Recently, a Supreme Court (SC) Bench agreed to thoroughly examine procedures in death penalty cases in order to ensure that judges who must choose between life imprisonment and the death penalty have complete sentencing information.
Previously, the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the process of assessing mitigating information in death penalty cases.
The court is reforming the procedures for bringing information required in a death penalty case before the courts. In doing so, the Supreme Court expresses its dissatisfaction with the manner in which death penalty sentencing is carried out.
While the death penalty has been declared constitutional, the manner in which it has been carried out has led to accusations of unfairness.
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after being found guilty of a criminal offence by a court of law.
It is the most severe penalty that can be imposed on an accused. In general, it is given in the most heinous cases of murder, rape, treason, and so on.
The death penalty is regarded as the most appropriate punishment and most effective deterrent for the most heinous crimes.
Those who oppose it, on the other hand, see it as inhumane. As a result, the morality of the death penalty is debatable, and many criminologists and socialists around the world have long advocated for its abolition.
When the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in Bachan Singh’s case in May 1980, a framework was established for future judges to follow when faced with the choice between life imprisonment and the death penalty.
The recognition that the legislature had made it clear in the Criminal Procedure Code that life imprisonment would be the default punishment and judges would need to give “special reasons” if they wanted to impose the death penalty was at the heart of that framework.
The Supreme Court stated in the 1980 framework — popularly but incorrectly known as the “rarest of rare” framework — that judges must consider both aggravating and mitigating factors concerning the crime and the accused when deciding whether to impose the death penalty.
The decision also stated that life imprisonment as a sentence would have to be “unquestionably foreclosed” before judges could impose the death penalty.
There was an indicative list of factors identified as relevant by the judgement, but it was clear that it was not meant to be an exhaustive list.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly lamented the inconsistency with which the Bachan Singh framework has been applied. The Law Commission of India has expressed similar concerns (262nd Report).
A criminal trial is divided into two parts: the guilt stage and the sentencing stage.
Sentencing occurs after the accused has been found guilty of the crime; it is at this point that punishment is decided. As a result, nothing presented or said during the sentencing process can be used to reverse or change the finding of guilt.
It is a fundamental tenet of criminal law that sentencing must be individualised, which means that the judge must consider the accused’s individual circumstances when determining punishment.
Mitigation, also known as “mitigating factors” or “mitigating evidence,” is evidence (information) that the defence can present during the sentencing phase of a capital trial to show why the defendant should not be sentenced to death.
The task of gathering such information is not something lawyers are trained to do, which is why the American Bar Association’s 2003 Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases recognises the role of a mitigation specialist, who has a clearly defined role that goes beyond what lawyers can do.
The Supreme Court’s decisions in Santa Singh (1976) and Mohd Mannan (2019) acknowledged the interdisciplinary nature of such an exercise and the need for professionals other than lawyers to collect such information.
Prior to the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act (Cr PC) of 1955, the death penalty was the norm in India, with life imprisonment serving as an exception.
Furthermore, courts were required to provide an explanation for imposing a lesser penalty than death for capital offences.
Following the 1955 amendment, courts were free to sentence people to death or life in prison.
Section 354 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 requires courts to provide written reasons for awarding the maximum penalty.
In capital offences, the situation has been reversed, with life sentences being the norm and the death penalty being the exception.
Furthermore, despite the United Nations’ global moratorium on the death penalty, India retains the death penalty.
Allowing criminals guilty of intentional, cold-blooded, deliberate, and brutal murders to escape with a lesser punishment, according to India, will deprive the law of its effectiveness and result in a travesty of justice.
In accordance with this, the Law Commission rejected a proposal to abolish the death penalty in its 35th report in 1967.
According to official statistics, 720 people have been executed in India since the country’s independence in 1947, representing a minuscule fraction of those sentenced to death by trial courts.
The death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment in the majority of cases, and some were acquitted by higher courts.
A system that is interested in subjecting individuals to the experience of death row, and ultimately taking lives through the use of law, must have a very high degree of fairness. With that as a starting point, the criminal justice system must do everything possible to ensure that systems are designed for procedural fairness.
The paths of reforming the death penalty, on the one hand, and abolishing it, on the other, run parallel for a long time. Every instance of participation in the reform of the death penalty sheds light on the inherent unfairness of using the death penalty, particularly in a system like ours.
In India, the current position on death sentences is fairly balanced. However, the court’s broad judicial discretion has resulted in extremely uneven judgement in similar cases; this does not paint a positive picture of the Indian judiciary.
The principle established in cases such as Bachan Singh and Machhi Singh must be strictly followed so that a person convicted of an identical offence receives an identical degree of punishment.
The functioning of the development programme for de-notified, nomadic, and semi-nomadic tribes has recently been criticised by the Parliament’s standing committee.
The committee noted that the Scheme for Economic Empowerment of Denotified Tribes (DNTs) Communities has total outlays of Rs 200 crore for a five-year period beginning in 2021-22, with the Department unable to spend even a single rupee in 2021-22.
These are the most vulnerable and deprived communities.
DNTs are communities that were ‘notified’ as ‘born criminals’ during the British regime, as a result of a series of laws beginning with the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
The Independent Indian Government repealed these Acts in 1992, and these communities were “De-Notified.”
Some of the communities that were de-notified were also nomadic.
Nomadic and semi-nomadic communities are those that move from one location to another rather than staying in one location all of the time.
Nomadic and De-notified Tribes have never had access to private land or home ownership in the past.
While the majority of DNTs are represented by the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories, some DNTs are not represented by any of the SC, ST, or OBC categories.
Many commissions and committees formed since independence have addressed the issues of these communities.
These include the Criminal Tribes Inquiry Committee, established in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) in 1947, the Ananthasayanam Ayyangar Committee in 1949 (the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed based on the report of this committee), and the Kaka Kalelkar Commission (also known as the first OBC Commission) established in 1953.
The B P Mandal Commission, which was formed in 1980, also made some recommendations on the subject.
According to the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), DNTs have been wrongly stigmatised as criminals and subjected to harsh treatment and exploitation by representatives of law and order and general society.
Justice M N Venkatachaliah presided over the formation of the NCRWC.
According to estimates, South Asia has the world’s largest nomadic population.
In India, approximately 10% of the population is Denotified and Nomadic.
While there are approximately 150 Denotified Tribes, there are approximately 500 Nomadic Tribe communities.
DNTs can apply for the Dr. Ambedkar Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarships.
This Centrally Sponsored Scheme was implemented in 2014-15 for the benefit of DNT students who are not covered by SC, ST, or OBC.
Nanaji Deshmukh Scheme for Building DNT Boys and Girls Hostels
This Centrally Sponsored Scheme, which began in 2014-15, is carried out by State Governments, UT Administrations, and Central Universities.
The scheme “Assistance to Voluntary Organizations Working for the Welfare of OBCs” has been extended for DNTs beginning in 2017-18.
A new Commission was formed in February 2014 to prepare a state-by-state list, and its report, which was submitted in 2018, identified 1,262 communities as de-notified, nomadic, or semi-nomadic.
The commission suggested establishing a permanent commission for these communities.
The government established the De-Notified, Nomadic, and Semi-Nomadic Communities Development and Welfare Board (DWBDNC).
The DWBDNC was established under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to carry out welfare programmes.
The DWBDNC was established on February 21st, 2019, under the chairmanship of Bhiku Ramji Idate.
The Haryana Vidhan Sabha recently passed a resolution calling for the completion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.
Once completed, the canal will allow Haryana and Punjab to share the waters of the rivers Ravi and Beas.The Satluj Yamuna Link Canal is a 214-kilometer-long canal proposed to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.
Water resources are covered by the State List, whereas the Union List gives Parliament the authority to pass laws governing inter-state rivers.
The dispute dates back to 1960, when India and Pakistan signed the Indus Water Treaty, which granted the former ‘free and unrestricted use’ of the rivers Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej.
The creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab in 1966 presented the issue of allocating Haryana’s share of river waters.
In order for Haryana to get its fair share of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a canal connecting the Sutlej and the Yamuna was planned (SYL Canal).
Punjab refused to share water with Haryana, citing the riparian principle, which states that the water of a river belongs only to the State and country or states and countries through which the river flows.
Both states reached an agreement to re-allocate water.
The construction of a 214-kilometer SYL in Kapoori village, Punjab, began in 1982.
Agitations, protests, and assassinations were carried out in protest, fostering a climate of terrorism in the state and raising concerns about national security.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then-Akali Dal chief Sant signed an agreement in 1885 to establish a new tribunal to assess the water.
The Eradi Tribunal, presided over by Supreme Court Judge V Balakrishna Eradi, was established to reassess water availability and sharing.
The tribunal recommended in 1987 that Punjab and Haryana’s shares be increased to 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF, respectively.
1996: Haryana petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) for an order directing Punjab to complete work on the SYL.
In 2002 and 2004, the Supreme Court directed Punjab to complete the work on its territory.
The Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004, terminating its water-sharing agreements and putting the construction of SYL in Punjab in jeopardy.
2016: The Supreme Court began hearings on a presidential reference (Article 143) to determine the legality of the 2004 Act and declared that Punjab had broken its promise to share river waters. As a result, the act was declared constitutionally invalid.
2020: The Supreme Court directed the Chief Ministers of both states to negotiate and settle the SYL canal issue at the highest political level, with the Centre acting as a mediator.
Punjab has requested a new time-bound assessment of water availability from a tribunal.
Punjab claims that no adjudication or scientific assessment of river waters has occurred in the state to date.
Ravi-Beas water availability has also decreased, from an estimated 17.17 MAF in 1981 to 13.38 MAF in 2013. All of this would be determined by a new tribunal.
Punjab: Many areas in Punjab may become dry by 2029, and the state has already over-exploited its groundwater for irrigation purposes, filling granaries of the Centre with wheat and paddy worth Rs 70,000 crore each year.
Water is over-exploited in approximately 79 percent of the state’s area, and the government claims that sharing water with any other state is impossible in such a situation.
Haryana: It claims that providing irrigation is difficult for the state, and that there is a drinking water shortage in southern Haryana, where groundwater has been depleted up to 1,700 feet.
Haryana has argued that it is being denied its rightful share of the water as determined by a tribunal by citing its contribution to the central food pool.
The Sutlej River was known as Zaradros (Ancient Greek) Shutudri or Shatadru in the past (Sanskrit).
It is the longest of the five tributaries of the Indus River that give the Punjab its name (which means “Five Rivers”).
The main tributaries of the Indus are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Satluj.
It rises in Lake La’nga in southwestern Tibet on the north slope of the Himalayas.
It enters and crosses Himachal Pradesh before beginning its flow through the Punjab plain near Nangal, flowing northwestward and then west-southwestward through Himalayan gorges.
It receives the Beas River and forms 65 miles of the India-Pakistan border before entering Pakistan and flowing another 220 miles to join the Chenab River west of Bahawalpur.
Before entering Pakistan, the Sutlej River merges with the Beas River in Harike, Ferozpur district.
The confluence of the rivers forms the Panjnad, which connects the Five Rivers to the Indus.
The Luhri Stage-I Hydro Electric Project is located on the Satluj River in the Himachal Pradesh districts of Shimla and Kullu.
a major tributary of the Ganges, flows from the Yamunotri glacier near the Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas at an elevation of about 6387 metres above mean sea level in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
Basin: After flowing through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi, it meets the Ganges at the Sangam (where the Kumbh Mela is held) in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
1376 km in length
Important dams include the Lakhwar-Vyasi Dam in Uttarakhand and the Tajewala Barrage Dam in Haryana.
Chambal, Sindh, Betwa, and Ken are important tributaries.
Water disputes can be resolved or balanced by establishing a permanent tribunal with appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over the tribunal’s decision.
The immediate goal of any Constitutional Government should be to amend Article 262 (Adjudication of disputes relating to waters of interstate rivers or river valleys) and to amend and implement the Inter-State Water Disputes Act.
Overseas Indians form local trusts to avoid being labelled as a Resident but Not Ordinary Resident (RNOR).
An RNOR is a non-resident Indian who has been an NRI in 9 of the previous 10 years preceding that year, OR who has been in India for a period or periods totaling 729 days or less during the previous 7 years preceding that year. OR
An Indian citizen who is not a tax resident of any other country and has a total income of Rs 15 lakh or more (excluding foreign income) OR
An Indian citizen or a PIO with an income in India of Rs 15 lakh or more (excluding income from foreign sources) and a stay in India of 120 days or more but less than 182 days.
An RNOR’s status is intermediate between that of a non-resident Indian who stays in the country for more than 181 days and that of a regular resident Indian.
Impacts – An RNOR must pay a higher tax, as opposed to an NRI, who pays a much lower tax (of 12.5 percent to 15 percent) in accordance with the respective tax treaty between India and the country in which she resides.
More than the tax implications, there is concern that this could be the first step toward mandatory disclosure of all foreign assets.
Currently, only resident Indians are required to disclose their foreign assets on Income Tax (I-T) return forms, while NRIs and RNORs are exempt. This may change in the case of RNORs.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be a possible catalyst for a splintered internet.
Clyde Wayne Crews, a researcher at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, proposed the concept of ‘Splinternet.’
The ‘Splinternet’ is an internet that has been splintered into disparate realms ruled by various dispensations or powers.
It is also known as internet balkanization or cyber-balkanization.
The basic proposal was to have more internets rather than more regulations.
In some limited ways, the internet has splintered over the last two decades. As an example,
China’s ‘Great Firewall’ keeps American tech behemoths out while promoting domestically developed online services.
Russia enacted the online Iron Curtain (the sovereign internet law) in 2019, allowing it to disconnect its internet from the rest of the world.
The state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran has launched a project called the National Information Network (NIN) or National Internet in Iran.