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Report No. 187

Reducing Arbitrariness:

The European Union and UK and several countries have abolished death penalty however, in Bachan Singh's case (AIR 1982 SC 1325), the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court by majority of 4 to 1, Bhagwati J. descending has upheld the constitutional validity of death sentence. Nevertheless, the death sentence is qualitatively different than any other punishment as much as if there is an error which cannot be corrected.

At the same time, it is true that there is arbitrariness inerrant in awarding the death or life sentence as it depends on the attitude of a judge as the Court has unguided discretion in choosing between death sentence and life imprisonment.

To reduce the arbitrariness, Bhagwati J. in his descending judgment has suggested that "There should be an automatic review of death sentence by the Supreme Court sitting as a whole and the death sentence shall not be affirmed or imposed unless it is approved unanimously by the entire Court".

Under the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts, the General Court Martial consisting of five officers, death punishment can be given only if two-third members agree and in a Summary General Court Martial consisting of three officers, the death sentence can be given only if all the three officers agree. The simple majority rule as in the Supreme Court or in High Court is not applicable in Court Martial.

Mode of Execution of Death Sentence and Incidental Matters Back

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