Lawyers welcome SC decision to commute death sentence of 15 convicts
Lawyers welcomed Supreme Court's judgment commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment of 15 death-row convicts on the grounds of inordinate delay and mental illness, saying the order upholds the fundamental rights of death row convicts.
Senior lawyer Majeed Memon said, "Today's decision of the Supreme Court is indeed an important decision as it goes to the roots of the delay in our criminal justice system. If a person is sentenced to death penalty by the Supreme Court, then it should only mean death penalty."
Memon said there are many cases in which people who are given death penalty have been locked in the solitary confinement for years."This would mean that the person has also suffered years of rigorous imprisonment in addition to death penalty," he added.
"The SC viewed this from the humanitarian angle. The law had given these prisoners death penalty. It doesn't mean that they will be placed in solitary confinement for years, and are then given death penalty. This is a violation of due process of the law," he said.
Another senior lawyer Abha Singh also welcomed the Supreme Court's decision saying the mercy petitions of many of these prisoners used to lie with the President for years.
"SC observed that it is inhuman to keep prisoners under solitary confinement after death penalty and if someone has mental illness, then that person will not be awarded death penalty. This decision upholds the fundamental right of 'Right to Life' of these convicts," said Singh.
"The SC also observed that the families of these convicts also suffer as they keep on waiting for the fate of their loved ones," she added.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court commuted the sentences of 15 death convicts to life imprisonment, due to delays in their execution.
The death penalty of 13 condemned prisoners has been commuted to life because of delay on part of President to decide their mercy pleas.
The other two were given life sentence after it was revealed that the imprisonment while awaiting their sentence had turned them mentally ill.
The judgement will impact 414 death row convicts who remained in various prisons at the end of 2012.
The maximum number of death row convicts at the end of 2012 was in Uttar Pradesh with 106 followed by Karnataka (63); Maharashtra (51); Bihar (42); Delhi (27); Gujarat (19); Punjab (16); Kerala (14); Tamil Nadu (12); while Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh each had 10 death row convicts.
Out of 414 death row convicts, 13 were female. Maharashtra had maximum female death row convicts with five followed by Delhi (four); Punjab (two); and one each in Haryana and Karnataka.
The Supreme Court further said a minimum of 14-day gap is required between the information given to condemned prisoner about rejection of mercy plea, and the actual execution date.
(Posted on 21-01-2014)