Praveen Kumar, now 55, of Mangalore was convicted of murdering four of his relatives for their jewellery to repay a gambling debt. He murdered his aunt, her two children and a grandchild with an axe at Vamanjoor in Mangalore in February 1994, which he spent at the aunt’s home. He believed the family had received jewellery following his uncle’s visit from abroad.
He was arrested a few days later with the ornaments. About a year later, he escaped while being moved between prisons and started a new life in Goa under a new identity, where he married and had a child. His aunt’s family put up a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head; four more years later, he was outed by an informant.
A trial court’s death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2003. On April 4, 2013, the President rejected his mercy plea.
Shivu Munishetty, 31, and Jadeswamy Rangashetty, 25, of Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district, were convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of an 18-year-old and sentenced to death on October 15, 2001. The Supreme Court upheld that in February 2007. They got a brief reprieve in August 2013 after they moved the Supreme Court questioning the delay in the President’s decision to turn down their mercy plea. The court stayed the execution.
On Tuesday, the day his sentence was commuted, Suresh underwent a cataract surgery at Naini central jail in Allahabad.
Suresh, 60, and Ramji Chauhan, 45, hail from Varanasi. They are brothers-in-law, Suresh having married Ramji’s sister. Suresh was involved in a property dispute with his elder brother Ramesh. In October 1996, he and Ramji killed Ramesh, his wife and their three children with a knife and an axe in their home.
The trial court in Varanasi awarded them death in December 1997. The Supreme Court upheld it in 2001. Suresh sent a mercy petition to the governor and the president on March 9, 2001, while Ramji did so on April 30 that year. Their mercy petitions were rejected last year. This wait of nearly 12 years is the ground for the commutation.
“There is no dispute that these petitioners killed five members of their family — two adults and three children — over a property dispute. It is a heinous crime,” Tuesday’s order reads, then adds, “We hold that in the absence of proper, plausible and acceptable reasons… the delay of 12 years in considering the mercy petitions is a relevant ground for the commutation to life imprisonment.”