Supreme Court
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Supreme Court in its recent judgment had remitted a case of capital punishment back to Allahabad High Court for reconsideration of the evidence set forth, arguments given by both sides as well as have thorough discussions regarding the decision of capital punishment given by the Trial Court in this case.

Facts of the case

The accused-appellant Pappu @ Chandra Kumar had committed the murder of a senior police officer as was alleged during his trial at the court. The trial court found him guilty of all charges under Section 302 and Section 506 of theIndian Penal Code and under Section 25 and 27 of Arms Act. Based on the seriousness of the offence he was sentenced to death by the Farrukhabad District court, Uttar Pradesh.

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The accused then appealed before the Allahabad High Court. The trial court also sent the reference of their Judgement to the High Court for confirmation of the capital punishment given to the accused-appellant. The High Court took note of the arguments of both sides as set forth at the trial court. The Court also recorded the trial court’s findings and then gave its ruling by confirming the death penalty of the accused. But the High Court failed to take notice of the “arguments of the appellant or the respondent” and those “were [never] discussed and considered.” The Apex Court found this very “strange” as the High Court had meticulously recorded all the arguments and counter-arguments, the trial court’s decision and also discussed in details the situations and extenuating circumstances that merit capital punishment.

Court ruling

A three judge Bench of the Supreme Court presided over this case. Justices A. K. Sikri, S. Abdul Nazeer and M. R. Shah gave their ruling on February 20, 2019. The Apex Court in their ruling discussed the failings of the High Court in following procedures regarding the verdict. The Bench unequivocally opposed the High Court’s approach towards the proceedings in this case and rebuked the lower court for not recording its own reasoning with respect to this case.

The judges exclaimed their disappointment that the High Court had “not dealt with the issue as to whether the conviction recorded by the trial court was justified or not.” The top court also clarified their position on how the High Court’s ruling failed to take into account the seriousness of the matter as they should have dealt in depth about the merits of the issues at hand considering that the “appellant is convicted for serious offence of murder, i.e., under Section 302 IPC and above all given the death sentence therefor.”

The Supreme Court offered their perspective and suggested, “High Court was sitting as a Court of first appeal. Therefore, it was required to revisit the entire evidence and was also required to record its opinion as to the findings of the trial court on the conviction were warranted and justified or not.” The Apex Court declared that since the High Court was “silent on the question of conviction” the top court has no choice but to “set aside the impugned judgment and remit the case to the High Court for fresh consideration on merits on the lines indicated above.”

Impact of the judgment

This ruling of the top court has brought to light many issues that have been plaguing our justice system. The number of pending cases, serious shortages of lawyers and judges, delay in the appointments of court officials, political unwillingness to combat this apathy and the pressure to deal with such aggravating situations have seriously afflicted our justice system. Although that cannot be construed as an excuse in this current scenario especially; and though timely intervention by the Supreme Court may have saved the day, this situation has but left a dismal taste.It is imperative that some serious thoughts should be given regarding this matter. Our lawmakers and politicians should discuss this issues and come up with reasonable and clear solutions that can cure these problems. The plights of thousands of poor people who went through the altar of the court and held faith in our justice system and our Constitution are at stake. A misstep in such matters may seriously undermine their faith in our justice system and question their beliefs in our courts. Our courts are not only the pride of our country but also are the guardians of our democracy. They are the temples that honour our Constitution and have always guided us through the times of darkness. It is our duty to protect and preserve the integrity and honour of our legal system and its haloed bastion of judiciary from the hubristic attitudes of some cavalier gentries.

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