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Mofil Khan And Another Versus The State Of Jharkhand (2021): SC On Death Penalty- Court Duty Bound To Consider Possibility Of Reformation Even If Accused Remains Silent

Smriti Dubey ,
  30 November 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
LL 2021 SC 681

DATE OF THE JUDGEMENT
26th November, 2021

BENCH
Justice L Nageswara Rao
Justice BR Gavai
Justice BV Nagarathna

PARTIES
Petitioner(s)- Mofil Khan & Anr
Respondent(s)- The State of Jharkhand

SUBJECT

The Apex court held that the court is duty bound to consider the possibility of reformation of the accused and the state has to prove that the same is not possible to be given a death penalty.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Article 137 of the Constitution lays down the provision that the supreme court has the power to review any judgement pronounced by it or any order passed by it.

OVERVIEW

The petitioners were convicted under Sections 302 and 449 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short, “IPC”) and sentenced to death for offence under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC and 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for offence under Section 449 read with Section 34, IPC by the trial court for the murder of 8 people (including 3 children and a disabled person).

This conviction was upheld by the High Court of Jharkhand. They then filed a criminal appeal in Supreme court, which was also dismissed.

This was a hearing of review petition for the same under article 137 of the constitution.

Contentions

The counsel for petitioner contended that the petitioners ought not to have been convicted in the first place as there are errors in the prosecution’s case. And so, judgement of the court in the criminal appeal suffers from an error apparent on the face of the record.

Further, the principal contention of the petitioners was that the plausibility of reformation and rehabilitation was not taken into account by the trial court, the High Court as well as this Court while sentencing them to death.

ISSUE

Whether there is a plausibility for reformation and rehabilitation of the petitioners?

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

On the matter of interfering with the conviction of the petitioners, the court said that it does not have the jurisdiction to re-appreciate the evidence under Article 137 and Order XLVII, Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.

It was noted by the court that the possibility of rehabilitation and reformation of the petitioners was ignored and the state has also not procured any evidence to prove that there is no such possibility. The court held that the possibility of the accused being reformed and rehabilitated is one of the mitigating circumstances. The State is under a duty to obtain evidence demonstrating that the accused has no chance of reformation or rehabilitation.

It was observed that- “It is well-settled law that the possibility of reformation and rehabilitation of the convict is an important factor which has to be taken into account as a mitigating circumstance before sentencing him to death. There is a bounden duty cast on the Courts to elicit information of all the relevant factors and consider those regarding the possibility of reformation, even if the accused remains silent.”

After examining the socio-economic background of the petitioners, the absence of any criminal antecedents, affidavits filed by their family and community members with whom they continue to share emotional ties and the certificate issued by the Jail Superintendent on their conduct during their long incarceration of 14 years, the court came to the conclusion that there is a possibility of reformation of the petitioners.

Therefore, the death sentence was converted into a life imprisonment of 30 years.

CONCLUSION

In this review petition filed by the petitioners, the court established that as long as there is even a possibility of reformation of the accused, it cannot be said that the case falls under rarest-of-rare cases and hence, death penalty cannot be rewarded. Only taking into account the brutality of the crime would not be sufficient.

QUESTIONS

  1. Do you think the Apex Court was right to abolish the death sentence?
  2. What is a review petition?

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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