This has reference to the editorial “Doubly abhorrent” (Sept. 25). That the mercy petitions submitted more than a decade ago are yet to be answered shows the lethargic attitude of our executive wing. Though death sentence is given in the rarest of rare cases, the best way of punishing a criminal is to make him realise his crime and reform him/her to be a better human being. Merely releasing prisoners on the birth anniversaries of leaders will do good neither to them nor to society.
The editorial forcefully enunciates the jurisprudential principle which admonishes against punishing any one for the same offence more than once. Hanging the mercy petitions of convicts for unduly long period is more traumatic than hanging them to death. The Supreme Court is quite right in suggesting that those on death row for a long period could seek commutation to life. Unfortunately in India, the uncertainty over the fate of death convicts is mainly due to the desire to further “some larger political or governmental policy.”
It is appropriate that governments take expeditious decisions on condemned prisoners on death row. The plea that the government is guided by the principle of order of precedence in the waiting list is not convincing especially in respect of such prisoners languishing in solitary cells over decades. Mohd. Afzal awarded the death penalty in 2005 is yet to be hanged. This case was widely discussed on the eve of the last parliamentary elections with some opposition parties promising to execute him if voted to power. Right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution is paramount.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the death sentence should be awarded in the rarest of the rare cases. It is a matter of astonishment that till this day the case of assassins of Rajiv Gandhi has not been decided. Mercy petitions are politically motivated. A committee consisting of eminent jurists and social workers may be constituted to advise the governments on them. They may be disposed of within one or two years failing which the death sentence should be deemed to have been converted into life imprisonment; or the convict may be released on parole.
B. Vishwanatha Rao,