Home ministry defends mercy plea rejection of Karnataka man

Saibanna,60,has challenged the President’s order in the High Court on grounds of a delay of seven years and eight months in processing his mercy plea.

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore | Published: March 6, 2013 12:05 am

The Ministry of Home Affairs has stated in its affidavit,filed in the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday,that in rejecting the mercy petition of death row convict Saibanna Ningappa Natikar on January 4,the President and the MHA had considered the complaint that the case was riddled with judicial errors and the Supreme Court sentence that it was “rendered in error and ignorance of law”.

Saibanna,60,has challenged the President’s order in the High Court on grounds of a delay of seven years and eight months in processing his mercy plea. The petition also stated that the letters written by 14 retired judges to the President stating Saibanna was wrongly convicted to death on April 21,2005,were not considered. The case has been posted for April 6. His execution has been stayed till then.

The MHA affidavit stated: “The petitions sent by 14 eminent retired judges of the higher judiciary pointing out that the death sentence was rendered in ignorance of law were considered by the MHA. They were also duly considered by the President along with advice made by the MHA. The President also considered judgments of various courts and the advice tendered by the Attorney General of India. Taking all facts into account,the President rejected the mercy petition.’’

The MHA stated that on October 1,2012,after the receipt of appeals by 14 judges,the “President’s secretariat sent back the file to the MHA with the request to re-examine the case”. But the MHA found no ground for disagreeing with its recommendation to reject the mercy petition.

The MHA also opposed the plea for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment due to the delay in rejecting the mercy plea. “No time frame can be set up in this regard,” it stated.

Saibanna was sentenced to death by a Gulbarga court for the murder of his second wife and one-year-old daughter in September 1994. He was then on parole for the murder of his first wife in January 1988. In this case,on February 2,1993,he had got life imprisonment.

On Saibanna’s appeal in the second case,the Division Bench of the High Court gave a split verdict for a life sentence and a death sentence before a third judge confimed the death sentence. The SC confirmed the death sentence.

But it was observed by the SC in a 2009 verdict,and by 14 former judges,that the SC’s legal reasoning for confirming Saibanna’s death sentence was flawed. The reasoning,that though his second crime amounted to a life sentence it needed to be viewed along side his first life sentence,has been deemed as flawed since the interpretation that two separate life sentence offenses equals death under the Section 303 of IPC was repealed following the 1983 Mithu Singh versus State of Punjab case.

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