Mercy petition was filed in 1999 but turned down by Pratibha Patil only in 2011

The Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence awarded to Mahendra Nath Das, whose mercy petition was rejected by the President after a 12-year delay.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadaya allowed Das’ plea for commutation on the ground of inordinate delay. He filed the petition against a judgment of the Gauhati High Court, which rejected his challenge. A fortnight ago the same Bench rejected a similar petition filed by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar on the ground that the plea could not be entertained in cases involving terrorist activities. Das contended that the delay in deciding his mercy petition and the President giving his assent to the death sentence resulted in excruciating agony and trauma for almost 12 years for no explainable reason.

Two weeks back, the same Bench rejected Bhullar’s petition, saying the case involved terrorism