Taking exception to the inordinate delay taken in deciding mercy petitions of death row convicts, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the Centre and the state governments one last chance to produce all records relating to such pleas.
The apex court bench gave the direction during the hearing of Punjab terrorist Devender Pal Singh Bhullar. The court gave home secretaries of all the states three days to send their records to the Centre, which then would place it before SC.
On perusing the Centre's affidavit, the bench pointed out to a particular case in which the administration took 11 years to decide a mercy plea. "It's a sufficiently long time. From the date mercy petitions reach competent authority, what was done?" the bench asked. It also cited another case in which the Centre took 8 years to decide.
The court refused to accept the Centre's submission that the delay was due to repeated petitions filed by condemned prisoners in courts. "There is no bar in filing repeated petitions," the bench observed.
Bhullar was awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast in Delhi in September 1993 on Raisina Road outside the Youth Congress office. Nine persons were killed in the attack. Bhullar had moved the SC seeking to commute capital punishment to life imprisonment on the ground there has been an "inordinate" delay in deciding his mercy petition and that he was wasn't even mentally sound.
Bhullar has contended that his mercy plea pending with the Centre since 2003 was decided after eight years. He claimed the delay amounted to "dehumanising" the convict and subjecting him to "cruelty." The prolonged incarceration, he added, violated his Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.