New ray of hope for death row convicts, SC allows fresh plea for open court hearing

A plea against death sentence will now be heard by a three-judge bench in open court.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: July 29, 2015 6:21 pm
A plea against death sentence will now be heard by a three-judge bench in open court. A plea against death sentence will now be heard by a three-judge bench in open court.

Giving a fresh ray of hope for several death-row convicts, including 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case convict Yakub Abdul Razak Memon , the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that their review petitions against the verdict upholding the death sentence will now be heard by a three-judge bench in open court.

A Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said that all the death row convicts, whose review petitions have already been rejected but their sentence has not been executed, may file fresh petitions for an open court hearing of their review pleas within a month and they will be heard for at least half-an-hour.

However, in the cases, where the curative petition has already been decided, the death row convict will not have this opportunity to avail the same.

The constitution bench verdict came on a batch of petitions seeking that their plea for the recall of verdict upholding their death sentence should be heard in the open court by a three judges bench.

As of now the review plea of death row convicts were being considered by the judges in their chambers through circulation.

By its order, the court decided a batch of petitions, filed by eight death-row convicts, including Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, and Red Fort Attack case convict Mohd Arif. While Arif’s curative petition has already been rejected, Memon has not exhausted this remedy.

The court had in June stayed the execution of Memon, who is the brother of Ibrahim Memon, better known as Tiger Memon, the alleged mastermind and the prime accused who is absconding in the blast case.

President Pranab Mukherjee had in April rejected the mercy petition of Memon and the decision was left to the Maharashtra government for fixing the execution date.

Memon is lodged in the high-security ward of Nagpur jail. In March last year, the SC had confirmed the death sentence awarded to Memon, holding him guilty of being the “driving spirit” behind the blasts that killed 257 people, while commuting the death sentence awarded to 10 others to life imprisonment till their death. The court had said that Memon’s “commanding position and the crime of utmost gravity” warranted capital punishment. Memon then moved a clemency petition before the President in October last year.

A chartered accountant by profession, Memon was arrested in 1994. Gangster Dawood Ibrahim is also an accused in the case. The government had recommended rejection of Memon’s mercy petition on the ground that it was an act of terrorism and did not qualify for pardon.

While staying his execution, the court had tagged his plea with a petition by Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Mohd Arif alias Ashfaq, who was convicted in the 2000 Red Fort attack case, in which three people, including two Army personnel, were killed.

Ashfaq’s petition was referred to the Constitution bench to decide if the review of death penalty cases warranted open court hearings.

Others whose appeals against execution of death penalty have been decided include three convicts in the 2000 Dharampuri bus burning incident, a former police constable held guilty in a grotesque rape and murder case, and two other convicts in murder cases.

These cases were decided along with the appeal by three AIADMK workers involved in burning to death three college girls in Tamil Nadu in 2000 after J Jayalalithaa’s conviction in a corruption case. The SC had in 2011 stayed execution of capital punishment upheld by it for convicts C Muniappan, Ravindran and Nedunchezhian.

It had also stayed the execution of death sentence of former police constable Umesh Reddy, alias B A Umesh, who was convicted of the gruesome rape and murder of a widow in Bangalore in 1998.

Sentenced to death for kidnapping a seven-year-old boy and murdering the child after his ransom demand of five lakhs was not met in 2009, Sundarrajan’s plea was also adjudicated in this bunch of petitions.

Sonu Sardar was sentenced to death for killing five members of a family in Chhattisgarh in 2004 and his mercy petition was rejected by the President in April. He had also moved the SC, seeking stay on his execution and the court heard his case too. All those whose curative petitions have not been dismisses may move the court again.

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First Published on: September 2, 2014 11:26 am
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    ANIL P.
    Sep 2, 2014 at 6:55 am
    It is bad law to review the decision of The President of India. The death sentenses were awarded to the covicts after exhausting all legal avenues. Supreme court judges were appointed by The President and are not above the President as supervising authority to evaluate his decisions. Whatever decisions, conditions laws , reviews etc should be done with before sending the peion to The President.
    Reply
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      Shankarachar Basavaraj
      Sep 2, 2014 at 8:15 am
      Yes. I too agree. There is no suo-motto reviews on the decisions already given by SC.
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        MK Vyas
        Sep 2, 2014 at 11:45 am
        It is only reviews and reviews. Punishments doesn't take place. Even President's orders are reviewed. Supreme Court is really supreme in our country.
        Reply
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          bangalorean
          Sep 2, 2014 at 7:50 am
          I fully agree with you. Having taken a final decision to review again is a mockery of judiciary by SC judges.
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            bangalorean
            Sep 2, 2014 at 7:49 am
            It is most surprising as to why should SC should review its own verdict. SC must review its own policies. WE WILL HAVE ANY TRUST FOR SC DECISION IF SUCH REVIEWS OF THEIR VERDICT ARE AGAIN TAKEN FOR REVIEW. I feel there is something is wrong here in SC JUDICIARY. Is there any politics is playing or some other vicious circle has engulfed SC corridors ! Anyhow the present decision of SC to review its own decision is a MOCKERY OF JUDICIARY IN OUR COUNTRY and i feel the CJ of SC must be told to act as per his first Verdict or else the Central government must direct SC to adhere to strict policies of SC decisions. SC judges cannot take decision as they like !
            Reply
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              Sparrow
              Sep 2, 2014 at 4:09 pm
              You missed the point. President order is being reviewed for lot of reasons:First and foremost "Was the mercy rejected by the Cabinet or was taken by the Ministry itself"? Mercy should be rejected by the Cabinet not by individual ministers.Secondly, how long this Mercy peion was with the President? Was this lying there for years and years without no delay on the part of the convict? If so, the convict's death penalty should be reduced.Thirdly, did President acted according to the Cabinet recommendation?SC is the SUPREME court of this country, any actions by any individuals will be reviewed.
              Reply
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