The Supreme Court of India ruled that a review petition in cases in which death sentence has been awarded should be heard in open court by the same Bench which originally heard the appeal.
A Constitutional Bench said that if the fundamental right to life is involved, the procedure needs to be just, fair and reasonable and hence a limited oral hearing even at the review stage is mandated by Article 21 of Indian Constitution in all death sentence cases.
“…it needs to be emphasised that when on the same set of facts, one judicial mind can come to the conclusion that the circumstances do not warrant the death penalty, whereas another may feel it to be a fit case fully justifying the death penalty, we feel that when a convict who has suffered the sentence of death and files a review petition, the necessity of oral hearing in such a review petition becomes an integral part of “reasonable procedure”, the Bench said.
The Court further added that in order that a review succeeds, errors apparent on the record have to be found. “It is axiomatic that the same learned Judges alleged to have committed the error be called upon now to rectify such error.”
The Court said the right of a limited oral hearing in review petitions where death sentence is given, shall be applicable only in pending review petitions and such petitions filed in future. It will also apply where a review petition is already dismissed but the death sentence is not executed so far. In such cases, the petitioners can apply for the reopening of their review petition within one month from the date of this judgment.