Following the outrage over the Supreme Court judgment converting the death sentence into life imprisonment in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the government on Friday said it was working on a policy to put an end to different sentences for the same crime.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said the preparation for a uniform sentencing policy was in the final stages and the ministry would soon place the proposal before the Union cabinet.
“We are working on a policy to stop discretion while handing sentences to convicts of criminal offences on the lines of the US and UK,” Moily said.
“A standalone law would be required to give legal backing to the policy, since we feel that there cannot be exercise of discretion when judges decide the quantum of punishment,” the minister said. “We are not changing anything but just laying down clear standards as they exist in other major democracies of the world.”
Without directly referring to the Supreme Court verdict in the Mattoo case, Moily said: “Being a law minister, I do not want to comment on any particular judgment delivered by the Supreme Court. I am only saying that the work on the policy has begun.”
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of accused Santosh Kumar Singh into life imprisonment in the 14-year-old Mattoo rape and murder case.
The apex court bench upheld the conviction of Singh, then a law college student, for killing and raping Mattoo, his junior, but reduced the death sentence to life imprisonment, saying certain things were in his favour.
Moily said the ministry had studied the UK model, which was discussed during his London visit last month. “There is no seamless discretion of judges in matters related to sentencing in the United Kingdom. We are taking their guidelines into consideration,” he said.
The US follows Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which set out a uniform sentencing policy for individuals and organisations convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors.