SC raps Centre for delay in deciding mercy pleas

Trashing the government’s tactic to blame death row convicts for the executive delay in deciding their mercy petitions

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: February 23, 2012 3:15:41 am

Trashing the government’s tactic to blame death row convicts for the executive delay in deciding their mercy petitions,the Supreme Court Wednesday stepped in with an ultimatum to the Centre to collect details of pending mercy petitions across the country and place it on record before the court in the next three days.

The government had tried to explain that the major cause of delay was the “repeated petitions” from the condemned prisoners. But a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhyay did not buy the argument,and instead cautioned states to ignore the court’s deadline at their own risk.

“In one case,11 years went by before a decision was taken,” the Bench remarked,saying it wanted to look into what authorities have done from the date of receiving mercy petitions.

The court’s observations follow an October 19,2011,affidavit filed by the Centre justifying the delay in deciding a mercy petition. Delay,the Centre said,gives the death row convict a “lease of life” by keeping him alive.

The affidavit,which claimed to voice the “point of view of the prisoner”,said even the condemned man “likes” the delay than have his mercy plea rejected. Rejection,the affidavit says,means “immediate hanging”.

The court was hearing petitions filed by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar,a former engineering college lecturer on the death row for over 5,700 days for killing nine security personnel in a bomb blast in Delhi,and his wife. Both said the executive delay in deciding Bhullar’s mercy plea had reduced him to suffer a “slow death” in his 7×9 feet prison cell for about a decade.

Bhullar’s mercy petition,filed on January 14,2003,was rejected by the President on May 25,2011.

Bhullar’s wife,Navneet Kaur,a resident of Canada,has sought the Supreme Court to stay the President’s order until her two questions are decided: One,whether it was injustice to make a death row convict wait for so long? Two,will it be within the parameters of law to execute her husband in his current “mentally retarded” condition.

She said the delay was a “dehumanising act”. Her husband had waited for more than 5,700 days without a word on his mercy petition.

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