Larger bench of SC hears pleas of death row convicts

Mercy pleasA three-judge bench started hearing on 13 petitions filed by convicts whose execution of sentence was stayed by the apex court. (PTI)

The Supreme Court today commenced hearing on a batch of petitions filed by condemned prisoners seeking commutation of their death sentence into life imprisonment on account of delay in carrying out the execution following dismissal of their mercy petitions by the President.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam started hearing on 13 petitions filed by convicts whose execution of sentence was stayed by the apex court.

The bench, also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, asked the states to provide detailed information pertaining to the cases for which mercy pleas were filed and subsequently rejected.

It also sought specific information on whether the decisions of rejection of the mercy pleas were communicated to the condemned prisoners and their family members or not.

Senior advocate and human right lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who commenced the arguments, submitted that authorities have not followed proper procedures after rejection of the mercy

pleas.

"Whatever orders are passed (relating to mercy plea) has to be communicated," he said and gave details of some of the cases in which there have been considerable delay or gap in sending reports to the President.

He said reasons are also not communicated for rejection of mercy pleas.

The issue of communication of rejection of mercy plea assumes importance in view of the controversy surrounding the execution of Parliament attack case convict Mohd Afzal as there was allegation that his family members were not properly

communicated about the dismissal of his plea and subsequent hanging.

The hearing by the three-judge bench comes in the wake of a two-judge bench holding on April 12 that long delay in disposing of mercy pleas by the President or the Governor of persons convicted under anti-terror laws or similar statutes cannot be a ground for commutation of death sentence.

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