NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of the growing demand for speedy decisions in cases involving heinous crimes, the Supreme Court on Friday framed a set of guidelines that mandate apex court benches to hear appeals challenging decisions of high courts confirming award of death sentences in six months. “In matters wherein the HC has confirmed/upheld death penalty, and this court has granted leave, the criminal appeals will be listed for hearing not later than six months before the three-judge bench from the date of grant of leave irrespective of the fact that the appeal is ready or not,” the SC said.
The SC had admitted the appeals of the four Nirbhaya case convicts against their death sentence on March 15, 2014, and finally upheld the capital punishment on May 5, 2017.
In the Nirbhaya case, the four convicts had moved the SC challenging the March 13, 2014 decision of the HC upholding award of death sentence.
The SC stayed their execution on March 15 before finally upholding the capital punishment on May 5, 2017.
Similarly, in the case involving Sonia and Sanjeev, who had killed seven of her family members over a property dispute, the matter lingered for two years in the SC when they challenged the death sentence.
The case involving Ravi, who had raped and killed a minor girl, took nearly three years in the SC before the death penalty was commuted to imprisonment for entire life.
In the case of Shabnam, who with her lover killed six members of her family, including a 10-month-old, to grab property and to end the daily admonitions by her father, her appeal against the HC’s decision confirming death sentence took the SC two years to decide.
Keeping in mind the delay in such cases, the guidelines framed by the SC said, “As soon as the special leave petition involving death penalty is filed, a communication from the SC registry may be sent… for summoning of original case records within 60 days from filing of such appeal.”
After the appeals are admitted for hearing by the SC, the parties would be allowed 30 days to file any additional document. This will prevent appellants’ counsel from seeking repeated adjournment of hearings. The guidelines also said if adjournment was sought in matters involving the death penalty, it would be listed before chamber judges instead of the present practice of these requests getting decided by SC registrars.


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