Amit Anand Choudhary,TNN | May 28, 2015, 02.24 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Condemned prisoners also have a right to dignity, the Supreme Court has said holding that execution of death sentence cannot be carried out in an arbitrary, hurried and secret manner without allowing death row convicts to exhaust all legal remedies and meet family members.
"Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution does not end with the confirmation of the death sentence. Even in cases of death row convicts, their right to dignity must be protected," said a bench of justices A K Sikri and U U Lalit while quashing the execution warrants of a young woman and her lover, convicted for killing seven members of her family including a 10-month-old baby in Uttar Pradesh in 2008.
The court's observations assume significance in the context of the hue and cry raised by human rights activists after Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in the capital's Tihar jail in 2013 even before his family members could get the intimation.
In case of the couple — Shabnam and Saleem — the bench said, "We find that death warrant was signed by the sessions judge in haste without waiting for convict to exhaust all legal remedies." It pointed out that the condemned prisoners can file review petition before the Supreme Court and can also seek mercy from the the President or Governor for commuting their sentence.
Referring to the Allahabad HC order on procedure to be followed for execution of death sentence, the bench said the principles of natural justice must be followed and sufficient notice given to the convict before the issuance of death warrant to enable him/her to pursue legal recourse and have a final meeting with family members before execution. In cases where a convict is not in a position to get legal assistance, legal aid must be provided, it said.
The bench expressed surprised on the "unwarranted" haste with which the Amroha court issued execution warrants, just six days after the Supreme Court awarded death sentence to the couple on May 15 for wiping out the woman's entire family— parents, two brothers, sister-in-law and two minors - to remove opposition to their affair and also grab family property.
Appearing for the death row convicts, senior advocates Anand Grover and Raju Ramachandaran contended that guidelines laid down by SC and Allahabad HC were given a go-by the sessions court and pleaded for quashing of the warrant.
The apex court said the sessions court issued the warrant without waiting for the mandatory 30 days to allow death row convicts to avail judicial remedy of filing petitions for a review.
Among the mandatory guidelines are that the death-row convicts have the right to meet their family members. The guidelines are intended to make the execution least painful.
Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Convicts-cant-be-hanged-secretly-and-hurriedly-Supreme-Court/articleshow/47450451.cms [last accessed 28.05.2015]