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Bachan Singh vs State Of Punjab (1980): Important Points

Supreme Court’s Verdict In Bachan Singh vs State Of Punjab (1980):

More than four decades after a landmark ruling on death sentence cases, a bench in the Supreme Court has made psychological evaluation of the condemned prisoner mandatory.

  • It has also sought a report on the inmate’s conduct at the time of examining whether the gallows remains the only fitting punishment.
  • Taking a cue from the Bachan Singh verdict, justice Lalit, in a series of death sentences cases, has recently held that “complete assistance” to the court in such matters would necessitate the production of not just the evidence in the case but also the latest state of the mental health of the prisoner.

Supreme Court’s verdict in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980):

  • This verdict established the doctrine of “rarest of rare” crime in handing down capital punishment while mandating a comparative analysis of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in connection to the accused.
  • The judgment laid down that a court must scrutinise both the crime as well as the criminal, and then decide whether death penalty is the only suitable punishment in the facts of the case.
  • Emphasis is to be also laid on the aggravating and mitigating factors which are dependent upon the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that unexplained delay in execution was a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen, could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.
  • It held that prolonging execution of death sentence has a “dehumanising effect” on condemned prisoners who have to face the agony of waiting for years under the shadow of death during the pendency of their mercy plea. An inordinate delay would certainly have an agonising effects on their body and mind.
  • In the same year, a Constitution bench also held that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a three-judge bench in open court.
  • Such cases were earlier being considered by two-judge benches in the judges’ chamber without any oral arguments.

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