Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bihar death row convicts’ families fear the worst

GAYA (BIHAR):, JANUARY 25, 2014 03:06 IST
UPDATED: MAY 13, 2016 12:20 IST
Rahi Gaikwad

For the family of death row convict Krishna Mochi, time has lost its value. Mochi was arrested and jailed in the Bara massacre case of 1992. He never got bail. Ten years have passed since he sent a mercy plea to the President, but he has not heard anything since. After 22 years of his absence, the family ascribes little value to the possibility of his death sentence getting commuted. “My father never speaks of being released. He only says there is no update, nothing is happening,” Mochi’s son Ajay said. Mochi along with three others, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh alias Dharu Singh were in 2001 awarded capital punishment by a sessions court in connection with the massacre of 35 Bhumihars (a landed caste) by the Maoist Communist Centre.

They were tried under the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty by a majority of 2:1, in a three-judge bench. Justice M.B. Shah differed from the majority view. He acquitted Singh and commuted the death sentences of the other three to life. All the four convicts have been lodged at the Bhagalpur Central Jail. The jail authorities told The Hindu that their mercy plea was dispatched from the jail on March 3, 2003. Since then there has been no word on their petitions. “The SC confirmed the death sentences of the four convicts. They filed their petitions with the President in 2003. They are pending since then,” KP Pingwa, superintendent of the Bhagalpur Central Jail told The Hindu.

 Family of death row convict Krishna Mochi
Mochi’s family meets him in jail once or twice a year. The yearly visit is a three-day affair and entails an expenditure of Rs. 600 – a steep sum for them. A year and a half ago, Mochi was operated for appendicitis. He is now slated to undergo a cataract surgery. “If we have money, we go to meet him,” Ajay said. “Having spent so many years in jail, what death sentence are we talking about now? It’s high time he should be released,” Mochi’s wife Chandramani said. At Dharu Singh’s house, his wife Lalita Devi and mother Devrani Devi appear broken. “He has been in jail since 1999. He says his petition is pending with the President. We are hopeful that something will happen, but nothing as yet has. We hear the President has no pending petitions. Can’t they release him? This is a house without a man; no one wants to marry my daughter,” Lalita Devi said.

Lacking the means to engage legal help, the families are clueless about the petitions. They also believe the death penalties have been commuted to life. “Father said in 2011 that ‘ Phansi kat gaya [death sentence was commuted].’ But what has happened after that we do not know,” Arun Paswan, son of Bir Kuer Paswan said. The jail authorities denied any such development. The recent landmark judgment of the apex court could raise the convicts’ hopes. The court overturned an earlier judgment which drew a distinction between murders related to terrorism and others. But, confusion abounds on the status of their mercy pleas. While the jail officials claimed they are pending with the President, the Ministry of Home Affairs denied any knowledge of them. On the other hand, Bihar’s Principle Secretary, Home, Amir Subhani, said the State government had “no role to play” in the matter of forwarding their petitions.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bihar-death-row-convicts-families-fear-the-worst/article5615430.ece (Accessed on 18 December 2018)

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