New Delhi, July 10: All appeals against death sentences will soon be heard by a three-judge bench, instead of two, Chief Justice R.M. Lodha announced today.
Altamas Kabir and P. Sathasivam — both former Chief Justices — and Justice Lodha had recommended amendments to the Supreme Court rules in this regard.
Justice Lodha said the suggested amendments have obtained presidential assent and a notification would be issued by August 15 or 16 making it mandatory for all appeals against death sentences imposed by sessions or high courts to be heard only by a three-judge bench.
The CJI made the announcement on behalf of a five-judge Constitution bench which today commenced hearing of a batch of petitions pleading that all review petitions relating to appeals against death sentences should be heard in open courts only.
The Constitution bench also included Justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameshwar, A.K. Sikri and Rohington Nariman.
As per the existing practice in the Supreme Court, review petitions in all matters, including death penalty cases, are heard in the judges’ chambers instead of an open court.
The petitioners and the bar argued that since review petitions against death penalty involved the life and liberty of a convict, they should be heard in the open court as is the case with original appeals filed against high court orders.
Presently, such appeals are heard only by a two-judge bench. Thereafter, the review petitions are heard by the same judges in their chambers.