New Delhi: The Supreme Court said that the President’s office took too long to reject the clemency petition of a prisoner on death row and hence commuted the death sentence of a murderer to life imprisonment. In 1999 MN Das was convicted by the Supreme Court and sentenced to death. His mercy petition was rejected by President Prtibha Patil, 11 years after he filed it. Das had killed a man in Assam in 1990 then six years later while on bail murdered another. His lawyer has cited the delay in asking for the death sentence to be commuted, ndtv.com reports. Other lawyers of death row prisoners also maintain that the “delay is worse than death.”
The latest development comes contrary to the April 11 ruling when the Supreme Court turned down that same argument in the case of Punjab militant Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, prime accused in a 1993 bomb blast in Delhi that killed nine people. Bhullar, a member of a separatist group, argued his death sentence should be commuted to life in prison due to the torment he’d suffered awaiting execution. Bhullar’s appeal was turned down by the President after eight years. In his case the Supreme Court had said that terrorists cannot seek mercy by citing inordinate delays in their appeals.
The latest verdict might have a bearing on the cases of more than 15 prisoners on death row. They include three men for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and four members of the gang led by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. India was among four countries in the last year that resumed using the death penalty.
Since Pranab Mukherjee was appointed president in July he has rejected mercy petitions of at least seven people, leaving them at risk of execution, Amnesty International said. Two people have been hanged — Mumbai attack gunman Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, and Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri found guilty of participating in a strike on India’s parliament in 2001. Kasab’s was the country’s first execution since 2004.
Source: http://mattersindia.com/supreme-court-commutes-death-sentence/ [accessed 05th May 2013]