Centre Asks States to Implement SC Order on Death Row Convicts

Published: 04th February 2014 03:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2014 03:48 PM   |  A+A-

By PTI

The Centre today directed all states to take "urgent suitable action" in implementing the Supreme Court's guidelines for safeguarding the interest of the death row convicts.

In a communication, the Home Ministry said the court had examined several individual death row cases and commuted capital punishment of the petitioners to life imprisonment.

"You are requested to take urgent suitable action for implementing the orders of the Supreme Court in your state/ Union Territories," Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry S Suresh Kumar said in the communication accessed by PTI.

The Ministry said the apex court had said legal aid should be provided to the convicts at all stages even after the rejection of mercy petition.

Hence, Superintendents of Jail are directed to intimate the rejection of mercy petitions to the nearest legal aid centre apart from intimating the convicts.

It said the convict has a constitutional right under Article 72 of the Constitution to make a mercy petition and hence the rejection of the mercy plea by the President should forthwith be communicated to the convict and his family in writing.

It would be mandatory for prison authorities to facilitate and allow a final meeting between the prisoner and his family and friends prior to his execution.

Following the hanging of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru about a year ago, his family members had complained that they were not informed in advance about his scheduled execution at Tihar Jail in Delhi.

The family had said they received the information only after his hanging, that too through the media.

Facing flak, the Home Ministry had claimed that they sent a letter to Guru's family in Kashmir through SpeedPost which the family received a few days after his execution.

Quoting the January 21 Supreme Court verdict, the Home Ministry said death row convicts were entitled to receive a copy of the rejection of the mercy petition by the President and the Governor.

It said solitary or single cell confinement prior to rejection of the mercy petition by the President is unconstitutional. Even though prison manuals of the states do have necessary rules, the court felt that the rules should not be interpreted to run counter to its ruling and violate Article 21 of the Constitution.

As and when a mercy petition is received or communicated by the state government after its rejection by the Governor, all necessary materials such as police records, judgements of the trial court, high court and the Supreme Court and all other connected documents should be called at once fixing a time limit without fail for rendering the same to the Home Ministry in one go and not in a piece-meal manner.

As a convict has a constitutional right under Article 161 to make a mercy petition to the Governor, he is entitled to be informed in writing of the decision on that mercy petition.

The rejection of the mercy petition by the Governor should forthwith be communicated to the convict and his family in writing or through some other available mode of communication.

A minimum period of 14 days was stipulated by the Supreme Court between the receipt of the communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution. This is to enable the convict to prepare himself and settle his affairs and meet his family members for one last time or to avail any judicial remedy.

As it is quite possible that some death row convicts might lose their mental balance, there should be regular mental health evaluation and appropriate medical care should be given to those in need, the Ministry said.

After the execution warrant is issued, the prison superintendent should satisfy himself on the basis of medical reports by government doctors and psychiatrists that the prisoner is in a fit physical and mental condition to be executed.

If the superintendent is of the opinion that the prisoner is not fit, he should forthwith stop the execution and produce the prisoner before a medical board for a comprehensive evaluation and shall forward the report of the same to the state government for further action.

Death row convicts should be provided with copies of relevant documents within a week of conviction by the prison authorities to assist in making mercy petition and petitioning the courts.

After the execution of death penalty, post-mortem would need to be mandatorily performed to ascertain the exact cause of death, it said.

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