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Supreme Court Allows Project 39A-NLUD To Interview Death Row Convict For Report On Character & Behaviour To Analyse Mitigating Circumstances

Sohini Chowdhury
31 May 2022 7:05 AM GMT
Supreme Court Allows Project 39A-NLUD To Interview Death Row Convict For Report On Character & Behaviour To Analyse Mitigating Circumstances

The Supreme Court recently allowed the prayer of a death row convict to have an interview with a mitigating investigator associated with Project 39A of National Law University Delhi to submit a report regarding mitigating circumstances.

The Court opined that it would be essential to have the particulars regarding the character and behaviour of accused, on record, in death penalty matters for a complete assessment. The Apex Court thought it would be beneficial if the assessment of the conduct of the accused can be done before the final submissions are advanced before it.

"Since the appellant has been awarded death sentence, in our view, facets of the matter touching upon the character and behaviour of the appellant would be essential in order to have complete assessment in the matter".

A Bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia noted that in death sentence cases, the Apex Court has been passing directions to ascertain that psychological evaluation of the accused is conducted. Moreover, access is granted to the accused person's counsel, so that the mitigating circumstances can be brought on record.

On perusal of the application filed on behalf of the convict, Karan, seeking permission for a mitigation investigation, the Bench passed the following directions -

  1. The State of Madhya Pradesh shall place on record reports of the Probation Officers in respect of Karan before the next date of hearing.
  2. The report of the Jail Administration delineating the nature of work done by him in jail be brought on record before the next date of hearing.
  3. Place before the Court a psychological evaluation of Karan. In this regard, Director, MGM Medical College, Indore was directed to constitute a team for the evaluation and to send the report before the next date of hearing.
  4. The Jail Authorities, Central Jail, where Karan is presently lodged ought to render complete cooperation in this regard;
  5. The mitigation investigator, Ms. Baljeet Kaur, associated with Project 39A, NLU-D was allowed to have access to Karan and directed to submit a report to the Court.

Karan was convicted by the ASJ, Manwar, District Dhar for offences punishable under Sections 363, 376(2)(i), 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 5(m) read with Section 6 of the POCSO Act and awarded death penalty, which was affirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in its order dated 15.11.2018. The Supreme Court admitted the appeal, assailing the same on 01.04.2019 and stayed the execution of his death sentence.

The application filed on his behalf sought for the following directions -

a. Grant Ms. Baljeet Kaur permission to visit Central Jail, Indore and conduct in-person interviews with the Applicant Karan @ Fatiya.

b. Direct the Central Jail, Indore, that for the sake of confidentiality these interviews be conducted in a separate space without any prison staff official being at earshot distance of the Applicant.

c. Grant Ms. Baljeet Kaur permission to record the interviews conducted by means of an audio recorder in the separate interviewing space, or alternatively, grant permission to allow a person nominated by Ms. Baljeet Kaur to accompany her to take notes during the interview.

d. Direct the Central Jail, Indore to grant Ms. Baljeet Kaur access to all record pertaining to the Applicant including but not limited to medical record, jail conduct, work done or education pursued in Central Jail Indore, etc.

The matter is to be listed for final disposal on 15.09.2022.

In the recent judgment in the case Manoj versus State of Madhya Pradesh, the same bench had issued guidelines for collecting information relating to mitigating circumstances of the accused, including his socio-economic background and education, at the trial stage itself.

Case Title: Karan Fatiya v. State of Madhya Pradesh Criminal Appeal Nos. 572-573 of 2019

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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