SC commutes death penalty to life term for Veerappan’s aides
Belgaum: Seven convicts who were on death row in Belgaum’s Hindalga Central Prison were given a reprieve by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The petitions for clemency they had submitted to the President of India had been rejected, but the Supreme Court has reduced the sentence to life imprisonment because of delay in executing the sentences.
Four of the convicts were associates of the sandalwood smuggler and criminal Veerappan and were sentenced to death for killing 22 police personnel in a bomb attack.
According to official sources, the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence on an earlier occasion. The four Veerappan associates, Gyanprakash, Meesekar Madaiah, Bhilwendra and Simon, were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2004, after they had appealed against the life sentence awarded to them by the special TADA court of Mysore in 2001.
The four men were brought to Hindalga prison in February 2004. The state government had made preparations to hang them following the rejection of their clemency petition.
But their lawyers were able to get a stay on their hanging.
The hanging was put off when the Supreme Court questioned the delay of the government in sending the four to the gallows even after their clemency petition was rejected.
State governments usually order the hanging immediately after the President rejects the clemency petition, but in this case the government did not do so.
Two others who got a reprieve from the Supreme Court are Shivu Munishetty and Jadeswamy Rangashetty, who were convicted for brutally raping and killing a teenaged girl in 2001. They were to be hung on August 22, 2013 after the President rejected their petition.
The seventh convict to be saved from the gallows is Praveen Kumar, who was involved in a mass killing. All three had their sentences commuted to life because the State government had delayed the execution.
Next: They fought death row cases for free
They fought death row cases for free
Bala Chauhan |?DC
Bangalore: Behind the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement on Tuesday, which commuted death sentences of 15 convicts (seven are from Karnataka) to life imprisonment, was a cluster of lawyers, including India’s top notch ones, and Byatha N. Jagadeesha — a young human rights advocate from Bengaluru, who fought the case of the condemned convicts and gave them a new lease of life, pro bono.
Jagadeesha, who is known for taking up the cause of poor and indigent prisoners in the courts, had represented the four aides of the late forest brigand Veerappan — Meesekar Madaiah, Gnanaprakash, Simon and Bilavendran and three other condemned convicts —Praveen Kumar Sappaliga from Puttur, Shibu and Jadeswamy from Chamrajnagar after their mercy petitions were rejected by the President last year.
“We are a group of lawyers from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, who had filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court challenging death penalty after the President rejected the mercy petitions of death row convicts, because we believe that life is precious and that death sentence is not a deterrent to crime,”said Jagdeesha.
“We don’t condone their crimes, but there is no statistics to prove that death sentence has brought down the crime rate. Many others are sick and have become old. How would the State benefit by executing them? We had engaged top lawyers like Ram Jethmalani, Colin Gonsalves, Anand Grover, Basant and Sundaram, who fought the case pro bono,” he added.
“None of us have charged a single penny from our clients because they are the poorest of the poor and have been languishing in the prison for years. One of them – Sundar Singh from Uttaranchal became mentally ill after being convicted,” added the young lawyer-cum-activist.