New Delhi, Jan 22 IANS | 11 months ago

The Supreme Court's decision to commute the death sentences of 15 convicts was a positive step for human rights in India, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Amnesty in a statement termed the apex court's decision "historic" and also welcomed the setting down of guidelines to safeguard the rights of prisoners on death row and their families.

The apex court Tuesday commuted the death sentences of 15 prisoners on the ground of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the president. It also commuted the death sentences of two people on the ground that they suffer from mental illness.

"While acknowledging the need to strike a balance between the rights of the accused as well as the victims, this momentous decision reaffirms the rights guaranteed to death row prisoners under the Constitution of India and international law and standards," said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India.

"The verdict places a strong emphasis on the human rights of all people and should steer the country towards completely doing away with the death penalty."

The Amnesty official said the imposition of death sentences in India "disproportionately affects those with little wealth or influence".

Terming death penalty as a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights", he said the apex court's decision provides an opportunity for India to rethink its use of the death penalty.

(Posted on 22-01-2014)

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