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Expost facto doctrine


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Expost facto doctrine

  1. 1. Research question Date: 12/02/2013Whether any amendment by law regarding change in penal provisions but notaltering the maximum punishment & penalty, whether such provisions wouldaffect the right of accused, whether that to be considered as violative of art. 21and art. 20(1) of Indian Constitution?Authorities cited:U.S. position with regard to expost facto lawCalder v. Bull1, Justice Chase, in his opinion,“I will state what laws I consider ex post facto laws, within the words and the intent of theprohibition”1. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action.2. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed.3. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed.4. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender.Dobbert V. Florida2,Fact: Ernest Dobbert murdered two of his children between December 31,1971, and April8,1972. On July 17,1972, the Supreme Court of Florida, pursuant to Furman v. Georgia, linvalidated the death penalty provision of the murder statute Z in effect at the time ofDobberts crimes. Five months later, the Florida Legislature enacted a revised death penaltystatute for murder in the first degree. In accordance with the provisions of the 1972 revisedstatute, dobbert was convicted in 1974 of first degree murder in the Fourth Circuit court ofFlorida and sentenced to die notwithstanding a jury recommendation of life imprisonment.Held: “The first argument was that the procedure under the new death penalty statute, whichallowed the trial judge to overrule a jurys recommendation of life imprisonment, violated theex-post facto clause because it worked to Dobberts disadvantage in that such arecommendation could not have been overruled under the old statute." Relying on Hoptv.Utah3, the Court rejected this argument by concluding that even if the change ultimatelyworked to the defendant’s particular disadvantage it was generally an ameliorative proceduralchange and hence did not constitute an ex post facto law4.A second argument was that the lengthening of the minimum parole eligibility time for lifeimprisonment under the new statute made the whole statute more onerous than the old oneand therefore unconstitutional in its application to Dobbert." 5 The Court dismissed thisargument by holding that, since Dobbert was not sentenced to life imprisonment, the increase1 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386 (1798)2 432 U. S. 282 (1977)3 110 U.S. 574 (1884)4 432 U.S. at 292-975 Id. at 298
  2. 2. in parole eligibility time had no bearing on his particular punishment and thus did not work tohis disadvantage.6The third of the ex post facto arguments required the Court to determine what effect shouldbe given to the fact that the old death penalty provision was invalidated and a new oneenacted during the interim between Dobberts criminal acts and the date of his trial mu Theargument was that, inasmuch as the old death penalty provision was later declaredunconstitutional, there was technically no valid death penalty in effect when the crimes werecommitted, and hence the new death penalty statute created an unconstitutionally retroactiveincrease in punishment. The Court rejected this argument also, relying on Chicot CountyDrainage District v. Baxter State Bank7for the proposition that a court does not necessarilyhave to give full retroactive effect to a judicial declaration of a statute’s unconstitutionality.The Court added that the existence of the earlier statute "provided fair warning as to thedegree of culpability which the State ascribed to the act of murder" and therefore provided"sufficient compliance with the ex post facto provision of the United States Constitution.India position with regard to expost facto lawUnion Of India And Others vs Super Processors8Bench: B S Manohar…………. the Supreme Court has expressly stated (in Satwant Singhs case(supra) that the law relating to changed penalty shall apply provided that themaximum penalty is not increased. In fact the decision in the case of Commissionerof Wealth-Tax, Amritsar v. Suresh Seth (supra) has been substantially overruled inthe decision of the Supreme Court in Smt. Maya Rani Punjs case (supra)although this aspect has not been dealt with by the Supreme Court in the subsequentcase. If these principles are applied to the present case, the revised guidelines ofOctober 1982 are considered by all parties to be more rational and based on asounder footing than the earlier guidelines. The maximum penalty remains unalteredas this is prescribed by Section 14-B which remains the same. Therefore, when theexercise of discretion is governed by more rational and generally better guidelines,such guidelines must be applied from the date when they come into existencewhenever an opportunity arises thereafter for their application………….6 Id. at 300-017 308 U.S. 371 (1940)8 (1993) IILLJ 203 Bom HC