New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Attorney General R Venkataramani to inform it whether a prosecution has been carried out ever under the provision of mandatory capital punishment to an individual who fabricates false evidence against an innocent member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and K V Viswanathan was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra, who has sought striking down of the mandatory death penalty provision under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

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Section 3 (2) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 stipulates mandatory death sentence in a case where an innocent member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe is convicted and is executed in consequence of a false and fabricated evidence given by the concerned accused.

As the hearing commenced, Venkataramani submitted that it is important to have some data as to whether offences under this provision have occurred at all.

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The top court then asked Malhotra if there was any single instance of conviction under this provision.

The lawyer replied that he did not have data regarding that.

The top court said the provision takes away the judicial discretion in the matter of quantum of sentence.

The bench then asked Venkataramani to try to get information and submit a short note on the issue.

"Is there any single instance where conviction has taken place. Has any conviction ever taken place? Can you use your good offices to find out any prosecution under this provision," the bench said.

Malhotra said the matter has been pending since 2019 and no response has been filed by the Union of India till date.

The matter has been posted for next hearing on May 14.

The plea had said the legislature cannot compel courts and inflict upon them the "dubious" and "unconscionable" duty of imposing a "preordained" death sentence.

"The legislature cannot make relevant circumstances irrelevant, depriving the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise discretion in not imposing death sentence in appropriate cases and compel them to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death," the plea had said.

It also said that on different occasions when mandatory death penalty has been questioned, the apex court has struck down these provisions by holding it unconstitutional.

"As and when an occasion had arisen where the mandatory imposition of death penalty is called in question in different statutes, either this court by exercising its constitutional powers of judicial review has struck down those provisions by holding it to be unconstitutional and void or the legislature itself has amended those provisions by removing the mandatory imposition of death penalty," the plea had said.

It had also referred to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act which initially provided for mandatory death sentence and was amended in the year 2014 by the legislature itself and further provided for an option of awarding death sentence or any other imprisonment as specified in the Act.

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