New Delhi: The Madhya Pradesh government’s policy to reward or give incentives to its public prosecutors for successfully arguing death penalty cases in trial courts has come under the scanner of the Supreme Court.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit took note of a submission of Attorney General KK Venugopal that such a practice of rewarding prosecutors should be nipped in the bud.
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The attorney general is assisting the top court in a suo motu case registered to examine and institutionalise the process involved in collection of data and information to decide award of death penalty.
On being told about the policy or a system in Madhya Pradesh where public prosecutors are being rewarded and paid incentives for successfully arguing death penalty cases, the bench asked the state counsel to put the related documents on record and be ready to defend it on May 10, the next date of hearing.
…There has been policy in Madhya Pradesh wherein the public prosecutors are given incentive/increments on the basis of death sentence awarded in cases argued by them, it said and asked lawyer Rukmini Bobde, appearing for the state, to place the policy on record and defend it.
The bench, which also comprised justices S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha, also said that it was mulling laying down guidelines to be followed in cases where maximum sentence provided for the offence is death penalty.
To ensure proper legal assistance to the accused facing criminal trials, it said that like public prosecutors, who pursue cases on behalf of the state, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) can have defence counsel or public defender’s office in every district of the country.
I must share with you that at NALSA, we are thinking of having defence counsel office in every district. Something like public prosecutors’ office…there would be the office of public defenders, Justice Lalit, who is heading the NALSA, said during the hearing.
The bench said that currently, NALSA has a very loose kind of arrangement where there are some panel and remand advocates and they keep changing.
Hence, there is a need to have an institutionalised system to ensure proper legal assistance to the accused, it said.
The bench said that it has been accepted by the advocates concerned that the matter required consideration at an early date and asked them to file relevant material pertaining to award of death penalty in other jurisdictions as well.
The top court on Friday initiated the proceedings in the suo motu case to examine and institutionalise the process involved in awarding death penalty in heinous crime cases.
The matter arose from a plea of one Irfan challenging the death penalty imposed on him by the trial court and confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The bench, earlier, had decided to examine how courts dealing with a death sentence can procure a comprehensive analysis about the accused and the crime, especially the mitigating circumstances so that the judicial officer concerned can decide whether death sentence needs to be awarded.
Prior to this, an application was filed by ‘Project 39A of the National Law University, Delhi, an anti-death penalty body seeking nod for an investigator who would collect mitigating information in favour of the accused to argue on the sentencing.