Friday, February 6, 2015

SC commutes death over delay in mercy plea call

TNN | Dec 21, 2014, 12.48AM IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a condemned prisoner to life imprisonment due to "inordinate delay" of three years and 10 months by the Centre to decide his mercy plea. 

"Though no time limit can be fixed within which the mercy petition ought to be disposed of, in our considered view the period of 3 years and 10 months to deal with such mercy petitions in the present case comes within the expression "inordinate delay," a bench of justices Dipak Misra, R F Nariman and U U Lalit said 

While granting relief to the convict, the apex court also noted that the right of death convict was further violated by incarcerating him in solitary confinement for the last seven years ever since his death sentence was upheld by it in 2007. 

The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that a death convict should never be put to solitary confinement till his mercy petition was disposed of. 

In this case the convict Ajay Kumar Pal, presently lodged in Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, was awarded death sentence by trial court in April 2007 for killing 5 people including three children in 2003 in Jharkhand. His conviction and sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on March16, 2010. Within a month he sent his mercy plea. 

His mercy petition was rejected by the President on November 08, 2013. Pal thereafter moved SC for commutation of his death sentence on grounds of delay on the part of government to decide his mercy plea. 

"The combined effect of the inordinate delay in disposal of mercy petition and the solitary confinement for such a long period, in our considered view has caused deprivation of the most cherished right. A case is definitely made out under Article 32 of the Constitution of India and this Court deems it proper to reach out and grant solace to the petitioner for the ends of justice. We, therefore, commute the sentence and substitute the sentence of life imprisonment in place of death sentence awarded to the petitioner," the bench said. 

Source: [last accessed 06.02.2015]

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