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Inordinate & Unexplained Delay In Deciding Mercy Petition: SC Commutes Death Sentence [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
21 Feb 2019 2:10 PM GMT
Inordinate & Unexplained Delay In Deciding Mercy Petition: SC Commutes Death Sentence [Read Judgment]
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"Every dawn will give rise to a new hope that his mercy petition may be accepted. By night fall this hope also dies."

The Supreme Court has commuted death sentence awarded to a man convicted for murder of his wife and five children, mainly on the ground of inordinate and unexplained delay in deciding the mercy petition. In September 2009, the Apex Court had upheld the death sentence awarded to Jagdish. He filed mercy petition in October 2009, which was rejected by the President of India...

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The Supreme Court has commuted death sentence awarded to a man convicted for murder of his wife and five children, mainly on the ground of inordinate and unexplained delay in deciding the mercy petition. 

In September 2009, the Apex Court had upheld the death sentence awarded to Jagdish. He filed mercy petition in October 2009, which was rejected by the President of India on 16.07.2014. Thereafter he filed Writ petition (and also a review petition) challenging the rejection of his mercy petition on the ground that there was a delay of almost 5 years in deciding the mercy petition.

The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Indira Banerjee referred to judgments in V. Sriharan alias Murugan vs. Union of India and Kumar Pal vs. Union of India, in which the death penalty awarded to petitioners therein were commuted on the ground of delay in deciding mercy petitions. In Jagdish's case, the bench noted that application which was filed by him in 2009 was forwarded by the Madhya Pradesh authorities to the Ministry of Home Affairs after more than 4 years on 15.10.2013. The State of Madhya Pradesh has given no explanation for the delay of more than 4 years in forwarding the mercy petition, the bench observed. The court also said that the State did not even care to file any counter affidavit in the Writ Petition even though notice was issued 4 years back. The bench said:

"The delay in forwarding the petition is totally unexplained and this Court cannot countenance an unexplained delay of more than 4 years. We are dealing here with the case of a person who has been sentenced to death. The mercy petition is the last hope of a person on death row. Every dawn will give rise to a new hope that his mercy petition may be accepted. By night fall this hope also dies. Inordinate and unexplained delay in deciding the mercy petition and the consequent delay in execution of death sentence for years on end is another form of punishment which was awarded by the Court. This Court has repeatedly held that in cases where death sentence has to be executed the same should be done as early as possible and if mercy petitions are not forwarded for 4 years and no explanation is submitted we cannot but hold that the delay is inordinate and un-explained."

The court also observed that the fact that he has now been behind bars for almost about 14 years, is also a factor which will have to be taken into consideration. Commuting the death sentence the bench said:

"Keeping in view all the circumstances of the case, including the unexplained delay of 4 years in forwarding the mercy petition by the State of Madhya Pradesh leading to delay of almost 5 years in deciding the mercy petition and the fact that the petitioner has been incarcerated for almost 14 years, we are of view that regardless of the brutal nature of crime this is not a fit case where death sentence should be executed and we, accordingly commute the death sentence to that of life."

In view of the gravity of the crime, the bench put a rider that the life imprisonment in this case shall mean the entire remaining life of the petitioner and he shall not be released till his death.

Read Judgment



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