In an interim relief for rape convict Dharampal,the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday stayed his execution till April 10. This came a day after Haryana DGP (Prison) Sharad Kumar said that Dharampal would be executed on April 15 in Ambala jail,where he has been shifted from Rohtak.
Though jail authorities had said that Dharampal would be hanged on April 15,apprehending an early hanging,his counsel Advocate Navkiran Singh on Saturday moved the high court. Saturday being a holiday,a special request was made before the Chief Justice,who asked two high court judges to hold a special division bench.
During the hearing,Singh referred to a Supreme Court judgment,which had held that a condemned prisoner has the right to demand commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment if there has been a substantial delay in adjudication of his mercy petition.
Singh added that if the competent authority,the President,causes delay in deciding the mercy petition of a convict,the latter should not be harassed further and should be given life imprisonment. The delay,he added,is counted from the day the Supreme Court dismisses the appeal of a convict and orders his hanging. In Dharampals case,his hanging was upheld 14 years ago.
Following this,the court asked the DGP (Prisons) to respond to Dharampals petition by April 10.
In 1991,Dharampal was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment for raping a girl in Sonepat. After his release on parole in 1993,Dharampal along with his brother,Nirmal,murdered the girl,her father,mother and two brothers when they were sleeping at their house.
Dharmapal and Nirmal were sentenced to death by a Sessions Court on May 5,1997 and it was retained by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 29,1998. However,the Supreme Court converted Nirmals death penalty to life imprisonment but Dharampals death sentence was retained.
His mercy petition was rejected by the Union Home Minister in 2000. Later,Dharampal filed a mercy plea to the President in 2005,which was rejected on after about eight years.
Navkiran also referred to a case filed by terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar,who had moved the Supreme Court demanding that his death sentence be converted to life since there has been delay in adjudication of his mercy petition. The case stands reserved for final orders by the Supreme Court.
The lawyer further referred to a case in which death sentence of four convicts aides of Veerapan,the sandalwood smuggler was stayed by the Supreme Court while awaiting decision of Bhullars case.