“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars” is one of the most insightful quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. which has pertinently pointed out the humanitarian feelings towards respecting human life that must be an innate quality of every human being, also necessary for being human.
Life has been, since time immemorial considered as a gift of the divine, bestowed by the supernatural power which and which cannot be started or put to an end with human wishes. The same has been recognized by the laws of the land in various countries across the globe, including India which has made the Right to Life as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, thus giving it a sacrosanct value and placing it on one of the highest pedestals in the eyes of the law.
The right to life has been respected and recognized to such an extent that even committing suicide has been classified as a penal offence in India, carrying a punishment up to one year or fine or both. Thus, the law has even prohibited taking up of one’s life, even through active means of committing suicide by an overt act or even following religious tenets whose ultimate aim is to case the death of an individual. The simple rationale behind this act of prohibition is that if some religion or activity is not capable of giving birth to a human life, it should not be capable of taking away this precious gift of god away from him.
However, the law of the land in India, including the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 give wide discretionary powers to put end to a human life through state action as a punishment for various offenses.
DEATH PENALTY: A LEGAL STANDPOINT
Death Penalty as a form of punishment has been carried on in the world through time immemorial, where the modus operandi of eliminating crime was to eliminate criminals from the society. This created a deterrent effect on the minds of other criminals and thus gave birth to the deterrent theory of punishment in criminal jurisprudence. However, on the contrary, the reformative theory of punishment also took birth in the same soil which pertinently mentioned that the principles of natural law state that every culprit should be given a chance for redemption and reformation, in order to kill the thoughts rather than killing the man. Thus, in India, both the tenets of deterrent theory and reformative theory of punishment are applicable hand in hand.
The Indian state is one of the Seventy – Eight countries across the globe which still support the infliction of death penalty upon those accused of serious and heinous offenses. However, according to the constitutional and legal mandate, such punishment has to be accorded in the “rarest of the rare” cases, which was pertinently pointed out by the apex court of the country in the matter of Bachan Singh V. State of Punjab. This doctrine, in itself runs contrary to the reformative theory of punishment which enables the culprits to seek redemption for their crimes and live a humanly life with the support of the society and the government. However, the “rarest of rare cases” doctrine has not been mentioned anywhere in any legislation and is just a judicial innovation, holding ground through the set precedents in various cases.
This gives a wide discretion to the judiciary to decide upon the parameters for holding any cases as a case which shakes the collective conscience of the society and the country. Thus, the judicial discretion may be arbitrary and the factors which may be used in deciding any case may not be uniform, leading to violation of right to equality of the culprit who may be hanged to death for an offense whereas a culprit who committed a similar offense was let off by a different judge for reasons best known to his discretion. This runs contrary to the law of precedents followed in the common law jurisdictions too.
Still, the doctrine along with its constitutionality has been upheld in various landmark judgments including Machi Singh V. State of Punjab and Jagmohan Singh V. State of Uttar Pradesh.
AN INTERNATIONAL STAND – POINT
Death penalty, as a part of the colonial legal framework, being borrowed from the British legal system, has been abolished in Britain itself. The Human Rights Act which is the law of land in the United Kingdom has laid down that no police official or court can execute someone or sentence to death as a measure of punishing them. This right has, moreover been laid down as an absolute right, which cannot be curtailed by any legislation, order or judgment, thus placing the sacrosanct gift of life and the right to enjoy it with dignity at the highest pedestal. However, India has not yet recovered from it’s colonial past with respect to this provision even though many such draconian laws have been put to sleep through various enactments and amendments.
Even in one of the most advanced countries in the world i.e., United States, death penalty has been abolished by 23 states and there has been a widespread movement in the past and present to completely eradicate it.
In India, the Supreme Court has also ruled that prolonging the execution of death sentence is not only inhumane but also puts a dehumanizing impact on the minds of the prisoners for whom each and every day becomes even worse than death. Even senior judges of the Supreme Court like Justice Krishna Iyer, in the landmark judgment of Rajendra Prasad V. State of U.P has noted that capital punishment is violative of Article 14, 19 and 21, commonly known as the “Golden Triangle”. Even Justice Bhagwati, in his landmark judgment of Bachan Singh V. State of Punjab has dissented from the main line of judicial thought and pointed out that death penalty not only runs contrary to the spirit of the constitution but also is undesirable from many points.
THE WAY FORWARD
Though there has been a drastic decline in the number of death penalties actually given to those who had been punished under this provision, the life and liberty of those who have been awarded death penalty still remains completely in the hands of the government.
The Supreme Court often mitigates the death penalty to a lower punishment like rigorous life imprisonment but the trial court often indiscriminately awards death punishment by strictly adhering to the statutory provisions, which can be evidently pointed out from the instance that trial courts all over India have already sentenced more than 50 death penalties in the first quarter of 2022 itself.
The task to bring a parity and uniformity in death sentence punishments is a herculean task before the legislature and Supreme Court, who have tried innumerable times to bring out precedents and evolve doctrines but still there lies a heavy room for arbitrariness.
One of the best solutions for these problems is abolishing death penalty as many developed nations have already done and bring about a change in the legal framework of the country to give every individual a chance for redemption. India, being the land of many great sages like Buddha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak and even Mahatma Gandhi who preached non – violence should adopt the way of non – violence and give every sinner a chance to mend his future and absolve the state from the duty to kill the criminals instead of rehabilitating them.
All views are strictly personal and do not correspond to any political, economic or religious thought. The author is a law student residing in New Delhi, India and can be reached at [email protected].
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Disproportionate assets case: Delhi High Court stays Lokpal proceedings initiated against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren
On Monday, the Delhi High Court has stayed the proceedings initiated by Lokpal of India under the provisions of the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act, 2013 against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chief and Rajya Sabha MP Shibu Soren in connection with a disproportionate case of assets.
The bench comprising of Justice Yashwant Varma observed and has passed an order on Soren’s plea challenging the validity of the said proceedings, claiming that the same was ex facie bad in law and without jurisdiction.
In the present case, the proceedings were initiated by Lokpal of India pursuant to a complaint dated August 5, 2020 filed by BJP’s Nishikant Dubey. Therefore, it has been directed by the CBI to make a preliminary enquiry into the Complaint under section 20(1)(a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. It was claimed by Soren that the said order was not served on him.
While claiming the complaint was false, frivolous and vexatious, Soren in his plea submitted that according to section 53 of the Act and there is a statutory bar against the Lokpal of India assuming jurisdiction to investigate or inquire into any Complaint made after the expiry of seven years from the offence alleged.
The plea reads that the initiation of the proceedings under the Complaint, or at the very least, continuation thereof, once it has been demonstrated by the preliminary inquiry that it pertains to alleged acquisitions prior to the 7-year period and is clearly barred by statute, without jurisdiction and the same is liable to be quashed.
Further, the petition filled submits that the maximum period of 180 days for completion of preliminary enquiry from the date of Complaint expired on February 1, 2021. In this backdrop, it has been stated that by this time, only on July 1, 2021, the comments were sought from Soren which is beyond the prescribed statutory period.
The plea adds that the final preliminary enquiry report was submitted by the CBI on 29.06.2022, about a year and a half after expiry of the 180- day period. Such purported report is void and null and non-est in the eyes of law and cannot be received or considered by the Respondent No.1.
Thus, the court took note of the order passed by Lokpal of India dated August 4, 2022 directing that proceedings under section 20(3) of the Lokpal Act be initiated to determine whether a prima facie case existed to be proceeded against Soren. It is Soren’s case that the order was passed without considering the preliminary objection on jurisdiction being raised by him.
In the said order, the court noted that all the Lokpal of India recorded was that the comments received from the petitioner were forwarded to CBI so as to examine and submit an enquiry report.
It was ordered by the court that the challenge to assumption of jurisdiction by respondent no. 1 (the Lokpal of India) has neither been answered and nor dealt with. Matters require consideration. Subsequently, there will be a stay of proceedings pending before the Lokayukta.
Accordingly, the court will now hear the matter on 14 December.
DELHI HC SETS ASIDE MURDER CONVICTION & LIFE SENTENCE OF MAN WHO WAS UNPRESENTED BY LAWYER; REMANDS CASTE BACK TO TRIAL COURT
The Delhi High Court in the case Narender @ Lala v. State Of NCT Of Delhi observed and has set aside the orders of conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment awarded to a man in 2018 who was unrepresented by a lawyer before the Trial Court. Thus, the Delhi High Court has remanded the case back to the Trial Court for cross examination of certain prosecution witnesses.
The division bench comprising of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal observed and was of the view that there had been a grave miscarriage of justice to the man as when number of witnesses were examined, he was not represented by a counsel and that the legal aid counsel, who was present before Trial Court and was appointed on the same day and asked to cross- examine the witnesses on the same day.
On March, 2018, Narender was convicted for offence of murder punishable under section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. On 4th May, 2018, he was sentenced by the Trial Court for life imprisonment and also to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000.
In the present case, the case of the prosecution was that the man had committed murder of his wife by strangulating her to death.
In a appeal, it was argued by the man that during the substantial course of trial, he was not represented by a lawyer and hence the trial in the absence of a lawyer had seriously prejudiced him. He thus sought recalling of all the prosecution witnesses and thereby ensuring a fair trial.
The Court observed that the manner in which the trial is conducted, there was a serious denial of fair trial to the appellant and the appellant is required to be given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses i.e., the witnesses examined in the absence of the lawyer, or the lawyer having been appointed on the same day from the legal aid and is asked to cross-examine the witnesses.
Further, the court remanded the back to Trial Court for cross-examination of ten prosecution witnesses. Also, the court directed the Trial Court Judge to follow due process of law and also to record the statement of the man under Section 313 CrPC and permit leading the defence evidence if so required.
The Court ordered that the case be listed before the learned Trial Court on 26th September, when Superintendent Tihar Jail will product the appellant before the learned Trial Court and the learned Trial Court is requested to expedite the trial and conclude the same preferably within four months.
SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO ENTERTAIN PLEA CHALLENGING EXCLUSION OF SC/ST RESERVATION IN JHARKHAND DISTRICT JUDGES APPOINTMENT
The Supreme Court in the case Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Educational And Cultural Trust v. Hon’ble High Court Jharkhand And Ors. observed and has refused to entertain a plea challenging the non-inclusion of reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes communities in the process of appointment of District Judges in pursuant to an advertisement issued in March, 2022 by the High Court of Jharkhand. The present petition claimed that the exclusion of reservation violates Jharkhand State Reservation Policy and constitutional guarantee under Article 16(4). Apart from this, it is also in derogation of a resolution being passed by the High Court vouching to implement reservation in the Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service.
The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the Justice Hima Kohli observed and has granted liberty to the petitioner to file a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution before the Jharkhand High Court.
The court while considering that the process of appointment as per the concerned notification is underway, Justice Chandrachud asked the petitioner to approach the High Court with respect to future appointments.
It stated that “For the future you can file a petition before the High Court… We will give you liberty to approach the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.”
The bench of Justice Chandrachud observed that the Decisions of the Administrative side of the High Court can be challenged before the judicial side of the High Court. You can move the High Court.
In the present case, a writ petition challenging a similar notification was filed in 2017 before the High Court, which was eventually dismissed. It was observed by the High Court that there is no duty vested in the authorities to reserve seats for all posts, more particularly in higher judiciary. Moreover, it had already initiated the appointment process, the High Court opined that it cannot alter the rules midway. Thus, the appeal filed before the Apex Court was also dismissed.
However, in 2018 the Full Court of the Jharkhand High Court had agreed in principle to grant reservation in the recruitment for Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service. The advocates belonging to the SC/ST/OBC communities in 2021 had made representations to the Chief Justice of the High Court requesting for the implementation of the Reservation policy in appointment of District Judges (direct entry from Bar)/ superior judicial service. The impugned notification was issued without incorporating reservation for SC/ST/OBC communities in March 2022.
Mr. Arvind Gupta, Advocate on Record has filled the present petition.
Right to contest election is not a fundamental right; it is only a right conferred by statute: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court in the case Vishwanath Pratap Singh vs Election Commission of India observed that the right to contest an election is not a fundamental right but only a right conferred by a statute.
The bench comprising of Justice Hemant Gupta and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia observed while dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by Vishwanath Pratap Singh that an individual cannot claim that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as is required under the Act, to file his nomination without any proposer.
Also, the court imposed a cost of Rupees one lakh on Singh.
In the present case, Singh had first approached the Delhi High Court challenging a notification issued by Election Commission of India for election to Rajya Sabha after he was not allowed to file his nomination without a proper proposer being proposing his name. His contentions were rejected by the High Court that his fundamental right of free speech and expression and right to personal liberty has been infringed.
While dismissing the SLP, the Apex Court observed that the writ petition before the High Court was entirely misconceived.
The bench observed while referring to earlier judgments viz Javed v. State of Haryana, (2003) 8 SCC 369 and Rajbala v. State of Haryana (2016) 2 SCC 445 wherein it was stated that the right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is a right conferred by a statute.
However, the Supreme Court in Javed (supra) had made the following observations: Right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and it is a right conferred by a statute. At the most, in view of Part IX having been added in the Constitution of India that a right to contest election for an office in Panchayat may be said to be a constitutional right and a right originating in the Constitution and given shape by a statute. But even if, it cannot be equated with a fundamental right. It is stated that there is nothing wrong in the same statute which confers the right to contest an election also to provide for the necessary qualifications without which a person cannot offer his candidature for an elective office and also to provide for disqualifications which would disable a person from contesting for, or from holding, an elective statutory office.
It was held in Rajbala (supra) that the right to contest for a seat in either of the two bodies is subject to certain constitutional restrictions and could be restricted further only by a law which the parliament made.
Further, the court added that Singh did not have any right to contest election to the Rajya Sabha in terms of the law made by the Parliament.
The Court stated while dismissing the SLP that the Representation of People Act, 1950 read with the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 has contemplated the name of a candidate to be proposed while filling the nomination form. However, it cannot be claimed by an individual that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as to file his nomination without any proposer as is required under the Act.
Post-conviction compounding of offences is permissible: Himachal Pradesh High Court
The Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case Shri Kantu Ram v Shri Beer Singh recently observed that a court, while exercising powers under Section 147 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and can proceed to compound the offences even after recording of conviction by the courts below.
The bench comprising of Justice Sandeep Sharma observed in a case where the revision Petitioner, who was convicted under Section 138 of the NI Act by the Magistrate Court and was aggrieved by subsequent dismissal of appeal by the Sessions Court and had agreed to pay the amount due and settle the matter.
Thus, the petitioner had sought compounding of offences.
In the present case, the respondent admitted the factum with regard to receipt of the amount due from the accused and expressed that the prayer made on behalf of accused for compounding of offence can be accepted.
However, the High Court allowed the prayer and the offence committed by the Petitioner under Section 138 NI Act was ordered to be compounded.
The Court observed that the Reliance was placed on Damodar S. Prabhu V. Sayed Babalal H. (2010) 5 SCC 663, wherein the Apex Court has categorically held that court, while exercising power under Section 147 of the NI Act and can proceed to compound the offence even after recording of the conviction by the courts below.
‘Pensionary benefits to employee, who is removed from service for misconduct, is not at par with those who retire on superannuation’
The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court in the case Bashir Ahmad Wani v Jammu and Kashmir Grameen Bank and Another recently observed and stated that an employee who is removed from service for misconduct is not at par with those who is being retired on superannuation.
The bench comprising of Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed while dismissing the pension claim made by a former employee of the J&K Grameen Bank, who was removed from service in 2011.
In the present case, the petitioner had sought benefit of the J&K Grameen Bank (Employees) Pension Regulations, 2018 whereby provision was made for terminal benefits.
However, the court disallowed the claims on two grounds:
Firstly, that at the time of removal of the petitioner from service when there were no norms, rules or regulations providing for the benefit of pension to the employees of the respondent-Bank.
In the year 2011, the employees of the respondent-Bank were governed by the J&K Grameen Bank ( the Officers and Employees) Service Regulations, 2010… it is abundantly clear that it does not prescribe imposition of a penalty of removal along with the pensionary benefits.
Secondly, it was opined by the court that though the 2018 Regulations had been made applicable to those employees who were in service between 1st day of September, 1987 and 31st day of March, 2010 and the employees retired from the services of the Bank before 31st day of March, 2018, however, this leeway cannot come to aid of the Petitioner.
The Curt observed that the reason for finding that the Petitioner was not an employee who had “retired” on superannuation from the bank. Rather, he was “removed” for misconduct.
The Court stated that the regulations apply to those employees who retired from the service of the Bank before 31.03.2018 and not the employees who were terminated for misconduct. Viewed thus, the order of removal of the petitioner dated 02.09.2011 holding the petitioner entitled to terminable benefits and cannot, by any stretch of reasoning, be construed to be an order of removal with the benefit of the pension. Neither, the petitioner, at the time of his removal from service, nor with the promulgation of Pension Regulations of 2018, is entitled to the benefit of pension.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition.
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