Many say purpose of life is determined by destiny. Others believe that the destiny is crafted by actions. For a lawyer, both the statements remain true. In my case, this happened when destiny wanted me to argue Jayanandan’s (notoriously known as Ripper Jayanandan) death sentence reference before the High Court of Kerala.
Jayanandan was convicted in a murder case where he was alleged to have caused the death of a 65 year old lady and attempted the murder of her 71 year old husband for robbery for which he was sentenced to death by the trial court. He was also convicted in several other cases and sentenced to death and life imprisonment in two cases, which later ended up in acquittal. He was also acquitted by the Supreme Court in one case. He has attempted jail-break successfully from all the three central prisons of the State and convicted in those allegations as well. He was kept in solitary confinement and was facing the gallows. Allegations against him of being a serial killer had gained him the prefix, ‘Ripper’.
Death sentence references are opportunities for lawyers to give back to the society in the quest for saving a life. All criminal lawyers’ ‘act of God’ moment comes when they argue a death sentence reference to save the life of the notorious, unwanted element of the society – the criminal. Almost all death sentence cases have a similar trajectory – the entire society, being shocked by the horrendous crime, develops a dangerous antipathy against the criminal; the investigating agency, being influenced by the public opinion generated by the media, gets prejudiced for whatever reason and tends to create false evidence against the accused; the witnesses would be influenced by the media and believes such stories even eclipsing their true experiences thus hijacking the truth. Since there is no jury trial in India, the judge may also get influenced by public opinion and moves on with prejudiced trial. The most unfortunate aspect of trials that ends up in death sentences in India is that the accused is made aware that the prosecution would be demanding death sentence only at the fag end of the trial thus denying an opportunity of bringing in mitigating circumstances before the court.