President Pranab Mukherjee rejected on March 6 mercy petitions from two death-row convicts, Mofil Khan and Mobarak Khan. The information about the rejection, however, was quietly uploaded on the website of the President’s secretariat, three months after the decision, catching the media unawares.
Sources said that although the two prisoners were promptly informed about the rejection in March, the inordinate delay in uploading the information on the President’s website may have to do with President’s discomfort with the negative publicity in the media about his record number of rejection of mercy petitions from death-row convicts.
The criminal appeals of the two convicts, Mofil Khan and Mobarak Khan, were dismissed by the Supreme Court on October 9, 2014.
The convicts were found guilty of killing eight members of their own family at village Makandu, in Jharkhand, in 2007. The genesis of the incident has been traced to a property dispute between the convicts and the deceased. The deceased included the convicts’ brother, his wife, and children.
As the victims included a child of five years and a handicapped boy of 18 years, the trial court had imposed death sentence on four of the accused. Of these, the two accused, Saddam Khan and Wakil Khan were of 19 and 21 years of age respectively.
The Jharkhand High Court commuted the death sentences of Saddam Khan and Wakil Khan to life imprisonment, on the ground that it was not clear whether they inflicted injuries on the deceased, though they were certainly sharing common intention to commit murder. The High Court, however, confirmed the death sentences of the remaining two convicts.
The review petitions filed by the two convicts against the Supreme Court’s dismissal of their appeals are to be heard by a three-Judge bench on July 7.
Before the Supreme Court, it was argued in 2014 by the amicus curiae, Bimal Roy Jad, appearing for the appellants that they had no criminal antecedents, and that they were not hardened criminals. Possibility of reformation of the convicts, especially when they have a considerable life-span ahead, was cited as another factor in favour of a lesser sentence.
The Supreme Court bench comprising the then Chief Justice, HL Dattu, and Justices R.K.Agrawal and Arun Mishra, however, rejected the argument saying the manner of the commission of crime, the diabolic murder of the young and innocent children of deceased for property and choice of the day of commission of crime by the appellants belittles possibility of reform of the convicts.
Observers find the Supreme Court’s reasoning in rejecting the possibility of reform of the two convicts specious, especially because the High Court had found similar argument advanced in favour of commutation of death sentences of Saddam Khan and Wakil Khan, valid.
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