The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday extended its stay on the execution of a murder convict, Dharampal Singh, 45, lodged in the Ambala central jail, till July 10.
Sonepat native Dharampal was sentenced to death by Sonepat sessions judge court in 1997 for murdering five members of a family in 1993. He has now sought commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds that he has already served two decades behind bars and that the President had taken too long to eventually reject his mercy plea on March 28.
Dharampal was to be hanged on April 15 at Ambala central jail but the high court had stayed the execution on April 6.
The division bench comprising justices Surya Kant and RP Nagrath said that it needed to be argued first and decided whether Dharampal's acquittal by the high court in rape case in November 2003 would have any effect on the present case. Hence the court adjourned the case for arguments on July 10.
"Leave apart rape case, he has murdered five persons. Should he not be hanged?" the court questioned Dharampal's counsel. The court further added, "There are two aspects of the case. Mercy (by President) and conversion of death sentence to life imprisonment by the court. In this case, the Supreme Court can only convert the sentence."
But, appearing for the petitioner, advocate Navkiran Singh argued, "Nowhere the Supreme Court has said that once it has decided matter, a person cannot approach the high court." However, the court replied, "Where the Supreme Court has confirmed death sentence (on March 18, 1999), high court can't modify that order depending upon what happened or not happened later." The court's reply came in the context that the high court had acquitted Dharampal in November 2003 after the Supreme Court's order.
On this, the petitioner's advocate submitted, "Facts of the case in which he was acquitted by the high court later in a rape case were not presented before the President by the central government while deciding the mercy petition (on March 28, 2013). That is why the central government also needs to be impleaded party in the case."
Countering the petitioner's advocate's arguments, the Haryana government counsel said, "By reading the judgment (in which Dharampal was acquitted by the HC in rape case), it appears that a compromise was reached between the parties out of the court. The court gave benefit of doubt to him (Dharampal)."
On the rape victim's complaint, Dharampal, a resident of Mohalla Panna in Gohana tehsil of Sonepat district, was earlier awarded 10-year imprisonment on January 7, 1991. But later, when he was out on parole in 1993, he had murdered the victim's father, mother, two brothers and a sister in the wee hours of June 4, 1993. The victim and her husband were able to save their lives. However, later on November 19, 2003, the high court had acquitted Dharampal of rape charges after finding that it was "a case of consent".