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Kin of death row convicts must be informed in advance,says CJI

Says in death penalty cases,'the quicker things are done,the better it is for all'.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: April 8, 2013 2:51:49 am

A day after the Supreme Court stayed the hanging of eight death row convicts following a petition that their families should be informed and given enough time to approach the courts,Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said Sunday that families of death row convicts should be informed in advance about their execution.

His remarks are significant in the light of the controversy over the secretive hanging of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru,whose family received the official letter two days after his death on February 9. However,the CJI today added that past incidents should not be raked up again.

“Procedure as has been in the past… they should have been informed and as far as I know,steps were taken to inform them,” said the CJI,replying to a specific question on whether Afzal’s family should have been informed in time about his execution so that they could have approached the courts.

Accompanied by Law minister Ashwani Kumar,the CJI was addressing the media on the conclusion of the conference of chief ministers and chief justices.

“The Law minister has rightly said these are issues which have already taken place in the past and I think these things should not be raked up again. But yes,the principle has always been that the family members were told about when it would happen,” he said.

The CJI also said that “if a death penalty were to be awarded,and it is there under the system,then the quicker things are done,the better it is for everybody.”

Refusing to comment on the issue,Kumar said: “I do not think that my personal opinion matters…as a Law minister,I will rather comment on things that will happen in future,not what has happened in the past. These are matters which are very subjective.”

Stating that “post-mortems can be unending”,the minister said: “I am not going to comment on what were or were not the shortcomings. As far as the present batch of petitions are concerned,that matter is before the Supreme Court. It is sub-judice.”

He,however,adding that “there should not be delays in disposing mercy petitions”.

Refuting concerns expressed by senior government functionaries about the higher judiciary’s growing interference in matters concerning the executive,the CJI said: “The general principle is that we (judiciary) don’t interfere. We interfere only if the decision taken by the government is in conflict with the established law or the Constitution.”

He also asserted that there was no need to find an alternative to the collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary. “I don’t know what this criticism is about,the way judges are being appointed. A great deal of deliberation goes into the choice of the name of the judge,” he said.

Referring to the four-year gap since the last conference,the CJI said: “Judges and chief justices have to depend to a great extent on the Executive for financial and other reasons. The Executive also needs to have a dialogue with chief justices and judges once in a while so that harmony is maintained and there is a liaison and a bridge. I want to restore this bridge,which was on the verge of collapsing.”

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