SC stays execution of 8 death row convicts

Staying the execution of eight convicts put on the death row after rejection of their mercy pleas by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Supreme Court has agreed to look into a demand for having an unswerving procedure to be followed by the President, Governors and other authorities in death sentence cases.

Allowing an urgent hearing at his residence on Saturday late evening, a Bench led by Justice P Sathasivam stayed the execution of the eight convicts ó Suresh, Ramji, Gurmeet Singh, Praveen Kumar, Sonia and her husband Sanjeev, Sundar Singh and Jafar Ali.

A couple of days after rejection of their mercy pleas by the President, the court granted the respite to the convicts at least for four weeks and sought replies from the Centre and state governments after admitting the petition by civil rights group People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR).

Praveen Kumar is lodged at Belgaum jail in Karnataka, Gurmeet Singh, Jafar Ali, Suresh and Ramji in UP, Sonia and Sanjeev in Haryana and Sunder Singh in Uttarakhand.

Sonia, daughter of former Haryana MLA Relu Ram Punia, and her husband Sanjiv were awarded the death penalty for killing eight members of her family in 2001 over a property dispute. Gurmeet was convicted of killing 13 of his family members in 1986, Jafar Ali had murdered his wife and five daughters and brothers Suresh and Ramji had killed five of their brothers. Another convicted prisoner Dharampal has approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the President's decision to reject his mercy plea.

Appearing for PUDR, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and Shamik Narain expressed their apprehension regarding immediate execution of the convicts without even informing their families about it.

In the petition, PUDR stated it was prompted to move the petition on behalf of the convicts considering the possibility that the orders of rejection could not have reached their families due to their abject poverty status.

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