In a rare instance, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday commuted the death sentence of a murder convict, whose mercy plea had been rejected by the President. A division bench of Justices S K Mittal and H S Sidhu allowed the petition of Dharampal, a resident of Sonipat, on the grounds that the President had taken “13 years and five months” to decide his mercy plea. A detailed judgement is yet to be made available.
The Sonipat resident had been convicted of rape before he murdered the girl’s family. His rape charge was, however, set aside by the Punjab and Haryana High court in 2003, some 12 years after he had been convicted.
Dharampal had initially been sentenced to 10 years after being found guilty of rape in January 1991. He, however, came out on parole and on June 4, 1993, murdered the victim’s family — her father, mother and two brothers. The girl and her husband escaped as they were not there. Dharampal’s brother, Nirmal, was a co-accused in the murder case; both were convicted by a sessions court in Sonipat on May 5, 1997, and sentenced to death. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had on September 29, 1998, upheld their conviction. The Supreme Court while maintaining Dharampal’s death sentence, converted Nirmal’s death penalty to life imprisonment.
On November 2, 1999, Dharampal moved a mercy petition before the President, which was rejected on March 28, 2013. Dharampal’s counsel, Navkiran Singh, however said the President was not informed about the high court’s decision, in 2003, to set aside Dharampal’s conviction on the charge of rape.