The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence awarded to a man convicted of murder to life imprisonment on the grounds that the office of the President had taken too long to reject the mercy petition filed by the convict.
A Bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi allowed the petition filed by Das hailing from Assam. The death row prisoner MN Das had killed a man in his State in the year 1990. Six years later, when he was on bail, hebeheaded another person Harakanta Das and surrendered with the head of the victim on April 24, 1996.
The local Sessions Court had in the year 1997, sentenced him to death. The High Court, in the year 1998 and later, the Supreme Court in the year 1999, upheld his conviction and sentence.
Das filed a mercy petition in the year 1999. This remained pending for 11 years before the then President Pratibha Patil rejected it in 2011.
Over this, Das filed a writ petition in the apex court seeking commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment contending among other things that he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition seeking Presidential pardon.
Das’ advocate, like those of other death row prisoners, used the phrase “Delay is worse than death.”
It may be recalled that on April 11, the apex court had turned down the same argument in the case of Punjab militant Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who was convicted for a bomb blast in Delhi in 1993. Nine people were killed in the blast. Bhullar’s plea to have his sentence commuted was turned down by the President after eight years.