Death Penalty Conundrum: The debate about abolition or retention of death penalty is unending. Recently, the Law Commission of India recommended its abolition for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and the offence of waging war against the State.
Whether one likes it or not, death penalty is in our statute book. Its constitutionality has been upheld by our Supreme Court, but in order to soften its rigour, the court ruled that it will be imposed only in ‘the rarest of rare cases’. What constitutes the rarest of rare cases? There is no definition nor is there any definitive judicial pronouncement on this issue. Individual judicial mindsets inevitably impart subjectivity.
The recent Supreme Court judgment confirming the death penalty on the rape culprits in the Nirbhaya case is an illustration. Justice Dipak Misra, with whom Justice Ashok Bhushan agreed, referred to the grotesque behaviour of the convicts, described the crime as brutal and demonic, and ruled: “If ever a case called for hanging, this was it”.
Justice R Banumathi, in her concurring judgment, held that “the poor background of the convicts and their good conduct in jail could not be considered as mitigating factors”.
She further ruled, “Where a crime is committed with extreme brutality and the collective conscience of the society is shocked, courts must award death penalty, irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability of the death penalty. By not imposing a death sentence in such cases, the courts may do injustice to the society at large”.
She observed, “Stringent laws and punishment alone might not be sufficient to fight the increasing crimes against women and an attitudinal change in the mindset was needed to respect women and to ensure gender justice in the country”. According to her, “Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum”. These significant observations merit deep and thoughtful consideration.
The Supreme Court judgment is well reasoned and takes all relevant factors into consideration. The convicts may file a review petition, and thereafter a Curative petition which to my mind will be of no avail. The President, in case a mercy petition is filed before him, is unlikely to allow it in view of the categorical observations of the Supreme Court. The culprits must suffer the consequences of their brutal demonic act of rape and murder. The sooner it is done, the better.
Justice Karnan: Some judges make history and carve a niche for themselves in the judicial history of a country by their landmark judgments. Justice C S Karnan has made history by his irrational behaviour, unbecoming of a judge of a high court.
A team of doctors from a state-run mental hospital, accompanied by police officers, arrived at Justice Karnan’s residence to examine him after the Supreme Court's instructions. Justice Karnan refused to undergo a medical test and told the team that he was absolutely normal and had a stable mind. He further said that the Supreme Court order amounts to an insult to and harassment of a Dalit judge. He could not refrain from the Dalit card.
Within hours of the Supreme Court’s order, Justice Karnan issued an order directing the DGP of New Delhi to produce the seven judges of the Supreme Court, hearing his case—including Chief Justice of India J S Khehar—before a psychiatric medical board attached to the AIIMS hospital, New Delhi. Justice Karnan is carrying on a joke too far. Such unstable jokesters must not be allowed to continue on the bench of any high court.
Retirement: Prince Philip, the 95-year-old husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, will from September step down from carrying out royal engagements. Buckingham Palace said in a statement that Prince Philip, who turns 96 in June, will not be accepting any new invitations for visits and engagements.
Prince Philip had accompanied the Queen on her three visits to India. The royal, known for his off-the-cuff remarks and gaffes, said with characteristic humour that he is stepping down because he finds it difficult to stand up. Going by the media reports and statements of politicians of all hues and colours it is apparent that the British love Prince Philip.