Ina a landmark move, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of 15 death row convicts on grounds of delay in deciding their mercy plea and mental illness.
The death penalty of 13 condemned prisoners has been commuted to life on the ground of inordinate delay on part of President to decide their mercy pleas. The other two were given life sentence on finding that long years in death row had turned them mentally ill.
Supreme Court said that there cannot be any distinction whether a person on death row was convicted on charges of terror or otherwise in entertaining their petition challenging the rejection of their mercy petition on grounds of inordinate, unexplained and unreasonable delay by the president.
The apex court constitution bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said that 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 right.
Saying so, the court said that it did not agree with the decision of its another bench which declined to give relief to Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar on the grounds of inordinate delay in the execution of his mercy petition as he was convicted for committing terror.
In another landmark decision that will ensure that there was no repeat of Afzal Guru like execution, the court 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 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.