SC to examine Centre’s plea on victim-centric guidelines but draws a line
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine the Centre’s request for ‘victim-centric’ guidelines in death penalty cases but made it clear that this would not be at the cost of rights of death row convicts.
The Centre had last week approached the Supreme Court asking a bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde to set timelines for death-row convicts, arguing that the existing provisions were designed to only secure rights of the accused, or the convicts.
The government’s request came against the backdrop of the death-row convicts in the December 2012 gang-rape and murder case using the due process - multiple appeals to higher courts and the President - to delay their executions. The mother of the victim has been especially critical of the process.
The government, in its petition urged the court to adopt a victim-centric approach in heinous crimes so that faith of the public in judicial process is not shaken.
The bench has sought response from various stakeholders on whose petition the Supreme Court in 2014 had laid down guidelines relating to the execution of death row convicts.
At Friday’s hearing, neither the Supreme Court nor the Centre how a set of guidelines could make the process victim-centric without impinging on the rights of the death row convicts.
The Centre wants the top court to issue a direction that a death-row convict should file a mercy petition within seven days of the court signing off on the death warrant. The court and jail authorities, the government said, should issue the death warrant should be issued within seven days of rejection of the mercy petition.
In the December 2012 case, there are four death-row convicts, and they have chosen to file their various petitions in a phased manner -- every petition by a convict is filed only after the one filed by another is rejected -- causing a delay in the process.
The death warrant issued by a Delhi court initially set the date of execution as January 22. This was subsequently made February 1 by the same court. And a Delhi court will decide on Friday afternoon if a new date should be fixed.