Why is the Supreme Court’s decision to refer the death penalty sentencing case to a Constitution bench momentous?

In this podcast, The Leaflet’s team continues to review the week’s legal news: the stories that made the headlines and also those you may have missed.

Livestreaming decision

In this episode, we look at the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to livestream the proceedings of the Constitution benches from September 27.  We ask why the Court took so long to accept this rather simple demand from the public, and complement senior advocate, and The Leaflet’s co-founder, Indira Jaising for nudging the Court to take this momentous decision at this juncture.    We also discuss how the Court is going to balance the requirements of transparency with the right to privacy of the litigants, and whether the Court will gradually extend this feature to non-Constitution bench matters as well in the coming days.  

Death penalty sentencing guidelines

We also examine another momentous decision of the Supreme Court in referring the suo motu case being heard by a three-judge bench on framing appropriate sentencing guidelines in death penalty cases to a Constitution bench.  

Professor Anup Surendranath, Executive director of Project 39A (a criminal justice programme at the National Law University, Delhi, gave us his perspective on why the decision is momentous, as it is the first time the Supreme Court will be reviewing core issues in death penalty juriprudence in such great detail after the landmark decision in Bachan Singh (1980), which held the death penalty constitutional, though other Constitution benches in Mithu versus State of Punjab (1983),and  Mohd. Arif (2014), considered other aspects such as mandatory death sentencing and open court hearing in review cases respectively. 

The bench is expected to go beyond the question of same day sentencing, and lay down comprehensive guidelines on evaluating the reformative potential of  a convict, and assessing the mitigating circumstances in favour of a convict while sentencing, according to our guests, Thulasi K Raj and Prashant Padmanabhan. 

The podcast starts with a brief discussion on the other legal news, as reported by the newspapers in the preceding week.

The conversation was recorded on  September 25, 2022.

Produced by The Leaflet’s team comprising its Editor, V.Venkatesan, staff writers, Gursimran Kaur Bakshi, Sarah Thanawala and intern, Sonali Ahuja. 

Book referred to in the podcast: 
Comparative Capital Punishment
Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Carol S.Steiker, Harvard Law School and Jordan M.Steiker, The University of Texas School of Law, US, Edward Elgar Publishing,


Prashant Padmanabhan, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India, and a close observer of the Indian judiciary.

Thulasi K Raj, lawyer practising at the Supreme Court and Kerala High Court with academic and research interests in constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, law and religion and comparative human rights. 

Dr. Anup Surendranath is the Executive Director of Project 39A (formerly the Centre on the Death Penalty) and Professor of Law at National Law University, Delhi.

The Leaflet