The Supreme Court has recalled its order in criminal appeals, wherein it had confirmed death sentence awarded to some of the accused and restored it for some other accused.
Six men were sentenced to death by a Nasik court for murdering five members of a family, including children. They were also accused of gangraping and murdering a minor girl belonging to that family. The Bombay High Court confirmed death sentence awarded to three accused and commuted that to life imprisonment for others. Those whose death penalty was confirmed appealed to the Supreme Court and the state appealed against commutation of death sentence in the case of other accused.
The Supreme Court in April 2009 affirmed the death sentence awarded to the accused and also allowed state’s appeal and restored the sentence of death to others. Their review petitions were also dismissed.
The accused then filed applications for reopening the review petitions, in the light of constitution bench judgment in Mohd. Arif v Registrar, Supreme Court of India.
While hearing these applications, the bench comprising Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dhananjay Y Chandrachud noted that there were no proper representation for some of the accused in the criminal appeal filed by the state.
Perusing the proceedings sheet, the bench observed: “It is evident that Accused Nos. 3, 5 and 6 had no opportunity to be heard by the Bench, before the appeals filed by the State of Maharashtra for enhancement of sentence were decided. They have been deprived of an opportunity of engaging counsel and of urging such submissions as they may have been advised to urge in defence to the appeals filed by the State for enhancement.”
With regard to other accused, the bench said: “We are then left with the issue of Accused Nos. 1, 2 and 4. The judgment of this Court dated 30 April 2009 dismissed their appeals, while confirming the sentence of death imposed by the High Court. In view of our conclusion that the judgment imposing the sentence of death on Accused Nos. 3, 5 and 6 must be recalled, both fairness and propriety require that the judgment should similarly be recalled as regards Accused Nos. 1, 2 and 4.”
The bench then recalled its orders in review petitions and the criminal appeal. Restoring the criminal appeals, for fresh hearing, the bench also stayed execution of death sentence.