Don’t delay decision on mercy pleas in turn benefiting convicts: SC

The court says the “object and purpose of the death sentence would be frustrated in case of any inordinate delay in deciding mercy petitions”

Published - April 14, 2023 09:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court has directed States and other authorities not to delay their decision on mercy petitions filed by death row convicts to avoid the condemned persons from gaining any advantage or benefit from the hold-up.

“We observe and direct all the States/appropriate authorities before whom the mercy petitions are to be filed and/or who are required to decide the mercy petitions against the death sentence, such mercy petitions are decided at the earliest so that the benefit of delay in not deciding the mercy petitions is not accrued to the accused and the accused are not benefited by such an inordinate delay and the accused may not take the advantage of such inordinate delay,” a Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah directed in an order passed on April 13 and published on Friday.

The order was based on an appeal by the State of Maharashtra against a Bombay High Court decision to commute the death penalty of Renuka Shinde to life sentence after her mercy plea was kept pending with the Governor for seven years and 10 months for “unexplained” reasons. The Bench did not interfere with the High Court’s decision to commute the death penalty but ordered that the woman should serve her sentence for the entirety of her natural life without remission.

Sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit were sentenced to death by a Kolhapur court for kidnapping 14 children and killing five of them between 1990 and 1996.

In its order, the Bench referred to apex court judgments which showed that inordinate delay in deciding mercy petitions would work in favour of the convict.

Valid ground

The court said unexplained and prolonged delay in deciding mercy pleas was a valid ground to commute the death penalty into life imprisonment.

The court said the “object and purpose of the death sentence would be frustrated in case of any inordinate delay in deciding mercy petitions”.

Mercy petitions should be decided at the “earliest” so that “the accused knows his or her fate and justice is done to the victim”.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.