The Punjab and Haryana High Court has declined to entertain the appeals for clemency by two death row inmates who earlier before a single bench had unsuccessfully contended that they deserve the relief as the there was an alleged delay in disposal of their mercy petitions and on the ground of their long period of incarceration.
A 16-year-old boy Abhi Verma alias Harry, a student of DAV School Hoshiarpur, was kidnapped in February 2005 and a ransom call for Rs 50 lakh for his release was received. Harry was found dead the next day and three accused Vikram Singh, Jasvir Singh and Jasvir’s wife Sonia were arrested. They were awarded death sentence in 2006.
The High Court confirmed the death sentences in 2008 but the Supreme Court in 2010 commuted Sonia’s sentence to life while upholding the death penalty awarded to Vikram and Jasvir. In 2015, their mercy petitions were rejected by Punjab Governor and the same were also rejected by the President of India in 2016. A single bench on July 26 had dismissed the writ petitions seeking setting aside of the death penalty and subsequent orders confirming it.
The division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli after hearing the Letters Patent Appeal (LPA) against the single bench’s decision said, “On an application of the principles set out by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Ram Kishan Fauji, where the main relief claimed in the petition is in respect of commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment, merely because orders rejecting the mercy petition by the Hon’ble Governor and the Hon’ble President of India are also under challenge, will not convert it into civil proceeding, as invocation of jurisdiction by the appellant/petitioner was that of criminal jurisdiction of this court”.
The single bench verdict pronounced last month held that even if there is some delay in executing the judgments or orders of the competent courts, the same cannot negate the consequences of the trial. “The court feels that it is under obligation not only to protect the rights of the petitioners alone but is under bounden duty to protect the rights of all, particularly the victim,” Justice Jitendra Chauhan had said in the verdict on July 26.
The single bench had further ruled that there is no time limit prescribed for the Executive to decide the mercy petition preferred by a condemned prisoner and nor is there any straitjacket formula to determine the delay in such cases and each case has to be considered in the light of own facts and circumstances.
“All the three accused committed offence of murder in a pre-planned manner by injecting chloroform and fortwin in heavy doses to the victim after tying both his hands and legs and sealing his mouth with a tape to prevent the detection of offence; all the three remained closely associated with the pre-planning till recovery of the dead body of the helpless child, whose life was put to an end on coming to know that the police has been contacted and that the petitioners would not be able to obtain the ransom amount,” the order of the single bench read.
With the dismissal of LPA by the division bench for it not being maintainable, the convicts can now only approach Supreme Court against the single bench decision with their prayers, which include mandamus for commutation of death sentence to life, setting aside the order of Governor and communication of rejection of mercy petition by the President and quashing of the death warrants already issued by the Sessions Judge on September 26, 2016.