Advocates, relatives not allowed to meet death row convicts
The direction of the Chief Justice of India, Altamas Kabir, on Saturday to list the writ petition of Simon, Gnanaprakash, Meesakara Madaiah and Bilavendra, associates of slain forest brigand Veerappan, has been received with mixed emotions of hope and anxiety by people at the Hindalga Central Prison here on Sunday. The four were awarded death penalty in connection with the killing of 22 persons in Palar mining blast in 1993.
The direction of the Chief Justice to list for hearing the petition submitted at his residence at New Delhi by Senior Counsel Colin Gonzalves while appearing for advocate Shamik Narain on behalf of the four convicts on death row at the jail here since 2004 is being viewed by some as providing temporary relief, which is in sharp contrast to the apprehensions that all the four were to be taken to the gallows on Sunday or during the next one or two days.
Yet, the air of anxiety remained with the jail authorities not allowing any advocate or any other individual or relative to meet the convicts.
Plea turned down
Advocate Shanti Fonseca from Goa, who volunteered to fight for the convicts, could not get the signatures of the four convicts. Her efforts to get their signatures went in vain because DIG and Chief Superintendent of the jail G. Veerabhadra Swamy turned down her request. Her request that at least one of the jail staff can be sent to get the signatures of the convicts on the vakalatnama if they could not allow her to meet them, was also turned down. A relative of Bilavendra was also not allowed to meet him on Saturday.
“I am sorry, no comments,” said Mr. Swamy. He reacted in the same way when presspersons asked him to clear the air of confusion and rumours surrounding preparations for execution of the four convicts.
Leaves for New Delhi
Disappointed for not being allowed to meet the convicts, advocate Shanti Fonseca left Belgaum for New Delhi so that she can file a writ petition in the Supreme Court on Monday. Before leaving, she told presspersons that several people, including senior members in the judiciary, felt that the President had possibly erred in rejecting the mercy plea of the convicts who had been incarcerated in the jail for over two decades. They had submitted the mercy petition to the President on February 12, 2004 seeking commutation of death penalty to life imprisonment. But, their petition was rejected after nine years.
“It is a matter of human rights that no person can be kept in custody for such a long time and executed 10 years after their mercy petition is placed before the country’s highest appellate authority. Judgments are on record that if there is a wide time period between the placing of the mercy petition and its dismissal, the death penalty is to be converted into life sentence,” she said.
‘In good health’
Meanwhile, a senior official of the jail confirmed to presspersons that all the four convicts were in good health. “They are in perfect health and have not shown any signs of fear or anxiety.” The jail doctor Vasant Yamkanmardi examined them on Saturday, he said.
According to him, the four convicts have been informed about the rejection of their mercy petition.
However, sources in the prison said the gallows at the jail was being readied to carry out the executions, as and when they get orders from the court.
There are 56 others on death row at this jail, including two women convicts.