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and the Supreme Court upheld the capital punishment in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Subsequently, Das’ family moved a mercy petition to the then President, K. R Narayanan, in 1999. The plea was finally turned down in May 2011 by the former President, Pratibha Patil.

The High Court on September 8, 2011 dismissed a writ petition filed by Kusumbala Das for commuting her son’s death sentence, holding that she had no locus standi to file it on his behalf.

Then, Das moved the Supreme Court pleading that he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition for presidential clemency.

‘Step in right direction’

The Asian Centre for Human Rights welcomed the Supreme Court’s order commuting Das’ death sentence. He had been on death row for the last 16 years and the long delay in deciding his mercy plea was considered a ground for commuting the death sentence, it said.

The judgment “is a step in the right direction for eventual abolition of the death penalty. It recognises that life imprisonment remains an equally efficacious form of justice and the death penalty is not the only form of justice,” said ACHR Director Suhas Chakma.