Srinagar, 14 April (CNI): The Supreme Court on Thursday said prisoners on death row were taking advantage of inordinate delays in deciding mercy petitions to seek commutation of their punishment to the life sentence, thereby defeating the purpose of the death sentence.
Justice M.R. A bench of Justice Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar said that even after the final finding by the top court, an inordinate delay in deciding the mercy petition would defeat the very purpose of capital punishment.
“Therefore, the State Government and/or the concerned authorities shall make all efforts to decide and dispose of the mercy petitions expeditiously, so that the accused may also know his fate and justice may be provided to the victim,” the bench said.
The bench noted that in Jagdish Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (2020), this court directed to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment taking into consideration the delay in disposal of the mercy petition of above five years and also cited other decisions commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in disposal of the mercy petition.
The bench made the observation on a Maharashtra government’s plea against the Bombay High Court order which commuted the death sentence awarded to a woman and her sister, who between 1990 and 1996 had Kidnapped 13 children and killed nine of them in Kolhapur.
The High Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground that there was an inordinate and unexplained delay on the part of the State/Governor of the State in deciding the mercy petitions filed by the convicts and the petitions were pending for nearly seven years and ten months. Was placed.
He was sentenced to death by a trial court in 2001 for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine in Kolhapur and was confirmed by the High Court in 2004. The apex court had in 2006 upheld the High Court order.
The top court noted it appears that the high court has commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground that there was an inordinate unexplained delay on the part of the state/governor of the state in not deciding the mercy petition(s) preferred by the accused which, as such, were kept pending for about 7 years and 10 months.
The top court stressed, “We observe and direct all the states/appropriate authorities before whom the mercy petitions are to be filed and/or who are required to decide the mercy petitions against the death sentence, such mercy petitions are decided at the earliest so that the benefit of delay in not deciding the mercy petitions is not accrued to the accused.”
It further added that the accused should not get the benefit of such an inordinate delay and the accused may not take the disadvantage of such an inordinate delay. The top court directed the registry to communicate the order to all chief secretaries of all the states and union territories.(CNI)