Notice to Centre for time-bound execution of death sentences

New Delhi

The SC on Thursday issued notice to the Centre on a plea for issue of guidelines on disposal of clemency/mercy petitions and time-bound execution of the death sentences in a case of Maharashtra brought to its knowledge pending for over six years even after the convicts exhausting all legal remedies.

The notice was issued by a Bench of CJI Sharad A Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna on a plea by advocate Dr Subhash Vijayran, highlighting the irregularities in deciding the writ petitions in high courts, focussing particularly on the case of two sisters, Renuka and Seema, convicted of murdering five children in depraved manner.

The petitioner argued the convicts in the Delhi gang-rape-cum-murder case were dealt with expeditiously because the victim's parents generated support and resources to reach out to the judicial system, victims in the child murderers case were slum dwellers and lacked resources and support because of which the death sentence on the two convicts, though confirmed by the SC, President and Governor, was pending since 2014.

"The Bombay HC is hearing their post-mercy rejection writ petition in the most lackadaisical manner, with a shocking gap of more than five years and seven months between two hearing dates at pre-admission stage,” the petition said, noting this is how the HC is handling the case just because the parents of the victims are poor slum dwellers and do not have the means to pursue the case.

So, it sought guidelines for disposal of clemency/mercy petitions, exhaustion of 'legal remedies' by death-row convicts and execution of death sentences, in a fair, equitable an time-bound manner in the light of judgments of this court in the cases of Shatrughan Chauhan (2014) and Shabnam (2015).

"If the courts of law and the government are unable to execute the death penalty in a fair and equitable manner, they should abolish it. But if they are retaining the penalty, they are constitutionally bound to execute it in a fair and unbiased manner. They can't discriminate inter se the death row convicts, all of whom are similarly placed as such discrimination would be arbitrary, unfair and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," says the plea.

It sought directions to the Centre and states to take necessary steps in a time-bound manner to execute the death sentence for death row convi­cts who have exhausted legal remedies and issue notices to death row convicts, who have not exhausted legal remedies.

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