Plea in SC to hear death sentence reviews in open courts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to adjudicate a petition that urged the apex court to hear review pleas filed by all condemned convicts in an open court instead of chambers.

The plea was made by a death row convict.  Under normal circumstances, judges hear review petitions in chambers in the absence of parties or lawyers.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and J S Khehar, while staying execution of the death sentence, also decided to hear a plea on whether the decision to award death penalty should be taken by a five-judge Bench in accordance with the Law Commission’s recommendation.

On February 5, G Sundarrajan alias Sunder was awarded capital punishment by the apex court for killing the only male child of a couple in Tamil Nadu.

He had killed the class-II student after kidnapping him on his way back from school on July 27, 2009, for a ransom of Rs 5 lakh. The police had recovered the body from a tank. A trial court in Cuddalore had awarded him capital punishment, a decision, which was upheld by the Madras High Court in 2010.

The court had then noted that the convict had caused extreme miseries to the parents of the seven-year-old child, leaving them with no one to carry forward their lineage.

In his fresh petition, Sundarrajan sought amendments in the apex court rules.

He contended that reviews against death sentence qualified as a distinct category since life itself was at stake and the consequence of an error, which may be irreversible, was grave.

“The recommendation in the Law Commission report that all death penalty matters in the Supreme Court be heard by a bench of five judges be implemented and, in the alternative, at the least three judges ought to hear criminal appeals where capital punishment is involved,” the petition stated.

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