Emphasising on the irreversibility of death sentence, the Supreme Court Tuesday granted 2000 Red Fort attack convict Mohd Arif an open court hearing to convince the court why his punishment required reconsideration.
Giving hope to the death row convict, a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur said Arif’s review petition shall be heard in open court again if he files such a plea within a month.
Arif, the court held, shall get this opportunity irrespective of the fact that his curative petition has already been dismissed. The bench modified a previous order that had disentitled death row convicts to seek open court hearings of their review petitions if their curative petitions had been rejected.
By a verdict in September 2014, the court had ruled that all review petitions of death row convicts shall be heard in an open court by a three-judge bench. But the convicts whose curative petitions had been dismissed before this judgment were deprived of this benefit. Earlier, review petitions were heard in judges’ chambers.
However, on Tuesday, the Bench underscored that it was the irreversible nature of capital punishment that had prompted it to allow open court hearings in such cases and convicts should not be denied this opportunity only because their curative petitions had been dismissed.
It also observed that since very limited grounds are available to a convict in a curative petition, whereas he can argue on various points in the review petition, dismissal of a curative petition may not be held as the final word on the facts of the case.
It asked Arif’s counsel to file a fresh review petition within a month and then the matter shall be placed before a three-judge bench to hear his case in open court. His counsel had earlier argued that the classification in the previous judgment was artificial, as dismissal of curative petition is on grounds very distinct with the review plea. He further pointed out that out of 15 death row convicts who had sought open court hearing of review petitions, only Arif was denied the benefit since his curative petition had been dismissed.
The apex court on April 28, 2014 had stayed Arif’s execution. Three people, including two Army personnel, were killed in the December 22, 2000 Red Fort attack. On August 10, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld Arif’s death sentence and dismissed his appeal challenging the capital punishment awarded to him by a sessions court, which had been affirmed by the Delhi High Court.