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The idea behind this blog is to collect information on the death penalty in India and make it accessible. We are trying our best to put the latest information on the people who are currently on death row, the status of their cases, their mercy petitions and also the information on any death sentence across the country. Please feel free to write us and give us your suggestions and comments and also any information you have come across regarding the death penalty in India. Our email id is abolishdeathpenaltyindia@gmail.com The blog is currently managed by Grace Pelly, Lara Jesani, Nitu Sanadhya, Rebecca Gonsalvez, Reena Mary George and Vijay Hiremath. Kindly mark copies of the emails to: vijayhiremath@gmail.com reena.mary.george@univie.ac.at

Monday, July 6, 2015

Former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal dies at 73

As a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sabharwal delivered several important judgments dealing with constitutional matters. 

New Delhi | Updated: July 4, 2015 11:30 am

Former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal passed away on Friday at the age of 73. He had suffered a brain stroke in 2014 and was not keeping well since.

Born on January 14, 1942, Justice Sabharwal mainly practised in civil and constitutional cases. He was elevated as an additional judge of the Delhi High Court in 1986 and became its permanent judge in April 1987. He later went on to become the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court in 1999, from where he was elevated as a judge of the apex court on January 28, 2000, the day of the golden jubilee of Supreme Court.

Justice Sabharwal was appointed as the CJI in 2005 and retired after a term of 14 months. After his appointment as the CJI, he had favoured abolition of the death penalty. He had said that while the statute prescribed for the capital sentence in the rarest of rare cases, he personally opined that capital punishment should be erased from the penal code.

As a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sabharwal delivered several important judgments dealing with constitutional matters, including the verdict in January 2006, that held the dissolution of Bihar Assembly as illegal and unconstitutional. In 2007, Justice Sabharwal, while heading a nine-judge constitution bench, ruled that there could not be any blanket immunity from judicial review of laws inserted in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

The judgment held that all laws placed under the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973, shall be open to be challenged in court if they violate the fundamental rights. Justice Sabharwal also headed a bench monitoring river inter-linking projects in the country. He was also part of the bench that had cancelled petrol pump licences granted under the discretionary quota of ministers. He dealt with the politically-sensitive JMM bribery case, medical scam cases and cases concerning unauthorised construction in the Capital.

The former CJI had set in motion the process of sealing properties in designated residential areas of Delhi which were being used for commercial purposes. His presence on this bench, however, courted some controversy after it was later known that his two sons had links with the real estate business in Delhi.

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/former-cji-y-k-sabharwal-dies-at-73/ [last accessed 06.07.2015]

Friday, July 3, 2015

Madhya Pradesh: Death sentence for man convicted of murder of wife, daughter

Press Trust of India | Morena (MP) 
July 1, 2015 Last Updated at 20:28 IST

A court in the district today awarded death sentence to a man after finding him guilty of hacking his wife and daughter to death last year. Describing the act as cruel, Ambah tehsil Additional Sessions Judge P C Gupta sentenced Anil Sakhwar (30), a resident of Manpur village, to death for the murder of his wife Manisha (28) and daughter Anushka (2). 

Additional public prosecutor Ramniwas Tomar told PTI that Anil was not getting along well with Manisha for some time. On February 7, 2014, following a quarrel, he attacked his wife and the daughter with an axe. While Anushka died on the way to the hospital, Manisha succumbed during the treatment, said Tomar. Anil had fled from the spot but was later arrested.

Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/death-sentence-for-man-convicted-of-murder-of-wife-daughter-115070101127_1.html [last accessed 03.07.2015]

Madhya Pradesh: Man’s death penalty changed to life term

TNN | Jun 19, 2015, 12.31PM IST

INDORE: Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court on Thursday converted death sentence of a man, convicted in gruesome rape and murder of 9-year-old, to life imprisonment. 

Jagdish Mehar, 30, resident of Pallapur village of Rajgargh district of Madhya Pradesh, was in January 2015, convicted by session court for kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old girl and awarded capital punishment under various sections of IPC and Protection of Children From Sexual Offence Act. Advocates Abhijeet Dube and Rekha Shrivastava said this is the first time in recent times, when HC has reduced the punishment, in such a sensitive case. 

Jagdish had kidnapped the minor from his village and raped her on March 9, 2014. On March 13, 2014, a decomposed body of victim was recovered by police, and after investigation, Jagdish was arrested and booked. Sessions court held Jagdish guilty of murder, rape and kidnapping. As per rule, capital punishment awarded by session court is tabled before high court for approval. 

In high court, double bench of Justices PK Jaiswal and JK Jain set aside the capital punishment for murder, and their order observed that it was not murder but culpable homicide, so he could not be awarded capital punishment. HC upheld charges of rape and kidnapping and approved life sentence.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/indore/Mans-death-penalty-changed-to-life-term/articleshow/47731693.cms [last accessed 03.07.2015]

Source: http://sikhsiyasat.net/2015/06/12/wife-meets-prof-bhullar-in-guru-nanak-hospital-amritsar/ [last accessed on 03.07.2015]

Court orders husband’s death in Oxytown murder

TNN | Jun 12, 2015, 04.53AM IST

KOLKATA: An Alipore court has sentenced the mastermind in the Oxytown murder case to death. The court ordered life imprisonment for his conduit who played a role in executing the murder plan. Alipore court judge, Siddhartha Kanjilal, told mastermind and victim's husband Avik Ghosh on Thursday: "You have killed your wife deliberately. You didn't care for your children even. I am convinced that you masterminded the murder. I sentence you to death." Avik tried to argue with the judge that he has worked in responsible posts and always led a clean life while pleading innocence. 

The judge then turned to his conduit Somnath Tanti. "You have committed crime for the first time. Taking this into consideration, I sentence you for life. Try to lead the rest of your life in a civilized manner," the judge said. Lawyers of the convicts will move the higher court challenging the Alipore court order. 

The murder dates back to September 2010 at Oxytown in Behala's Sarsuna area when housewife Mousumi Ghosh was killed under mysterious circumstances. Her father alleged husband Avik was putting pressure on her daughter for a divorce. With Mousumi refusing to give a divorce, her husband, an engineer posted in Bihar, hired 'supari' killers who came to their Oxytown house when Mousumi was alone and executed the murder plan. Her husband had made a doctor's appointment for his mother to take her away from home. 

The 30-year old woman was found lying in the room with her throat slit while her domestic help, Parul, succumbed to a critical head injury. The killers had spared Mousumi's two-year old son Avirup who witnessed the murder. Her husband tried to project the incident as a robbery attempt gone futile. 

The Alipore court earlier acquitted three of Somnath's conduits — Safiq Ahmed Khan, Sadaf Pervez and Sheikh Israfin — for "lack of evidence". The public prosecutor had presented 31 witnesses before the court, including Thakurpukur police's investigating officer Joydeep Banerjee. The area is now under Kolkata Police's Sarsuna police station. "Based on evidence, the two accused were sentenced under IPC sections 302/109/396 and 120 (B)," said a source. He said that it was the failure of the jewellers, who had bought the stolen ornaments of Mousumi in 2010, in identifying three of Somnath's conduits that they managed to walk free. 

Soon after Mousumi married Avik in 2006, the latter started putting pressure on her for dowry. So much so that Mousumi's father Sankar Dutta put it on record in his police complaint. Sources said Mousumi was Avik's second wife. He had also allegedly tortured his first wife. Later, police arrested three youths — Somnath Tanti, Sadaf Parvez and Safique Ahmed Khan — from Thakurpukur in November 2010 as a laptop went missing from the murder spot and it was lying with them. Police had stated in the chargesheet that the trio murdered Mousumi and Parul. Somnath knew Avik because the latter's father used to work in this house as a mason, police stated in the chargesheet. So, Mousumi knew Somnath and had opened the door to let him in on the day of the murder.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Court-orders-husbands-death-in-Oxytown-murder/articleshow/47636586.cms [last accessed 03.07.2015]

Kolkota - Death sentence to husband for murdering wife

Press Trust of India | Kolkata 
June 11, 2015 Last Updated at 18:22 IST

A man was today awarded death sentence for mudering his wife and their maid at their residence in the city about five years ago by hiring a contract killer. 

The contract killer Somnath Tanti was awarded life imprisonment by the Alipore Judges Court. 

Judge Siddhartha Kanjilal, delivering the judgement, said it was a rarest of the rare case as the the two little children of the couple Abhik Ghosh and Moushumi Ghosh were deprived of their mother's love at an early age when needed most and the murder was pre-planned. 

The judge said that he had no other option but to pass the death sentence against the accused. 

To Ghosh's repeated pleadings before the judge that he did not commit the crime, the judge said that the court had enough evidence to come to the conclusion that he had planned the murder of both the persons. 

The same court had held Ghosh and Tanti guilty two days back. 

Ghosh had a dispute with his wife and he had hired a contract killer to murder her. The maid was killed as she was a witness to the incident.

Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/death-sentence-to-husband-for-murdering-wife-115061100930_1.html [last accessed 03.07.2015]

Monday, June 1, 2015

ACHR’s comparative study uncovers flaws in Indian system of awarding death sentence

Submitted by TwoCircles.net on 28 May 2015 - 11:20pm

By A Mirsab, TwoCircles.net,

Mumbai: In an attempt to advocate abolition of death penalty in India, the Asian Centre For Human Rights (ACHR) has, in a report, criticized the arbitrariness in awarding death sentences by the Indian judiciary and has categorically pinpointed flaws in sentencing death under the name of ‘conscience’.

The 77 page report released on May 25 ‘India: Death in the name of conscience’ examines the imposition of death penalty to convicts in the name of “collective conscience of the society”, which is often interpreted as the “judicial conscience.”

The report is being published as part of the ACHR’s “National Campaign for Abolition of Death Penalty in India” – a project funded by the European Commission under the European Instrument for Human Rights and Democracy – the European Union’s programme that aims to promote and support human rights and democracy worldwide.

ACHR report front page

The report specifically examines (i) manufacturing of ‘conscience’ to justify death sentence, (ii) the use of ‘conscience’ in the judgements imposing death penalty which have already been declared as per incuriam by the Supreme Court, (iii) how ‘conscience’, “which varies from judge to judge depending upon his attitudes and approaches, his predilections and prejudices, his habits of mind and thought and in short all that goes with the expression social philosophy,” plays out as to whether an accused charged with an offence punishable with death shall live or die, and (iv) inconsistency of the Indian judiciary while considering the factors and circumstances to determine between life and death in a capital punishment case.

The report is prepared after meticulous study of 48 Supreme Court judgements on death penalty pronounced by two distinguished former judges of the Supreme Court viz. Justice M B Shah and Justice Arijit Pasayat, who are currently serving respectively as chairperson and vice chairperson of the Special Investigation Team on Black Money appointed by the Supreme Court of India, to illustrate how ‘conscience’ of individual judges play out the ‘collective conscience’ and/or ‘judicial conscience’.

Per incuriam is a Latin term which means “through lack of care”. It refers to a judgement of a court that has been decided without reference to a statutory provision or earlier judgement which would have been relevant. The significance of a judgement having been decided per incuriam is that it does not then have to be followed as precedent by a lower court.

Out of the 33 death penalty cases adjudicated by Justice Arijit Pasayat examined by Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), Justice Pasayat

(i) confirmed death sentence in 15 cases, including four cases in which lesser sentences were enhanced to death sentence and two cases in which acquittal by the High Courts were turned to death sentence,

(ii) upheld acquittal in eight cases,

(iii) commuted death sentence in seven cases and

(iv) remitted three cases back to the High Courts to once again decide on quantum of sentence as death penalty had not been imposed by the High Courts.

Interestingly, out of the 16 cases in which death penalty was confirmed by Justice Pasayat, five cases have since been declared as per incuriam by the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Justice M B Shah did not confirm death sentence in any of the 15 cases of death penalty adjudicated by him. He rather commuted death sentence in 12 cases, did not enhance life imprisonment into death penalty in any case, did not alter acquittal by the High Courts into death penalty in any case, did not remit back any case to the High Courts on the quantum of sentence and did not deliver a single judgement, which was declared as per incuriam. He acquitted convicts in three cases out of which he passed dissenting judgements against imposition of death penalty in two cases.

Comparison tables

By comparing the reasoning of these two judges while dealing with death sentences, the report tries to prove how in India death sentence has become ‘judge-centric’.

The report says, “Whether an accused shall live or die has become essentially a matter of luck,” adding, similar disputation at other place: “It is troubling as it makes the life and death of a person dependent on sophisticated judicial lottery. These inconsistencies stand exposed on perusal and analysis of various judgements of the Supreme Court”.

Countering the main ground of ‘conscience’ in awarding death sentence, it says, “The reliance on ‘conscience’ for imposition of death penalty is deeply flawed, fraught with malafides at every stage, and is often manufactured through scapegoating of the dispensable i.e. the poor, socially disadvantaged and those accused of terror offences.” It added further, “They are often unable to defend themselves in all stages, most notably at the stage of the trial held under intense local social pressure, media trial and hostile environment.”

In regards with the terrorism related offences, the report says justice system has developed a clear precedent whereby the investigating agencies and prosecutors present evidence gathered under special laws such as TADA in trials conducted under the IPC to extract maximum punishment and the Courts embolden by ‘collective conscience’ have accepted the same without any qualm.

“This is nothing but abuse of the law driven by the desire for retribution in order to satisfy the so called ‘collective conscience’ rather than meeting the basic requirements of justice,” it speaks out for terror offences convictions.

In addition, it says, some crimes such as the ones against women and children are so gruesome and become politically significant in the light of massive public outrage that it almost becomes indispensable for the state/prosecution to find the guilty, even if it means tweaking justice, to assuage public anger.

As evidence it relies upon the documentary released in November 2013 on Arivu, in which the former Superintendent of Police of the CBI P V Thiagarajan admitted that he had manipulated Arivu’s confessional statement in order to join the missing links in the narrative of the conspiracy in order to secure convictions.

Listing much arbitrariness in various judgments dealing with death penality, it says Arbitrariness has been one of the grounds for declaring many laws as unconstitutional across the world and death sentences have been abolished on this ground alone in other countries such as South Africa.

“The situation and factors that were taken into consideration by the South African Constitutional Court for determining arbitrariness is not dissimilar to India – the mirror reflection is possibly worse in India. If death penalty can be declared unconstitutional on the ground of arbitrariness in South Africa, there is no reason why it should be constitutional in India,” the report concludes.

Asian Centre for Human Rights endeavors to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Asian region by undertaking range of activities. Details of their activities can be find at its website www.achrweb.org.

Source: http://twocircles.net/2015may28/1432835422.html#.VWwX4M-qpHy [last accessed 01.06.2015]