Slated to be executed on June 24, two men who were given the death sentence in the 2007 rape and murder case of a BPO employee in Pune have moved the Bombay High Court, urging it to strike down the rejection of their mercy petitions and commute their death sentence.
In their petitions, Purushottam Borate (37) and Pradeep Kokade (30) claimed they suffered “undue and avoidable delay of 1,509 days in the execution of death sentence, solitary confinement lasting more than seven years”.
The incident occurred at around 10 pm on November 1, 2007, when the victim, who worked at a company in Pune, was picked up by an office cab for a night shift. Borate was the driver of the cab while his friend, Kokade, was also present in the vehicle. When she did not return by 10 am the next morning, the victim’s brother-in-law lodged a missing complaint with police. Police found her body the next day but were unable to establish her identity until the complaint. Borate and Kokade were then arrested.
In custody since November 2, 2007, the two have contended that of the 11.5 years they spent behind bars, they have been kept in solitary confinement in the Phansi Yard of Yerwarda Central Prison. The delay of 1,509 days, the two stated, includes 774 days in the disposal of their mercy petition when guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court state mercy petitions should be decided within 90 days.
A division bench of Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre after Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Kamat-Pai pointed out that it was yet to be served notice. The court will hear the case further on June 14.
Citing Shatrughan Chauhan vs Union of India (2014), a judgment in which the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentence of 15 convicts to life imprisonment, the two contended that as death row convicts, they have the right to challenge the rejection of their mercy petitions.
Borate’s petition states he has been “living under the shadow of the hangman’s noose with the threatx of imminent death hanging over his head for 1,509 days (4 years, 1 month, 17 days)… Such pain and torment is a punishment far worse than death. This mental agony has wreaked havoc on the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the petitioner.”
The petition adds, “The petitioner says that even after the rejection of his mercy petition, the petitioner has been living under the constant fear of death not knowing when his execution warrant would arrive. The petitioner did not know whether any given day would be his last. He was under constant threats from the prison authorities that his execution warrant was going to be issued soon. These constant threats have played havoc on the petitioner’s health. Despite asking the prison authorities about his execution warrant repeatedly, the petitioner has been kept in the dark.”
On April 21, The Indian Express had reported that the principal district and sessions judge, Pune, had on April 10 issued warrants for the execution of Borate and Kokade, authorising the Yerwada Prison authorities to carry it out on June 24.
In his endeavour to reform, Borate said he secured first class in a course on preparatory Marathi medium and participated in a programme on Gandhian thought.
The two were sentenced to death by a sessions court in March 2012. The sentence was upheld by the Bombay HC in September 2012 and subsequently by the Supreme Court in May 2015. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao had rejected their mercy petition in April 2016. The President had rejected their mercy petitions in June 2017.
The two have also urged the court to examine their incarceration record and direct prison authorities to transfer them out of solitary confinement.