Death sentence cannot be carried out in an arbitrary manner: SC

The Supreme Court of India clarified that the execution of death sentence cannot be carried out in an arbitrary manner without following the due process of law.

“Condemned prisoners also have a right to dignity and execution of death sentence cannot be carried out in a arbitrary, hurried and secret manner without allowing the convicts to exhaust all legal remedies”, the Court said.

Referring to some earlier decisions of the Court as well as High Courts, the Court was in consonance with the below guidelines: –

1) The principles of natural justice must be read into the provisions of Sections 413 and 414 of Cr. P. C. and sufficient notice ought to be given to the convict before the issuance of a warrant of death by the sessions court that would enable the convict to consult his advocates and to be represented in the proceedings.

2) The warrant must specify the exact date and time for execution and not a range of dates which places a prisoner in a state of uncertainty.

3) A reasonable period of time must elapse between the date of the order on the execution warrant and the date fixed or appointed in the warrant for the execution so that the convict will have a reasonable opportunity to pursue legal recourse against the warrant and to have a final meeting with the members of his family before the date fixed for execution. This includes the right to file Review and Mercy petitions respectively to the State Governor as well as President of India.

4) A copy of the execution warrant must be immediately supplied to the convict.

5) In those cases, where a convict is not in a position to offer a legal assistance, legal aid must be provided.

These are essential procedural safeguards which must be observed if the right to life under Article 21 is not to be denuded of its meaning and content, the Court emphasized

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