New Delhi: The Supreme Court today commenced the crucial hearing to examine the power of the Union and states to grant remission for releasing convicts whose death sentences are commuted to life term with the Centre asserting that the rights of the victims cannot be overlooked.
The issue of remission reached the apex court after the Tamil Nadu government took a decision to remit the sentences of all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, a day after the apex court commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment.
Briefly going into the background, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha wanted to fix the time-frame of two whole working days for completing the hearing on the matter but Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar cautioned by saying that it cannot be done in a hurry as several important issues have to be addressed.
“There are seven questions referred to the Constitution Bench. It will take a long time as important questions have to be decided. The very question, whether there is a right to claim remission, is important,” he submitted before the bench, also comprising justices J S Khehar, J Chelameswar, A K Sikri and Rohinton Nariman.
The Solicitor General said the Constitution Bench will also have to decide that on commutation of death sentence to life term whether life imprisonment meant jail term for rest of the life or a convict has a right to claim remission after 14 years of prison.
He said another question that needs to be determined is the need to look into the rights of the victims.
“Whether there is a right of victims at any stage while death penalty is taken into consideration for hearing of commuting into life imprisonment or whether the State can without referring to the victims decide on remission,” Kumar said.
The hearing commenced in the background of the interim order of the apex court which on July 9 restrained all states from exercising power of remission for releasing convicts from jail who are serving life sentence and sought their response whether the Centre's nod was needed for the purpose in cases prosecuted by central agencies like CBI.
However, after serving of the notices, responses are yet to come from several states while some have placed the policy followed by them on the issue, the Solicitor General said.
The bench had also made it clear that there was need for a categorical response “whether in CBI cases, states have any role on the question of remission to life convicts”.