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL AND PARLIAMENTARY STUDY, 183, 230 (2005).
  5. S. Ayyathurai, Should the death penalty go away? 106(04) CRIMINAL LAW JOURNAL 49, 50 (2000).
  6. Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898
  7. "Death Sentence in India - IPC - Death Penalty"
  8. Jain R, "Academike - Articles on Legal Issues [ISSN: 2349-9796]" (Academike)

  1. Death Sentence in India - IPC - Death Penalty
  3. "Punishment And Theories Of Punishment"
  4. K. Gaur, International perspectives on the death penalty, 39 (01), Journal Of Constitutional And Parliamentary Study, 183, 230 (2005).
  5. S. Ayyathurai, Should the death penalty go away? 106(04) Criminal Law Journal 49, 50 (2000).
  6. "The Evolution and Historical Background of Capital Punishment in India"
  7. Tanaya Thakur and others, "Delay in Execution of Death Penalty: Need for a Balance" (Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news, February 7, 2020)
  8. Andhyarujina TR, "The Agony of Awaiting Death" (The Hindu, May 13, 2016)
  9. Verma A, "Analysis of the 'Rarest of Rare Doctrine' in Awarding Death Penalty - iPleaders" (iPleaders, August 9, 2020)
  10. Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898
  11. Section 354(3), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  13. Jain R, "Academike - Articles on Legal Issues [ISSN: 2349-9796]" (Academike)
  14. "Judicial Review: An Overview Of President's And Governor's Pardoning Power"
  16. TNM Staff and TNM Staff, "As 'rapist-Murderer' Dhananjoy's Story Comes on Screen, a Look at the Case That Shook India" (The News Minute, May 27, 2021)
  17. Bhattacheryya U and Bhattacheryya U, "Was Dhananjoy Guilty of Rape & Murder, Beyond Reasonable Doubt?" (TheQuint, August 24, 2017)
  18. India E-J, "Maru Ram v Union of India 1980" (E-Justice India, December 15, 2020)
  19. Kehar Singh v. Union of India, AIR 1989 SC 653
  21. "Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs State Of Maharashtra on 13 May, 2009"
  22. "Court in Review: Death Penalty - Supreme Court Observer" (Supreme Court Observer, October 9, 2023)
  24. "Gopal Vinayak Godse vs The State Of Maharashtra And Others on 12 January, 1961"
  25. "Santosh+bariyar | Indian Case Law | Law" (
  26. Livelaw, "Read All Latest Updates on and about Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar v. State of Maharashtra" (livelaw)
  27. LawFoyer, "Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar V. State Of Maharashtra | LawFoyer" (LawFoyer | A daily doze for inquisitors, August 2, 2021)
  28. ibd

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