SC to hear Centre plea on changes to mercy plea proceedings

mercy plea proceedings Supreme court, Death row convicts mercy plea, supreme court mercy petitions law, indian express

A bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant has issued notice on the plea by the Union Home Ministry.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the Centre’s plea seeking modifications to the procedure to be followed with respect to mercy pleas of death row convicts.

A bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant has issued notice on the plea by the Union Home Ministry.

The Union Home Ministry’s application wants the court to fix a time limit for death row convicts to file curative petitions and give them only seven days from the date of issue of death warrant for filing mercy petition.

The development comes amidst the debate over the delay in execution of the four convicts in the December 16, 2012 gangrape and murder case.

Without naming anyone, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said several death row convicts of heinous crimes were taking the judicial process for a ride under the garb of Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and this “shakes the collective conscience of the society”.

The top court had in its 2014 judgment in ‘Shatrughan Singh Chauhan and another Vs Union of India’ laid down several common guidelines with respect to the procedure to be followed for filing mercy petitions and the execution of a death sentence.

Mehta told the bench that several convicts were using these guidelines as a tool to delay justice.

He said that the 2014 guidelines were formulated from a “convict-centric” point of view and urged the court to modify these to a “victim-centric” view.

To this, CJI Bobde said the court had in several matters taken a victim-centric approach and added that this was the law. Mehta assured the court that he was not seeking the modifications for existing cases.

In its petition, the government also requested the top court “to mandate all courts, state governments, prison authorities in the country, to issue a death warrant 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 state of the review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts”.

“It is submitted that while taking care of the rights of the convicts, it is more important and need of the hour to lay down guidelines in the interest of the victims, their families and in larger public interest, lest the convicts found to be guilty of such horrible, and dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and henious offences would be permitted to play with the majesty of law and prolong the execution of the sentence awarded to them in accordance with the law,” the plea said.

Explaining how convicts delay the process, the plea said that in case of multiple accused being awarded death penalty in the same case, it often happens that one accused files the review petition/mercy petition which gets rejected and the other co-convicts are either advised to or independently choose not to file any further application or initiate other proceedings.