The Bombay high court has reserved the order in the review mercy petition filed by two sisters who were awarded death sentence in 2001 for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine of them between 1990 and October 1996.
The sisters, Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit, had approached the HC with a review petition seeking to reduce their death sentence to life imprisonment considering there has been “inordinate delay” in the execution of their death sentence. Anjanabai passed away pending a hearing in the petition.
On Saturday, a division bench of justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal reserved the order their plea.
The two sisters from Kolhapur were booked in 1996 for abducting and killing children. The prosecution said they kidnapped the children for earning their living by making the children beg. Those who refused were killed mercilessly by the accused.
They were assisted in the crime by their mother Anjana Gavit and Renuka's husband Kiran Shinde. Anjana died in custody while Kiran turned an approver. They used to force children to beg, commit petty thefts and pick-pocketing. The children were starved, to force them to commit crimes. After having sufficiently used the children in crime, they banged their head against walls and killed them.
In 2001, the sessions court at Kolhapur awarded death sentence which was upheld by the HC and Supreme Court in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
On August 14, 2014, the President of India rejected their mercy petition against the death sentence
Aggrieved, by the delay, the sisters had approached the HC. The petition claimed that the delay of eight years in deciding on the mercy petition was in “flagrant violation of Articles 21 and 14 (of the Constitution) and was “unfair, cruel, excessive, unexplained and arbitrary.” It said the delay had caused “immense mental torture, emotional and physical agony to the petitioners.”
Their advocate Aniket Vagal argued that even the President had rejected their mercy petition eight after the SC upheld the death sentence. Considering the inordinate delay, their death sentence should be reduced to life sentence.
On a court query, public prosecutor Aruna Pai said that they couldn’t send the papers earlier due to a fire in Mantralaya in which their several documents were destroyed.
Advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for the central government, argued that as soon as they received the papers from the Maharashtra government, it was forwarded to the President. “And within 10 months, the President had rejected the mercy petition. Hence there has not been delay on their part,” argued Patil.
However, the judges remarked that there had been an “inordinate delay” of over eight years in deciding the mercy petition.
Pai said that in case the court was considering reducing the death sentence to life imprisonment, then it may say “life sentence till natural death” since they have been convicted for a serious offence.
To this, the HC said that the state government has the power of remission (reduction) of sentence and hence the government could also decide to not grant remission to any convict.
Timeline of the case
2001 - Sessions court awarded death sentence
September 8, 2004 – HC confirmed death sentence
August 31, 2006 – SC upholds death sentence
August 14, 2014 – President rejected mercy petition
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)