No Noose for Brigand Aides as Govt Delayed Mercy Plea Call
By Kanu Sarda | Published: 22nd January 2014 07:48 AM |
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of 15 convicts to life imprisonment and held that death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding their mercy plea. Among the 15 are Pilavendran, Simon, Gnanaprakasam, and M Mathaiyan — four aides of forest brigand Veerappan.
The court ruled that a death row convict suffering from insanity and schizophrenia can’t be executed. It also overruled its own verdict in Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s case in which it had held that delay in deciding mercy plea cannot be a ground for commutation of death sentence. Death sentence in such cases can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of their mental illness, it said.
“Law does not prescribe an additional period of imprisonment in addition to the sentence of death for any such exceptional depravity involved in the offence,” the court observed in its 156-page ruling.
The judgment may have implications in various cases, including petitions filed by three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case who have challenged the President’s rejection of their mercy plea less than three years ago citing delay.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam underscored the emphasis on right to life as enshrined in the Constitution and said, “Every human being has inherent right to life and mandates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. We hold that undue long delay in execution of sentence of death will entitle the condemned prisoner to approach this Court under Article 32.”
“We are of the cogent view that undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence does certainly attribute to torture which indeed is in violation of Article 21 and thereby entails as the ground for commutation of sentence,” it said.