On 15 June 2020, The Supreme Court refused to apply retrospectively the imposition of death sentence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, included with effect from 6th August, 2019.
Aspecial leave petition preferred by the State of Telangana was heard bythe bench of Justices S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph on the limited issue that the death sentence imposed by the Trial Court has been modified by the High Court to a life sentence albeit with a rider that the respondent-convict shall not be released till his last breath. It was the submission of the counsel for the petitioner-state that a signal goes to the society by imposition of the death sentence.
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The imposition of death sentence was included in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) with effect from 6th August, 2019 and the offence was committed on 18/19.6.2019 and keeping in mind the intent of the Parliament, it should be given retrospective effect even though the provision is prospective in nature, AdvocateBinanaMadhavan admitted.
“We are unable to persuade ourselves to agree with the learned counsel for the petitioner on any of the aspects. Firstly, we fail to see how retrospective effect can be granted when the punishment is to operate prospectively and logically so. Even otherwise, the punishment of not being released till his last breath is punitive enough to send a signal to the society and it cannot be that only the death sentence can send a right signal“
“We are of the view that the High Court has deemed it appropriate to impose the life sentence till the last breath, this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India should not interfere only for conversion of the same into again a death sentence as imposed by the Trial Court“, the bench concluded.
Death sentence was inserted as the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault in section 6 of the Principal Act, Vide POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019.