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Delay in execution can flip death penalty to life term: Supreme Court

DC
Published Mar 12, 2014, 10:54 pm IST
Updated Apr 8, 2019, 5:58 pm IST
‘Inordinate and inexplicable delay is ground for commuting death penalty to life sentence’
Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar is convicted over a New Delhi car bombing that killed nine people in 1993 (Photo - DC/File)
 Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar is convicted over a New Delhi car bombing that killed nine people in 1993 (Photo - DC/File)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld its ruling that undue delay is execution of death convicts can be a ground for commuting the life sentence.

According to media reports, a panel of three- judges headed by the Chief Justice of India Palanisamy Sathasivam had on January 21 commuted sentences of 15 death row convicts, ordering that the “inordinate and inexplicable delay is a ground for commuting death penalty to life sentence”.

Reportedly, a total of 15 people had challenged their death sentences on the grounds of delay because of the time taken for the president’s reply to their mercy pleas. Petitioners include notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan aides and a Haryana couple, who were awarded death sentence for killing 13 of their relatives.

The judgment is likely to affect more convicts, including Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted over a New Delhi car bombing that killed nine people in 1993 and Rajiv Gandhi's killers.

Media reported that the constitution bench has said that the president and the governor, while considering mercy petitions were not exercising any right but were discharging their constitutional responsibility and even a death row convict has a de factor right.

The court had also said that there has to be 14 days gap between the communication of rejection of mercy plea to the convict and his family members and actual execution of the death sentence as these 14 days are required for the convict to come to terms with the reality and also have the time to meet his family members for the last time.

The court had clarified that mental illness such as schizophrenia and use of solitary imprisonment could make a convict entitled for a reduced sentence.

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