Ten years after a man was awarded death sentence for killing his wife, two minor sons and a neighbourhood woman in upper Assam, President Pranab Mukherjee has commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. This is a rare case where the President has accepted the mercy petition of a person convicted for gruesome murders. Earlier, Mukherjee had rejected mercy petitions of 22 death row convicts at a stretch. Man Bahadur Dewan alias Tote Dewan, now 63-years-old and lodged in Jorhat Central Jail, rarely had a visitor all these years as his surviving son and daughter had shunned him after the crime.
According to the prosecution, Dewan, a resident of Sessapukhuri Nepali basti under Moranhat police station in Sivasagar district, nearly 420 km east of Guwahati, had picked up a quarrel with his wife Gouri (35) on September 29, 2002. That night, though the quarrel came to an end with his wife preferring to remain silent, Dewan remained restless, until he woke up around 4 am, picked up a dao (machete), and hacked her to death. He then also hacked his two sons Rajib (10) and Kajib (who was just about eight months old) and started looking for his another son Raju and daughter Jyotimaya.
Raju and Jyotimaya, however, had already run away the previous night on seeing their father getting violent during the quarrel, and were sleeping in the house of a relative. Dewan, who came out of the house with the dao first knocked at the door of Prasad Dewan and Bijoy Dewan, but as the two did not open the door, he proceeded to the next house which belonged to one Raj Kumar Dewan. There he found Raj Kumar’s 60-year-old mother Bidhimaya in the compound, and even without uttering a word simply inflicted two blows with the dao on her neck.
Dewan then returned to his house, picked up the severed head of son Rajib, put it in a plastic bag and proceeded to Moranhat police station where he surrendered. While Dewan was awarded death sentence by the then Sivasagar Sessions Judge B D Agarwal on December 26, 2003. Later the Gauhati High Court and the Supreme Court rejected appeals against death sentence. He then filed a mercy plea before the Assam governor on September 2, 2005, who rejected it on December 23, 2013. He then sent the plea to the President on February 10, 2014.
The President is believed to have relied upon the opinion of the Home Ministry which had advised him to take a lenient view of the case. The Ministry is learnt to have advised Mukherjee that Dewan is from a poor background and murdered his wife, sons and a neighbour due to abject poverty and unemployment.
Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/president-pranab-mukherjee-commutes-death-penalty-of-assam-man/ [last accessed 09 April 2015]
Indian Express 09 April 2015