As the Supreme Court opened another window of hope for death row convicts by allowing open court hearings of their review petitions, activists and legal fraternity welcomed it saying, “There should be absolute and full transparency in dealing with an irreversible decision like the death penalty.”
Calling the apex court’s decision a “welcome change”, Suhas Chakma, director of the ACHR questioned “why only the review petition should be heard in open court.”
After the review petition, the convict generally files a curative petition — the last legal recourse available to him — which is not heard in open court.
Open court hearing of review petitions will give another opportunity to death row convicts to convince the court to acquit them or to commute their sentence to life imprisonment.
Retired SC judge RS Sodhi said he was glad that the review petitions would not just be decided by circulation anymore. “While passing a death sentence, you are acting like God. You can’t give life but you are taking it. This will be an opportunity for the judge to review, rethink the matter carefully.”
“It is excellent that the court is acknowledging the status of the death penalty case — it can be given by mistake, or because of a lawyer’s incompetence, or even if the judge has preconceived notions.”
Senior lawyer and Rajya Sabha member KTS Tulsi said, “It is always better to err on the side of caution when meting out an irreversible decision like the death penalty.” He added that he had “always hoped that the apex court would take such a decision.”
Calling it a long overdue decision, senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves said, “If it is open court, the advocate will at least have the ability to show what has been missed or mistaken.”