Project 39A of NLU-D Releases Report on Death Penalty Sentencing in Trial Courts

The research organization Project 39A of National Law University, Delhi drafted a report titled ‘Death Penalty Sentencing in Trial Courts’. The Trial Courts in Delhi often cite shock and impact of a crime on the collective conscience of society;  a major reason while imposing the death sentence on convicts.

The report analysed 215 judgments from three states; in which trial courts imposed death sentences, between 2000 and 2015. To list, 43 from Delhi, 90 from Maharashtra and 82 from Madhya Pradesh. The Report analyses the framework of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab; while dealing with evidence of trial courts, precedents for the death penalty and penological justifications for the sentencing of the death penalty.

Explicitly, ‘collective conscience of society’ as a ground to justify the death penalty was first used in the 1983 judgment of Machhi Singh v. the State of Punjab by the Supreme Court. The Court held that when “collective conscience of society is shocked, it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty”. However, it was most famously used in 2005 judgment in the Parliament attack case; in which the Supreme Court awarded capital punishment to convict, Afzal Guru. The 2017 Judgement of Supreme Court was the most recent endorsement of collective conscience. The case concerned the ghastly gangrape in December 2012.

The most striking point highlighted by Project 39A’s report was regarding the non-consideration of mitigating factors; while sentencing the accused. Another significant aspect highlighted in the report refers to how trial courts failed to consider individual roles of the accused in the crime; when sentencing an accused in a case involving more than one convict. The Report will be officially published on May 15, 2020.