Saturday, November 20, 2010

SC protects a killer?

In an unusual, the Supreme Court today set aside two of its own judgements and commuted to life imrprisonment the death penalty awarded to Remdeo Chauhan alias Rajnath Chauhan who murdered Bhabani Charan Das and three members of his family on March 8, 1992.
A Bench of Justices Aftaf Alam and Asok Kumar Ganguly in a judgement set aside the apex court''s earlier judgement that NHRC had no power to recommend to the Governor for commuting the sentence to life imprisonment after the death penalty had already been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Chauhan was awarded death sentence by a sessions court in Guwhati for the gruesome murder of four persons of the family after holding that it fell under the "rarest of rare" category.
The Guwhati High Court upheld the sentence and a two-judge Bench of the the Supreme Court of Justices K.T.
Thomas and R.P. Sethi had on 31.7.2000 upheld the death sentence.
All the three court rejected the plea of Chauhan that he cannot be awarded death penalty as he was 16 years at the time of committing the crime.
The courts rejected the plea after extensively examining the medical evidence which indicated that Chauhan was over 20 years of age and hence not entitled to immunity from death penalty available to a juvenile under the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000.
A three-judge Bench of Justices K T Thomas, R P Sethi and S N Phukan in the review petition on May 10, 2001 by a majority decision dismissed his appeal, though one of the judges took the view that he could be awarded life imprisonment since there was an element of doubt about his juvenile status.
However, following an article published in a journal, the NHRC intervened in the matter and asked the Assam Governor to examine the case of Chauhan for commuting to life imprisonment in view of the fact that there was element of doubt about his juvenile status.
The state government accordingly commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment.
Aggrieved by the state''s action, the family members of the deceased filed a fresh petition in the apex court.
The apex court by a judgement dated May 8, 2009, had slammed the NHRC for setting aside a judicial order and said the human rights commission had no such powers to intereferee.
However, Chauhan filed a second review petition that he was not heard by the apex court while dealing with the appeal filed by the victim''s family.
Upholding Chauhan''s plea, the apex court said "if we look at Section 12(j) of the 1993 Act, we find that it confers on NHRC "such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights."
"One must accept that human rights are not like edicts inscribed on a rock. They are made and unmade on the crucible of experience and through irreversible process of human struggle for freedom. They admit of a certain degree of fluidity. Categories of human rights, being of infinite variety, are never really closed," Justice Ganguly writing the judgement said.