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Report No. 262

(ii) Mandatory Death Sentences

2.4.16 Even as the law changed to make the death sentence the exception, and judges were expected to exercise their discretion to adjudge whether or not the death sentence needed to be imposed, in 1983, the Court had to step in to hold that mandatory death sentences were contrary to the rights guaranteed in Article 14 and Article 21.

2.4.17 In the case of Mithu v. State of Punjab, (1983) 2 SCC 277, the Supreme Court was confronted with the mandatory sentence of death enacted in Section 303 of the IPC. The Court held that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional, stating:

A standardized mandatory sentence, and that too in the form of a sentence of death, fails to take into account the facts and circumstances of each particular case. It is those facts and circumstances which constitute a safe guideline for determining the question of sentence in each individual case. Mithu v. State of Punjab, (1983) 2 SCC 277, at para 16.

2.4.18 The Court noted that:

It is because the death sentence has been made mandatory by section 303 in regard to a particular class of persons that, as a necessary consequence, they are deprived of the opportunity under section 235(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code to show cause why they should not be sentenced to death and the Court is relieved from its obligation under section 354(3) of that Code to state the special reasons for imposing the sentence of death. The deprivation of these rights and safeguards which is bound to result in injustice is harsh, arbitrary and unjust. Mithu v. State of Punjab, (1983) 2 SCC 277, at para 18.

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