The Centre on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its January 21 verdict, which held that undue delay by the government in deciding a mercy plea can be a ground to commute the death sentence of a convict.
The Centre, in its review, submitted that the court’s judgment in which 15 prisoners were granted life is patently illegal and suffers from errors.
“Inordinate and unreasonable delay attribute to torture. Whether the convict is a terrorist or an ordinary criminal, delay is a ground for commutation of death sentence,” the court had said in its ruling and accepted that prolonged imprisonment of a convict awaiting execution amounts to cruelty and violates the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court’s verdict was based on an appeal by four members of the gang led by erstwhile sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
In February, the court commuted the death sentence of three men convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to life in prison, rejecting the government’s view that an 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petition was not agony for them.
The review said that such an important issue should have been heard by a Constitution Bench and the judgment passed by a three-judge Bench was without jurisdiction.
“It is respectfully submitted that the impugned judgment is patently illegal, suffers from errors apparent on the face of the record and flies in the face of well-established principles of law laid down by this Court and contained in the Constitution and other statutes,” said the review petition.
“It is submitted that in the present case, the issue raised was that of commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 (right to life) in favour of the convicts.”