The Supreme Court has stayed the execution of death sentence awarded to a court-martialed Army Man on his wife plea that he has been languishing in jail without parole for 27 years.
Lance Naik Devendra Nath Rai was sentenced to death in court-martial proceedings, finding him guilty of the murder of two Army personnel and for attempting murder of two others. After the Central Government confirmed the order, he moved the Allahabad High Court which did not interfere in the conviction but set aside death penalty holding that the case did not fall in the category of rarest of rare cases.
The Union Government and the Army chief moved the Supreme Court, which remitted the case back to the high court, observing that, while deciding the question as to whether the extreme penalty of death sentence is to be awarded, a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances has to be drawn up, and that the high court has not done that exercise.
After the case got remitted back to the high court in 2006, it got dismissed for non-prosecution. Although he filed restoration plea, nothing transpired in the high court, as the files went missing. In 2013, the high court, after it traced the files, transferred the case to the Armed Force Tribunal (AFT) to decide the case of Rai by scrutinising the 1991 findings arrived at by the General Court Martial (GCM). The tribunal also dismissed the case for non-prosecution in 2015.
As per reports, the Army man’s wife had prayed before the apex court to quash the 1991 order of death sentence passed by the General Court Martial. She has also sought his release after awarding the jail term already undergone by him.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, staying the execution, has issued a notice to the Union Government and the Army chief.