Mentally ill convict escapes the noose

  1. The Supreme Court has ruled that post-conviction severe mental illness will now be a mitigating factor while deciding appeals for commutation of death penalty.
  2. This ruling came by the apex court while deciding the plea of a death row convict who was sentenced for rape and murder of two minors.The Supreme Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.
  3. The apex Court has said that there cannot be a set of disorders/disabilities for evaluating severe mental illness.However, a test of severity can be a guiding factor for recognizing those mental illnesses which qualify for an exemption.
  4. The Court also considered India’s international obligations to not punish mental health patients with cruel sentences.Further,the court has passed a slew of directions which needs to be considered while assessing appeals of those diagnosed with severe mental illness.
  5. The directions include (a)an assessment of the disability to be conducted by a multi disciplinary team of qualified professionals,with one professional to have expertise in the particular mental illness of the accused (b)The onus would be on the accused to prove that he suffers from the illness and (c)It allowed the state to offer evidence to rebut such claims.
  6. The court has also directed the state prisons to set up a mental health establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison in each State and Union Territory.