A report released by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has called for an end on imposition of death penalty by majority view of the judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court of India.
The ACHR report titled “India: Death despite dissenting judgments” was released on Tuesday.
Coordinator of the National Campaign for Abolition of Death Penalty in India, Suhas Chakma, said that a varied opinion exists among Judges when it comes to death penalty.
“The ratio of differences of opinion among the judges whether somebody convicted for offences punishable with death should die or live in most cases in India is 2:1. When this difference of opinion is also between acquittal and death sentence, imposition of death penalty by majority opinion becomes legally untenable and morally unconscionable,” Chakma said.
The report cites specific cases of imposition of death penalty by majority view in India and the experiences of the United States.
The report further states that in 20 states of the United States, the courts must impose a lesser penalty when the jury cannot agree on whether to impose the death penalty while in four states the jury can
continue to deliberate on penalties other than the death penalty before the court imposes a sentence.
Furthermore, in one State the judge has the option of imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without parole or impaneling a new jury, and in two states, statutes authorise the court to impanel a new jury if the first jury cannot reach a verdict.
Meanwhile in India, as per the report, the ‘differences of opinion at the level of High Court’ is recognised as a ground for commutation of death sentences under the broad guidelines on consideration of mercy pleas adopted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The report states that the MHA regularly flouts its own guidelines, including on ‘the differences of opinion at the level of the high court while advising the President of India for rejection of mercy pleas.
Finally, ACHR calls for an end to imposition of death penalty without unanimity of the judges in all stages of the proceedings of a case and further urged the President of India to automatically grant mercy if there are differences of opinion at any stage of the proceedings.