Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Supreme Court admits it erred, upholds commutation of death penalty

Supreme Court admits it erred, upholds commutation of death penalty

Supreme Court: a frank admission

New Delhi: In a rare instance, the Supreme Court has admitted that its earlier judgments, in one and the same case, upholding the death sentence awarded by the trial court and confirmed by the High Court were a mistake and violation of human rights of the accused. The court in a second review upheld the Assam Governor's order commuting the punishment to life sentence.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and A.K. Ganguly in a recent order said: “Instances of this court's judgment violating the human rights of the citizens may be extremely rare but it cannot be said that such a situation can never happen. On a review of the reasoning in the petition, we find that the finding in the judgment is vitiated by errors apparent on the face of the record.”

Inalienable right

Writing the judgment, Justice Ganguly said: “Human rights are the basic, inherent, immutable and inalienable rights to which a person is entitled simply by virtue of his being born a human. They are such rights which are to be made available as a matter of right. The Constitution and legislation of a civilised country recognise them since they are so quintessentially part of every human being. That is why every democratic country committed to Rule of Law put into force mechanisms for their enforcement and protection.”

In the instant case, the Assam trial court held Ram Deo Chauhan alias Raj Nath Chauha guilty of murdering four members of a family in March 1992 and slapped the death penalty on him. This was confirmed by the Gauhati High Court and later by the Supreme Court in July 2000.

Review petition

In a review petition, the convict took the stand that he was a minor aged 16 at the time of the offence and the hence the death penalty could not have been awarded by the courts below.

A three-judge Bench by a majority of 2:1 rejected the review petition and again confirmed the death sentence. But Justice K.T. Thomas, in his minority judgment, felt that since there was a doubt whether Ram Deo was a minor or not when the offence was committed, it would be in the interest of justice to commute death to life imprisonment.

Later, acting on a an article written by Ved Kumari, Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, the National Human Rights Commission headed by the former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma felt that Justice Thomas' reasoning was the correct approach and recommended that the death sentence be commuted and the Governor accordingly did so.

However, on a writ petition, the Governor's order was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2009 holding that the NHRC had no jurisdiction to intervene in the matter.

Governor's order restored

Allowing the review petition against this order, the Bench said: “On a very careful consideration of this issue, this court thinks that in view of various questions of far-reaching importance having been raised in this second review, it may be a travesty of justice if this petition is dismissed. If a person has been guaranteed certain rights either under the Constitution or under an international covenant or under a law, and he is denied access to such a right, then it amounts to a clear violation of his human right and NHRC has the jurisdiction to intervene for protecting it. We are of the opinion that in doing so, NHRC acted within its jurisdiction.”

The Bench restored the Governor's order of commutation of the death sentence.

Eminent people dare SC to book them for contempt too

Eminent people dare SC to book them for contempt too

NEW DELHI: Twenty-five citizens, including eminent persons, on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court daring it to initiate contempt proceedings against them as they were expressing solidarity with advocates Prashant and Shanti Bhushan, who had alleged that eight of the 16 former Chief Justices of India (CJIs) were corrupt.

The applicants included RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, social activist Aruna Roy, National Advisory Council (NAC) member Harsh Mander, former IIM Ahmedabad director-in-charge Prof Jagdeep S Chhokar, Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh, former IFS officer and social activist Madhu Bhaduri, JNU's professor emeritus Amit Bhaduri, former West Bengal additional chief secretary Kalyani Chaudhuri and social activist Madhu Kishwar.

Others included professionals ranging from engineers, journalists, RTI activists, a major general and an educationist. Appearing for them, senior advocate Vikas Singh requested a Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H L Dattu that they be made parties in the contempt proceedings drawn against Prashant Bhushan for his views about corruption in judiciary published in a weekly magazine last year. With so many eminent persons seeking to be respondents in the case, the bench refused to take up the application.

पत्नी ने किया जज को जलाने का प्रयास

पत्नी ने किया जज को जलाने का प्रयास

रायपुर। छत्तीसगढ़ के कोरबा में एक जज को उनकी पत्नी ने पेट्रोल छिड़ककर जिंदा जलाने का प्रयास किया। जज की शिकायत पर पुलिस ने आरोपी पत्नी को गिरफ्तार कर लिया। मंगलवार को मुख्य न्यायिक मजिस्ट्रेट के समक्ष आरोपी को पेश किया गया, जहां से उसे न्यायिक हिरासत में भेज दिया गया। बताया गया है कि कुछ समय से दोनों के संबंध ठीक नहीं चल रहे थे।

स्थानीय अदालत में न्यायिक दंडाधिकारी द्वितीय श्रेणी केपी सिंह भदौरिया ने पुलिस को बताया कि मंगलवार सुबह घर में उनकी पत्नी मन्नू ने उन [जज] पर पेट्रोल छिड़क दिया और माचिस लेकर उनकी ओर दौड़ीं। जज ने भागकर अपनी जान बचाई। कोरबा के पुलिस अधीक्षक रतन लाल डांगी ने बताया कि जज की शिकायत पर मुकदमा दर्ज कर मन्नू को गिरफ्तार कर लिया गया।

मन्नू ने बताया कि वह अपने पति से परेशान थी। उसने करीब आठ साल पहले अपने पति के खिलाफ दहेज प्रताड़ना का मामला दर्ज कराया था, लेकिन बाद में उनके बीच सुलह हो गई थी।

Put all new FIRs online: Delhi HC

Put all new FIRs online: Delhi HC

7th Dec 2010

NEW DELHI: In a major move towards transparency in police functioning, the high court has directed the Delhi Police to start uploading all First Information Reports (FIRs) registered in the city onto its website within 24 hours of filing. The police are required to implement the order from February 1, 2011.

The landmark order, passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan, said it's the duty of the police to provide information and the accused does not need to move court to get a copy of an FIR.

"Fair and impartial investigation is a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution and presumption as regards the innocence of an accused is a right. Therefore, a person booked under criminal law has a right to know the nature of allegations so that he can take necessary steps to safeguard his liberty," the bench said.

Earlier, additional solicitor general A S Chandiok and amicus curie Arvind Nigam submitted their suggestions on the matter.
The counsel had said that recording of an FIR was an official act of a public official in discharge of his or her official duties and, therefore, it was a public document within the meaning of Section 74 of the Evidence Act, 1872.

The court said an accused was entitled to get a copy of the FIR earlier than what's prescribed under Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code (which says the FIR would be supplied through a magistrate's order after the accused moves court).