Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jind honour killing: Father’s death sentence commuted

Sanjeev Verma, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, February 25, 2012

Not finding the 2010 Jind honour killing case in the category of ‘gravest case of extreme culpabilty’, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday commuted the death sentence awarded by the trial court to the victim’s father, Ram Raji, to life imprisonment. However, the court upheld the life term
awarded to the girl’s mother, Kailash Devi.

Vikas, a 21-year-old Jat youth of Sangatpura village in Jind district, was in love with Ritu, a 19-year-old girl from the Brahmin family that resided in Krishna colony of the district. The couple wanted to marry but the girl’s parents killed both of them on the night of September 12, 2010.

Vikas’s father Ramesh had lodged an FIR at the police station in Jind on September 13, 2010.
Vikas’s body was found in a vacant plot in sector 8 of Jind town. After murdering Ritu, her parents cremated her at Brahmanwas village in the district without informing the police.

On August 10 last year, the Jind additional district and sessions judge convicted both the parents of the girl under Section 302 of the IPC (murder). The judge ordered that Ram Raji be hanged, while his wife Kailash Devi was sentenced to life imprisonment. The parents approached the high court against trial court’s orders.

While pronouncing the murder reference, the high court division bench headed by justice SS Saron held, “Even at the outset we may hasten to state that the trial court without drawing a balance sheet of aggravated and mitigating circumstances exercised the option of awarding death penalty to the accused appellant Ram Raji.”

The bench stated that in its view the case “that is entirely based upon circumstantial evidence does not call for extreme punishment of death sentence.”

The division bench added that it was a well-settled principle of law that only in the “gravest case of extreme culpability” the court should think in terms of imposing capital punishment of death. “The life imprisonment is a rule and the death sentence is an exception as per the current scheme of the penal law in India,” the bench said.

In its observations, the bench mentioned a similar honour killing case of Dalip Premnarayan Tiwari vs the state of Maharashtra of 2010 in which the apex court had reduced the death sentence awarded by the trial court and later confirmed by the high court to 25 years of actual imprisonment to three accused and 20 years to one of the accused.

Source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Chandigarh/Jind-honour-killing-Father-s-death-sentence-commuted/Article1-816796.aspx [accessed on 28th February 2012]

Government counters Bhullar bid to escape the death penalty

By Mail Today Reporter

Last updated at 8:25 PM on 25th February 2012

The Centre has submitted before the Supreme Court that death-row convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was wrongly relying on the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to seek commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment.

The Union home ministry told the apex court in an affidavit that the constituent countries in the United Nations were 'sovereign' and had the right to determine their own legal jurisprudence.

The affidavit, filed by joint secretary J.L. Chugh, says death sentence was 'constitutionally approved and permissible' in India and the covenant only talked of desirability of abolition of capital punishment.

Chugh said India was free under the covenant to make provisions for sentences for offences provided in the statutes.

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights refers to the desirability of the abolition of the death penalty by member nations.

The second optional protocol of the convention, however, mandates abolition of death sentence. India has not signed the second protocol.

On Bhullar citing the covenant, the Centre said he was trying to divert the attention and his argument has no merit in the case.

'Abolition of death penalty in India is a different issue which has no connection to the issue of disposal of the mercy petition under the constitutional scheme,' the Centre said.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2106456/Government-counters-Bhullar-bid-escape-death-penalty.html?ito=feeds-newsxml [accessed on 28th Feb 2012]

Monday, February 27, 2012

SC rules out death penalty for rape & murder accused

Published: Monday, Feb 27, 2012, 9:45 IST
By Rakesh Bhatnagar | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Putting to rest the controversy over whether a person charged with rape and murdering his victim should be sentenced to the extreme penalty of death, the Supreme Court has ruled that in such a rarest of rare case an accused can’t be given the capital sentence but life term till the end of his life.

This ruling has given a new thrust to the raging debate on compulsorily giving the extreme sentence of death to a rapist. But conscious of the consequences of such a legislation that could lead to serious ramifications, it is argued that the victim couldlose the life too after having suffered the worst kind of brutality.

In a recent verdict, the top court has set aside a judgment by the Allahabad high court that upheld the sentence of death to one Amit, a teenager who raped and murdered a 13-year-old school going girl seven years ago.

“In such cases of rape followed by murder by a young man, instead of death sentence a life imprisonment should be awarded with a direction that life sentence imposed will extend to the full life of the appellant (accused) but subject to any remission or commutation at the instance of the government for good and sufficient reasons,” the court added.

A trial court and the HC had observed that the offence committed by Amit squarely fell in the ‘rarest of rare’ category, thus the appropriate sentence would be death.

The court expressed the hope that the accused would be reformed and turn out to be a better citizen in future. They said he had never committed such an offence in the past and a chance must be given to him to become a good citizen.

In 2008, the top court had however taken into account the increasing number of rape and murder cases as it handed down death sentence to a resident of Pune for raping and killing a girl living in his neighbourhood.

“A large number of cases in recent times coming before this court involving rape and murder of young girls, is a matter of concern,” judges had added.

They also rejected the plea for mercy made by the accused and said, “Undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law.”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Say NO to death for drugs-The Hindu -Op-ED

February 23, 2012
Handing down capital punishment for an offence that does not take life is draconian and violates all international human rights standards.

When Paramjit Singh was sentenced to death for drug trafficking last month, he joined two other accused narcotics offenders on India's death row (despite reports that it was “a first” and “a landmark judgment”).

The jubilatory tone in some media was disappointing and, in some respects, it was surprising that the case didn't generate more controversy. The death penalty for drugs has been a subject matter of intense debate — centring on the question of whether the state can take life for an offence that does not involve the taking of life. The opinion of most international experts (as well as the overwhelming majority of states) is clear that drug offences do not warrant death sentences.

India has a long history of opium and cannabis use, especially in medicinal, spiritual and social contexts. Serving opium is an age-old tradition in many parts of the country that marks respect for guests. Yet, this social propriety turned into legal impropriety with the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) in 1985, in order to comply with international agreements. The NDPS Act prohibits cultivation, production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, import, export, use and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, except for medical and scientific reasons, under license.

In 1989, barely four years after its introduction, the NDPS Act underwent amendments to incorporate harsher provisions, including mandatory death penalty upon subsequent conviction, if the quantity of contraband exceeds the threshold under Section 31A of the Act. The offender's circumstances — whether young or old, sick or mentally infirm, socially and economically disadvantaged or acting under duress or pressure — were irrelevant in sentencing. The death sentence is applied uniformly, irrespective of whether the convicted person is a carrier, an intermediary, organiser or lead player in the drug trade.

That this was contrary to the Supreme Court's ruling in 1983 in Mithu where mandatory death penalty was held to be unconstitutional, did not cut ice with lawmakers. The moral panic surrounding drugs forestalled any criticism of this draconian provision.

A constitutional challenge in 1998 was disallowed, as no one had been sentenced to death for a drug crime at the time. Ten years later, two men were sentenced to death in separate cases for possession of charas or cannabis resin. Subsequently, the Bombay High Court read in judicial discretion and empowered the sentencing Court to award a sentence other than death.

While the death penalty is not prohibited in international law, international human rights authorities have clarified certain conditions associated with its application. For example, it should not be imposed on juveniles or pregnant women. These standards also stipulate that only certain offences — or ‘most serious crimes' — should be eligible for capital punishment, an expression that has been understood to mean crimes that involve the intentional taking of life.

Drug offences do not involve killing or taking of life. Though serious, drug dependence can be addressed with counselling, treatment and aftercare. The twelve drugs that attract capital punishment under the NDPS Act are not similar in their addictive potential, deleterious effects or therapeutic value. Two of these drugs — Morphine and Codeine — are included in the National List of Essential Medicines, 2011 for their analgesic properties. Cannabis, which is also part of the list, neither causes death nor results in serious physical or psychological impairment.

Internationally denounced

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has held that drug trafficking is not the “most serious crime” under international law. In 1997, the UNHRC asked India to “limit the number of offences carrying the death penalty to the most serious crimes, with a view to its ultimate abolition”. Significantly, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the agency that oversees drug control measures globally has denounced capital punishment as a means to contain illicit trafficking and called upon Member States to abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences.

India has consistently ignored these opinions.

In the seminal case of Bachan Singh in 1980, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for murder — an act that puts an end to life. It is on the principle of retributive justice that the court regarded death penalty to be constitutional, with a further qualifier that it can only be imposed in the “rarest of rare” case. The badge of constitutional validity does not mean that the legislature can prescribe this extreme punishment indiscriminately and ignore international legal and human rights standards.

Anti-narcotics campaigns have often tended to label drug offences as being worse than homicide. Such observations are mere rhetoric and not backed by scientific evidence. They stem from the much hyped “war on drugs”, whose failure has been documented in many studies, including the findings of the Global Commission on Drug Policy last year. Exterminating drug offenders does not address the problem of illicit drugs. Iran executes hundreds of drug traffickers every year and yet the country has one of the most severe opiate addiction problems in the world.

In any event, it is notoriously challenging to measure deterrence with something as varied and pervasive as drugs. Countries with some of the strictest drug laws in the world — that is, the United States, Russia and Iran — also have some of the highest rates of problematic use and drug related harms. This is not to say that some strict countries do not also have low rates of drug use. It is only to say that the death penalty is not automatically a deterrent. In fact, when one compares jurisdictions all over the world, it appears the death penalty and drug use do not have much to do with each other.

In the meantime, the fate of the three men sentenced to death for NDPS offences hangs in balance. In each of their cases, capital punishment was triggered by the quantity of drugs found, the calculation of which is subject to error and controversy vis-à-vis the actual content, extent of impurities and presence of neutral materials in the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

Parliament is presently reviewing amendments to the NDPS Act. Will the rhetoric of ‘tough on drugs' prevail once again? Or will India be able to act as a mature and responsible society which limits the offences for which the State can execute men? It is an acid test for drug policy reformers as well as anti-death penalty advocates, both of whom would like to see India move in the latter direction.

(Anand Grover is a senior advocate and director of the Lawyers Collective, based in New Delhi; Rick Lines is the executive director of Harm Reduction International, based in London. E-mails: anandgrover@gmail.com, rick.lines@ihra.net)

Supreme Court upholds death for killer of five

TNN | Feb 26, 2012

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has upheld death penalty to a young man Sonu Sardar, who along with his brother and accomplices, killed five persons of a family, including a woman and two children, in cold blood during a dacoity bid in Chhattisgarh's Cher village in November, 2004.

A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swataner Kumar rejected the plea for leniency advanced by the convict on the grounds that he was a young man and that his role in the crime committed by five persons was not revealed by the prosecution.

Justice Patnaik, writing the judgment for the bench, said: "Five members of a family, including two minor children and the driver, were ruthlessly killed by the use of a knife, an axe and an iron rod and with the help of four others. The crime was obviously committed for money after pre-meditation with absolutely no consideration for human lives."

The bench upheld concurrent views of the trial court as well as the Chhattisgarh high court that the convict deserved capital punishment and said, "Even though the appellant was young, his criminal propensities are beyond reform and he is a menace to the society."

When the gang of five struck at the house of scrap-dealer Shamim Akhtar on November 26, 2004, and demanded money by placing a knife on his neck, his daughter Shabana (10) tried to come to Shamim's rescue. The accused attempted to assault her too but she managed to give them a slip and ran away to the house of her father's acquaintance.

She came back to the house with help to find the bodies of her father, mother and two siblings along with their driver. The trial court had convicted the accused mainly on the basis of Shabana's evidence, and the apex court felt that there was no infirmity in the process of conviction recorded by the trial court.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

India’s kindest president commutes 23 death penalty to life term

PTI: Feb 21, 2012

New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil has commuted death sentences of 23 petitioners to life imprisonment during her tenure, which is over 90 percent of the total pardon granted since 1981.

On 9 February, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending since 2004, who was convicted for giving sacrifice of a nine-year old boy in Jharkhand for his own prosperity, an RTI response from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

It said that since 1981, 91 convicts knocked the doors of Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment. Of these, petitions of 31 individuals were accepted out of which 23 were during her tenure.

According to the reply provided to applicant Subhash Agrawal, 18 mercy petitions were still pending before the president.

Patil, however, in exceptional cases, has rejected the petitions of five individuals which include the three killers of Rajiv Gandhi—Santham, Murughan and Arivu—and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahedra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered 68-year-old Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers Association at a roadside stall.

In Murmu’s case, his sentence was commuted to life by Patil even though he was convicted for the killing, which was termed by the Supreme Court as “an illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the ‘rarest of rare cases’ in which death sentence is and should be the rule, with no exception whatsoever”.

Source: http://www.firstpost.com/fwire/indias-kindest-president-commutes-23-death-penalty-to-life-term-220419.html [accessed 23rd Feb 2012]

The Great Wait: India’s Death Row Prisons

By Michael Edison Hayden

February 21, 2012, 10:00 AM IST
At the end of this month, a young man named Suresh will mark an unspeakable anniversary. Fourteen years ago, on Feb. 28,1998, his mother Jayshree was raped and slaughtered by the man referred to by tabloids as “India’s Jack the Ripper.” And while the killer, whose real name is Umesh Reddy, was sentenced to death, it remains unclear as to when, if ever, the case will be resolved.

Mr. Reddy currently resides in Belgaum Central Prison, a spacious facility filled with lush green grass, gray dungeon-like dwellings, and a theatrical hangman’s pit intended for executions that one guard reported to me had not been used “in well over 25 years.” Rust has accrued along the metal beams of the gallows. Down below, inside the stairwell in which inmate’s bodies are intended to fall, globs of rainwater, leaves, and dead insects cluster against the mossy pavement. A fortress-like encasement of giant, peeling walls topped with angry-looking barbed wire blocks the outside world from the prisoners.

Make no mistake: Belgaum Central is a bleak and forbidding place. Mr. Reddy’s cellmates are a collection of South India’s most fearsome criminals. A serial rapist and killer in his own right, he regularly fraternizes with a man who refers to himself as “Dr. Ibrahim” –the leading plotter of the Bangalore bomb blasts, which destroyed Christian churches and lives back in 2000.

When we met, Mr. Reddy asked if Ibrahim could act as his translator and advisor. Another one of his friends (who prefers to remain nameless), is a boy-faced little man who was once a member of the Dandulpalya Gang, a murderous South Indian version of the Manson family. Their group was once known for, among more brutal crimes like the slaughter of the elderly, and according to local crime reporters, consuming donkey’s blood on the night of the full moon.

And despite the seeming volatility of such a social circle, the group walks around the contained death-row facility unpinned and unshackled. Their camaraderie seems to be one more based upon commiseration than on conspiracy. “Every night I go to bed crying,” Mr. Reddy told me. “I hate this awful place.” One could justly argue that Mr. Reddy, who ruined the lives of potentially scores of innocent women during his fetishistic crime spree, deserves very much to hate his surroundings. And despite the fact that he steadfastly denies his crimes, it might be a fair assessment, if it didn’t seem that his surroundings were more a symbol of an unintended institutional failure, or, at the very least, the unspoken compromise of a tentative Indian justice system.

The appeals process for death row criminals here flows upwards from the local courts all the way to desk of the President, or in some cases, the Governor of the local state. The road to a final decision takes decades to reach. So the hundreds of death row inmates in India can sometimes remain there, lingering indefinitely, until a death by natural causes occurs.

Reena Mary George is a Ph.D fellow at the University of Vienna who, during her research, also visited Belgaum Central Prison on behalf of a program called “Empowerment of Human Rights.” Ms. George believes that this purgatorial environment can breed close relationships among cellmates.

“The prisoners on death row with whom I have interacted have all been very cordial towards each other. They have often told me [things like], ‘we are in a situation where we do not know if we [will] live or die, we are away from our families and society. Hence we never fight. We comfort and provide space and respect,’” says Ms. George. Her observations also hint to the possibility that something like the lawyerly relationship between Ibrahim and Umesh Reddy might not be all that uncommon.

“[The prisoners] are united in their demanding of rights. Also, illiterate prisoners are taught by [those who can read]. Again, they help one another by writing letters or appeals for the ones who do not know how to read or write,” she says.

Although there has been ample consideration for such tactics as lethal injection, hanging is presently the only means by which Indian prisoners can presently be put to death. Hangmen remain on government payroll but they are seldom, if ever, called to work. Over the past two decades, only one execution has been carried out in India.

A movement to abolish the death penalty has yet to form in any substantial organizational sense here in India, but with 26/11 Pakistani attacker Ajmal Kasab indefinitely awaiting the results of his own appeal, more attention has been focused on the problematic system.

But for the likes of Suresh, who at age 6, walked into his house to find his mother tied to the floor and choked with multi-colored saris, soaking in blood from lacerating wounds suffered to the genital region, the wait for a final resolution often feels excruciating. “[Reddy] might say he is sad, but he is a liar,” Suresh, who only goes by one name, told me in an interview. “Don’t believe anything he says.” Suresh, now living with foster parents, is a happy 20 year-old man with a positive attitude. When asked whether he wants to see Reddy be hanged, however, the young man becomes stern and grim. He minces no words. “I want him to die,” he told me.

The Supreme Court upheld Mr. Reddy’s conviction in March of last year. Now his appeal sits with the President. How long it will remain there is anyone’s guess. But without any substantial outcry for institutional reforms, the wait for Suresh, and murderer of his mother, goes on.

Michael Edison Hayden is an American journalist, playwright, and screenwriter currently living in Mumbai. You can follow India Real Time on Twitter @indiarealtime. 

Source: Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/02/21/the-great-wait-indias-death-row-prisons/?mod=google_news_blog [accessed on 23rd Feb 2012]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

India’s last hangman: An executioner’s tale

The Economist,Feb 11th 2012 | LUCKNOW | from the print edition

A dying family business:

IN THE crumbling Muslim quarter of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, a man with white beard and lilac kurta pyjamas weaves briskly through the alleys. Ahmadullah does not want to be seen at home talking to strangers, but agrees to meet in a nearby park. He is not, he says, ashamed of his job, but he does not want nosy neighbours discovering his profession. “People do not look with a very good view on it,” he says, “and they would want to come and gawk at me, a hangman.”

With a gentle smile he recalls that in 1965, when he took over from his father as Lucknow’s chief executioner, the state paid 25 rupees ($5 in those days) a hanging, on top of a salary. He thinks he has conducted 40 in all, being called to work in Delhi, Assam and Madhya Pradesh in the years when India’s judges—and politicians—had few qualms seeing the death sentence carried out.

Today, though still on the books and paid monthly, he is idle. He says he last hanged a man over two decades ago: an insurgent in Assam, who had kidnapped and killed a child. (The rate per execution had, by then, risen to 10,000 rupees.) Though the death sentence is frequently passed on defendants, its use is extremely unusual since a Supreme Court order, in 1983, reserved it for the “rarest of rare” cases. A single hanging has taken place in India in the past 17 years.

Led by retired judges and the Hindu newspaper, a campaign is under way to remove it altogether from the statute books. The issue flares into mainstream debate only when prominent killers—such as Ajmal Kasab, the surviving attacker among a group of Islamists who carried out a massacre in Mumbai in November 2008—appear to be heading to the gallows. Mr Kasab’s latest appeal against his execution went before the Supreme Court late in January, but is likely to march on for years yet.

Ahmadullah favours the penalty, though he talks of the harrowing execution of three brothers convicted of murder, one of whom pleaded his innocence—convincingly, Ahmadullah says—to his anguished last breath. Otherwise the hangman talks with pride of his professionalism, ensuring as quick and painless a death as possible: “he drops dead, not even alive when he drops, this is my speciality.”

Yet he sees no future in it. British rulers ordered “so many murders”, he says, “my father was unable to sit, he was always called for a hanging”. Today there is nothing to do. Though he would work again, if ordered, he expects not to. Nor does he wish to see his son continue in the family business. “I will be the last of the hangmen.”

Source: The Economist,Feb 11th 2012 | LUCKNOW | from the print edition See http://www.economist.com/node/21547271 accessed on 13th February 2012

Death anniversary: Kashmiri freedom fighter remembered

MIRPUR: The 28th death anniversary of Muhammad Maqbool Butt, a leader of the Kashmir Freedom Movement, was observed on Saturday on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) with a renewed pledge to continue his mission till the achievement of the right of self-determination.

Processions were taken out to pay tribute to Butt who was awarded the death sentence by India. He was hanged on February 11, 1984, in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail for demanding the birthright of self determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir state under the UN resolutions and the liberation of Kashmir from Indian subjugation.

Speakers called upon the international community to exert pressure on India to immediately hand over Butt’s dead body to his family members. Speakers said that Butt’s sacrifice infused a new spirit among Kashmiris to accelerate their struggle for the achievement of their fundamental right of self-determination denied by India for the past 63 years.

Speakers also demanded the immediate demilitarisation of Indian-held Kashmir, unconditional release of all political detainees and repeal of black laws. Speakers appreciated the opening of routes across the LoC by India and Pakistan and demanded the revival of all other natural routes to enable the free movement of Kashmiris from either side without any discrimination.

Earlier, hundreds of activists of JKNLF, JKLF, Plebiscite Front, NSF and other social and political organisations took out a torch-bearing procession from Shaheed Chowk on Friday night, to highlight the contribution of the martyred Kashmiri leader to the freedom struggle.

The participants of the rally lit candles in memory of Kashmiri martyrs. Speakers urged the world community to help stop massive human rights abuses in Indian-held Kashmir. Across the LoC, Butt’s death was marked with a complete strike across the held valley.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.
Source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/335155/death-anniversary-kashmiri-freedom-fighter-remembered/ accessed on 13th February 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

2003 Mumbai blasts: HC upholds death sentence of 3 Lashkar militants

PTI | Feb 10, 2012, 05.51PM IST

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Friday upheld the death sentence of three LeT members, including a couple, in the 2003 twin Mumbai blasts that claimed 52 lives.

A division bench of Justice A M Khanvilkar and P D Kode confirmed the death penalty awarded to Ashrat Ansari (32), Hanif Sayed Anees (46) and his wife Fehmida Sayed (43) but partially quashed the order of the trial court discharging two other accused on the basis of a report of the POTA review committee.

The high court upheld death sentence awarded to them on all three counts of perpetrating terror, criminal conspiracy and murder.

Mohammed Ansari Ladoowala and Mohammed Hasan Batterywala will now have to face trial, but only under IPC charges that had been levelled against them and not under POTA. The court directed them to appear before the trial court in four weeks for proceedings to be initiated.

The bench, however, stayed the sentence for eight weeks to allow the convicts to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, in response to the request of their counsel, Sudeep Pasbola.

The court had on November 12, 2011 reserved its judgement on confirmation of death sentence to the three after agruments concluded at a special hearing.

The three had been found guilty by a POTA court of planting powerful bombs in two taxis which exploded at the iconic Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar on August 25, 2003. They were awarded death sentence on August 6.

The conspiracy for the blasts had been hatched by Hanif, Ashrat, Nasir, a Hyderabad resident, who was later killed in a police encounter, and some Pakistani nationals owing allegiance to LeT in Dubai.

The LeT's role in the twin blasts was revealed by an accused-turned-approver. The approver was given a pardon by the court after public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam submitted a certificate saying he may be discharged.

It was for the first time that LeT had used a family to carry out bomb blasts in the country.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2003-Mumbai-blasts-HC-upholds-death-sentence-of-3-Lashkar-militants/articleshow/11838208.cms
accessed on 10th February 2012

Final hearing of death-row convict's petition on Thursday

J. Venkatesan: NEW DELHI, February 8, 2012

Mercy petition turned down by President after a delay of 12 years

The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for final hearing on Thursday a Special Leave Petition filed by death-row convict Mahendra Nath Das, whose mercy petition was rejected by the President after an inordinate delay of 12 years and plea for commutation to life imprisonment on this ground was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar, without passing any order on his petition seeking stay on execution of death sentence, posted the main SLP, against the High Court order dated January 30, for final hearing on February 9.

Das, in his writ petition, had contended that the delay in deciding his mercy petition by the President and finally giving the assent for the death sentence had resulted in excruciating agony and trauma for almost 12 years for no explainable reasons and this was a valid ground for awarding life sentence.

On Tuesday, it was submitted by senior counsel Shyam Divan, along with counsel Vrinda Grover, that a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya had already listed for final hearing on February 22 the appeals filed by Devendar Pal Singh Bhullar and other connected matters relating to delay in deciding clemency petitions and that the appeal filed by Das be also listed before the same Bench.

However, the Bench said it would hear the matter and issued notice to Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman and the State of Assam and posted it for final hearing on February 9, when it is expected to take a decision to stay his execution or not.

The last execution the country witnessed was that of Dhananjay Chatterjee in 2004.

In December last, a Bench headed by Justice Singhvi in its order had said: “A perusal of the list enclosed with the information made available by the President's Secretariat on June 2, 2011 shows that as many as 17 mercy petitions were processed. Keeping in view the importance of the issue arising in the writ petition and the fact that a large number of other persons may not be, due to sheer ignorance, able to file petition under Articles 72 or 161 of the Constitution or move the Court as has been done by the petitioner in this case, we request senior counsels Ram Jethmalani and T.R. Andhyarujina of this Court to assist us as amicus curiae.”

The Bench asked the Additional Solicitor-General to place before the Court a compilation containing details of mercy petitions received by the Government of India and the governments of different States and their status as on the date of preparation of the compilation.

The Bench said that the copies of the compilation should be made available to counsel assisting Mr. Jethmalani and Mr. Andhyarujina.

The case of the prosecution was that on April 24, 1996, Mahendra Das beheaded Harakanta Das at Fancy Bazaar and surrendered with the victim's head. He was arrested and put in jail in 1997 after the sessions court ordered his execution.

The Gauhati High Court and Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Subsequently, Mahendra Das' family moved a mercy petition to the then President K. R Narayanan in 1999. The plea was finally turned down in May 2011 by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, setting the stage for his hanging. The High Court, on September 8, 2011, dismissed a writ petition filed by the convict's mother, Kusumbala Das, for commuting her son's death sentence to life imprisonment, holding that she had no locus standi to file it on behalf of her son. Then, Mahendra Das filed a writ petition pleading for commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment since he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition seeking presidential clemency.

There had been protests against the death sentence of Mahendra Das. Even Amnesty International expressed concern over his imminent execution.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2869581.ece
accessed on 10th February 2012

SC notices to Centre, State on death penalty

The Assam Tribune: Guwahati, Wednesday, February 08, 2012

NEW DELHI, Feb. 7 – The Supreme Court has issued notices to Assam Government and the Centre in response to a petition filed by Kusumbala Das, mother of Mahendra Nath Das, who is on death row.

His mother has through her counsel pleaded that his death penalty be commuted to life sentence. The case was raised as an urgent matter in the Court of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice S Kumar.

After hearing the petitioner, the Bench issued notices to Government of Assam and the Union Government.

Das is awaiting execution in Jorhat, after the President of India rejected his mercy petition. This would be the first execution in India since 2004.

Das was sentenced to death in August 1997 for a murder in Guwahati, Assam in 1996. His mercy petition was rejected by the President of India in May 2011, following the advice of theGovernment of India.

The judicial process was completed after the High Court confirmed the death sentence in February 1998 and the Supreme Court rejected the appeal in May 1999. A mercy petition was sent to the Government of India in 2000.

Amnesty International is concerned that the eleven-year delay in announcing the verdict of the mercy petition and the resultant prolonged stay ondeath row may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Death penalty: Supreme Court notice to govt on crucial special leave petition

Manoj Mitta, TNN Feb 8, 2012, 06.02AM IST

NEW DELHI: The death penalty has been challenged in all the three cases citing the same reason: the inordinate delay on the part of the President in rejecting the mercy petitions of the convicts concerned. But different benches of the Supreme Court are treating this vital issue in conflicting ways on the decisions made by the President last year on the home ministry's advice.

As for the special leave petition (SLP) filed by Mahendra Nath Das of Assam, the bench comprising Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices on Tuesday to the Centre and state while declining to stay his execution. If his SLP is rejected in the final hearing fixed for Thursday, Das may become the first convict to be hanged in India since Dhananjay Chatterjee's execution in 2004.

The line of action adopted by the Pattanaik bench in Das's case is a far cry from the one adopted three months ago by the bench comprising Justice G S Singhvi and Justice S J Mukhopadhaya in high-profile and politically sensitive cases relating to the Rajiv Gandhi assassins and Devendar Pal Singh Bhullar. The Singhvi bench, having stayed the execution of capital punishment in both cases, is due to hold elaborate proceedings from February 22 on whether the President's rejection of the mercy petition could be overruled by the SC on the ground of "unexplained delay" lasting over a decade to take a final call.

Given the importance of the matter from the viewpoint of human rights, the Singhvi bench had appointed two senior constitutional experts, Ram Jethmalani and T R Andhyarujina, to assist it as amicus curiae.

Since his mercy petition had been stuck with the President for 12 years, the SC's registry should have logically placed Das's SLP before the Singhvi bench. At the final hearing due on Thursday, it remains to be seen whether the Pattnaik bench, redressing the anomaly that has arisen out of the registry's oversight, will refer Das's SLP to the Singhvi bench in the interest of consistency.

The SC's pronouncement on if delay in the disposal of mercy petition can have the effect of commuting death penalty to life sentence may affect pending mercy petitions, including Afzal Guru's.

Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-08/india/31036765_1_mercy-petition-final-hearing-bench
accessed on 10th February 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

3 get death sentence for murder (2009 case)

TNN Apr 1, 2009, 10.12pm IST
MADIKERI: Kodagu district and sessions court pronounced death sentence for three murder accused, here on Wednesday.

The incident took place on 7-2-2002 in Mysore. The victim was a native of Gonikoppal. The accused were also natives of Gonikoppal.
Gopinath, owner of Prashanth Jewellers, Gonikoppal, had planned to carry 750 grams of gold, 250 grams of silver with Rs 20,000 for cleaning the materials in Mysore on Februaury 7.

On February 6, his friend Manojkumar, the owner of Shri Devi Cushion works, Gonikoppal, came to Gopinath's shop and got information about his travel the next day. He devised a plan taking two of his workers into confidence.

Gopinath was travelling in a KSRTC bus to Mysore from Gonikoppal. The accused followed him in a car. When Gopinath descended the bus for a tea break the trio dragged him to the Hunsur bus stand and carried him in the car.

They mercilessly strangulated him using a nylon rope in Kolgat area. Robbing the gold and silver, the trio hauled the dead body into the car and proceeded to Athur village, which is the native place of Manojkumar. They threw the dead body into the open well behind Manojkumar's house.

Prashanth, the son of the victim enquired with Mysore Jewellers where his father was supposed to go. However, the jewellers confirmed that he had not arrived.

After four days of the incident the victim's son Prashanth complained to then Gonikoppal CI Nagaraj who started an enquiry. Hearing the complaint Manojkumar started detatching himself from Prashanth which led to suspicion and the Gonikoppal police arresting him. Manojkumar cooked up a new story in front of the police saying that had committed the crime on request by the victim's son Prashanth. The police got confused and the government handed the case to COD.

COD inspector Abdul Sattar managed to break the story with proof and the dead body was exhumed and re post mortem was conducted. COD filed a chargesheet under sections 302,365 and 392 for murder, kidnap and robbery in Virajpet Court against Manojkumar and his workers Rafiq and Janardan.

The case was then transferred to the district court. The magistrate Shrikanth Babuladi heard 33 witnesses and passed the death sentence order on Wednesday. QL

Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-04-01/mysore/28033494_1_gopinath-death-sentence-ksrtc-bus accessed on 7th February 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Supreme Court strikes down Arms Act provision for mandatory death penalty

Bench says it runs counter to constitutional law and ultra vires Constitution
The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act, which provides for mandatory death sentence to an accused charged with an offence under this provision.

Section 27(3) says: “Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition or does any act in contravention of Section 7 and such use or act results in the death of any other person shall be punishable with death.”

A Bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and J.S. Khehar said: “A law which is not consistent with [the] notions of fairness while it imposes an irreversible penalty like death is repugnant to the concept of right and reason.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Ganguly said the scope of Section 27(3) was very wide in that anything done in contravention of Section 7 and with the use of prohibited arms and ammunition resulting in death would attract the death penalty. “Even if an act done in contravention of Section 7, namely, acquisition or possession or manufacture or sale of prohibited arms results in the death of any person, the person in contravention of Section 7 shall be punished with death.”

Dealing with the question arising out of a judgment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Bench said: “In fact, the challenge to the constitutional validity of [the] death penalty under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code has been negatived in the ‘Bachan Singh case' in view of the sentencing structure in Sections 235 (2) and 354 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code. By imposing mandatory death penalty, Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act runs contrary to those statutory safeguards which give [the] judiciary the discretion in the matter imposing [the] death penalty. Section 27(3) of the Arms Act is thus ultra vires the concept of judicial review, which is one of the basic features of our Constitution.”

The Bench said: “This is thus a very drastic provision for many reasons. Apart from the fact that this imposes a mandatory death penalty, the Section is so widely worded to the extent that if, as a result of any accidental or unintentional use or any accident arising out of any act in contravention of Section 7, death results, the only punishment, which has to be mandatorily imposed on the person in contravention, is death. Therefore, the provision of Section 27(3) of the Act is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.”

The Bench said: “Apart from that, Section 27 (3) is a post-constitutional law and has to obey the injunction of Article 13 which is clear and explicit. Article 13 (2) says ‘The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void. In view of the mandate of Article 13 of the Constitution, Section 27(3) having been enacted in clear contravention of fundamental rights, Section 27(3) of the Act is repugnant to Articles 14 and 21 and is void. Section 27(3) of the Act also… [prevents] the judiciary from discharging its constitutional duties of judicial review, whereby it has the power of using discretion in the sentencing procedure.”

The Bench held that this provision was against the fundamental tenets of the constitutional law and ultra vires the Constitution.

The Hindu - 2.2.2012