The Bombay high court has granted further two weeks time to Maharashtra government to file an affidavit in reply to a petition filed by two sisters urging that their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
The mercy petitions of Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit, who were sentenced to death in 2001 for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine of them between 1990 and October 1996, were rejected by the President recently.
The apex court had earlier upheld death for the duo. However, being aggrieved, they moved the high court seeking reduction of punishment to life imprisonment.
Hearing their petition, justice VM Kanade and justice PD Kode had earlier given two weeks time to the government to file its reply. However, when the matter came up for hearing on Friday, the state urged the judges to grant further two weeks and the court allowed its plea.
The two sisters, hailing from Kolhapur, contended that the President had taken more than five years to decide their mercy petitions when such a plea should have been disposed of within three months. On this ground alone, their death sentence may be commuted to life term, the duo prayed.
The two sisters 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 pickpocketing. 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.
The sisters, who could be the first women convicts to be sent to the gallows since Independence, are currently lodged in Pune's Yerawada prison and were recently informed about the President's decision to reject their mercy petitions.
The 14-day buffer period before execution expired on August 16, according to their lawyer Sudeep Jaiswal.
"The extraordinary and unjustified delay in execution of death sentence has caused immense mental torture, emotional and physical agony to us. Since we have suffered immensely, in the interest of justice and good conscience, death sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment," they pleaded.