SC’s warning to 8 States on mercy plea of death convicts

NEW DELHI, Apr 10:
The Supreme Court today asked 7 states to furnish “within 48 hours” details of mercy petitions filed by death row convicts pending with respective Governors, failing which it warned that Home Secretaries of the states concerned would have to appear before it.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhyaya passed the direction after expressing dismay at the non- compliance of its earlier order in this regard which was brought to its notice by Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval.
The states which reportedly failed to comply with the order are Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and West Bengal.
The bench said it would like to examine the cases relating to all other death row convicts whose mercy petitions are pending with the President or Governors, though they have not approached the court for various reasons.
In a dig at the media, the apex court said “their cases are not highlighted by the media. The media highlights only those cases which are taken up by political organisations, which get support from people outside the country.”
The bench further said it would also like to examine the judicial accountability for the delay and disposal of cases relating to death row convicts at various levels including the apex court.
The apex court had on April 3 directed the Centre to furnish details of 18 mercy pleas, including that of Parliament attack death convict Afzal Guru pending before the President for 7 years.
The court passed the directions while dealing with the appeal filed by death row convict Sikh militant Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, challenging the undue delay in disposal of his mercy petition by the President.
The court had earlier asked eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani to file written submissions on “whether the President should objectively apply mind while deciding mercy petitions”.
The apex court had felt the role of the state was perhaps advisory and the final verdict is that of the President.
Appearing for Bhullar, senior counsel K T S Tulsi had earlier told the court that between 1997 and 2011, the President has disposed off 32 mercy petitions, 13 of which were done after a 10-year wait.
The bench is hearing the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Bhullar’s family plea that his capital punishment be commuted to the life imprisonment as there has been an “inordinate” delay in deciding his mercy plea and he is not mentally sound.
He had submitted prolonged incarceration awaiting his execution amounted to cruelty and violated his fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Bhullar was awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast here in September, 1993, here office killing nine people.
The Supreme Court had on March 26, 2002, dismissed Bhullar’s appeal against the death sentence awarded by the trial court and endorsed by the Delhi High Court. He had filed a review petition, which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition, which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003.
Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003.
The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 25 last year. (PTI)