Friday, February 6, 2015

Supreme Court commutes man's sentence from death to life imprisonment

Saturday, 20 December 2014 - 7:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna
Prabhati Nayak Mishra

Holding the Central government responsible for causing "in-ordinate delay" for nearly four years in deciding the mercy plea of a death row convict, who had killed his master, a serving Indian Forest Service officer, and four other family members including three children in June 2003, the Supreme Court has commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

The court has not only dealt with the delay in execution of death sentence but also the issue that he was kept in solitary confinement from the same day the apex court had dismissed his appeal against the capital punishment. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra has taken into consideration not the verdict wherein the death sentence stands imposed, but the subsequent circumstances.

The death sentence awarded to Ajay Kumar Pal by the trial court on April 9, 2007 attained finality when the Supreme Court confirmed the capital punishment on March 16, 2010. He preferred mercy petition on April 10, 2010 which came within a month of the decision of this Court and he was informed in January 2014 about the rejection of his mercy plea by the President in November 2013. "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 plea in the present case comes within the expression inordinate delay." The delay is not to the account of the petitioner....but is certainly to the account of the functionaries and authorities concerned," the bench also comprising justices Rohington Nariman and UU Lalit said on Pal's plea to commute his sentence.

"The petitioner (Pal) has all the while been in solitary confinement i.e. since the day he was awarded death sentence. In the light of the enunciation of law by this Court, the petitioner could never have been"segregated"till his mercy petition was disposed of...," the bench said while terming "this is complete transgression of the right under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution causing incalculable harm to the petitioner."

Pal was working as a domestic help for 10 years at the house of a serving Indian Forest Officer Dhirendra Kumar in Gandhi Vihar area Ranchi. In June 2, 2003 Pal had killed Kumar and four others and later set the house on fire. Next day morning, the neighbours found him hiding in the well after committing the crime.

Source: [last accessed 06.02.2015]

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