The India Supreme Court recently upheld a ruling that inordinate delay in execution of death convicts can be a ground for commuting the sentence to life, according to the Hindustan Times.
A three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice of India Palanisamy Sathasivam
had on January 21 commuted sentences of 15 death row convicts, ruling that the
"inordinate and inexplicable delay is a ground for commuting death penalty to
Human rights lawyers hailed a decision which puts strict new conditions on
carrying out the death penalty, and could dramatically reduce its use.
A total of 15 people had challenged their death sentences on the grounds of
delay due to the time taken for the president to answer their mercy petitions.
Petitioners include notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan aides--- Meesekar
Madaiah, Gnanaprakash, Simon and Bilavendran--- and Haryana couple Sonia and
Sanjiv who were sentenced to death for killing 13 of their relatives.
The judgment is expected to affect more convicts, including Devinder Pal
Singh Bhullar from Punjab, who was convicted over a New Delhi car bombing that
killed nine people in 1993, and Rajiv Gandhi's assassins Murugan, Arivu and
The court had also said that there cannot be any distinction whether a person
on death row was convicted on charges of terror or otherwise in entertaining
The constitution bench said the president and the governor, while deciding
mercy petitions were not exercising any prerogative but were discharging their
constitutional obligation and even a death row convict has a de factor
In another landmark decision that will ensure that there was no repeat of the
Afzal Guru like execution, the court had said that there has to be 14 days gap
between the communication of rejection of mercy petition to the convict and his
family members and actual execution of the death sentence.
The court had said these 14 days are necessary for the convict to come to
terms with the reality, to make peace with God, to execute his will and also
have the opportunity to meet his family members for the last time.
The court had clarified that delays needed to be "inordinate" and
"inexplicable", but it also said that mental illness such as schizophrenia and
the use of solitary confinement could make a convict eligible for a reduced
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