Centre to Supreme Court: Set 7-day limit for death row convicts to file mercy plea

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The MHA has requested a modification of guidelines in death penalty cases by the Supreme Court. (File)

On the backdrop of the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, the Centre on Wednesday moved an application before the Supreme Court, seeking to modify "convict-centric" guidelines in death penalty cases and to make them "victim-centric".

The government also asked the SC to introduce a seven-day deadline for death row convicts to file mercy petitions besides introducing a time limit for filing of review and curative petitions in such cases.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has also asked the apex court to mandate a stipulated time period for convicts to file curative petitions after the rejection of review petitions to speed up the process of execution in death penalty cases.

The Centre has requested the court to "mandate all the competent courts, state governments, prison authorities, to issue death sentence of a convict within seven days of the rejection of his mercy petition and to execute death sentence within seven days thereafter irrespective of the stage of review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts".

In the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, the hanging of the death-row convicts has been delayed, with the convicts seeking last available legal remedies. The convicts were sentenced to death in September 2013. This was upheld by the High Court in March 2014 and by the Supreme Court in May 2017.

On January 7, a trial court issued a death warrant for the execution of the four convicts on January 22. Later, Mukesh -- one of the convicts -- moved an application to postpone the date, arguing that death warrants were not executable in light of him filing a mercy petition with the President. A Delhi court has now fixed February 1 as the fresh date for the execution.

The MHA has asked for a modification of a 2014 ruling, where the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts in the Shatrughan Chauhan and another vs Union of India case.

The SC had then said that certain “supervening circumstances” could be grounds for commuting a death sentence into a life sentence and unambiguously declared that the right to life and liberty (guaranteed under Article 21) was of paramount importance in adjudging the constitutionality of the governor's or president’s power to grant pardon.