Supreme Court of India, photo by Rajkumar
Supreme Court of India, photo by Rajkumar

‘Legal process taken for a ride’: Centre asks SC to set rules for death row cases

The centre also sought directions to states and jail authorities and competent courts to issue death warrants within 7 days of rejection of mercy plea.
By Murali Krishnan
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2020 07:26 PM IST

Amid the uncertainty over the execution of the four men sentenced to death for the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, the Centre on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court to introduce a 7-day deadline for death-row convicts to file mercy petitions. The government also wants the top court to introduce a time limit for filing of review and curative petitions in such cases.

The Centre requested the top court to amend its 2014 verdict in the Shatrughan Chauhan case where it had taken a dim view of the executive keeping mercy petitions on hold for years and ruled that this wait for a torture for the convicts. The top court had also taken a dim view of the secret executions by the state and ordered jail authorities to ensure that there was a 14-day gap between the rejection of their mercy pleas and their hanging. “Retribution has no constitutional value in our largest democratic country,” the judges had ruled.

In its application, the Union Home Ministry asked the top court to mandate that convicts had to file a curative petition within a specified period and could only file a mercy petition within 7 days of the death warrant being issued.

It also asked the Supreme Court to order all courts and state governments to issue death warrants within seven days of the President rejecting the mercy petitions and to execute them within seven days, irrespective of the status of any petition that the convict may file.

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 heinous offences would be permitted to play with the majesty of law and prolonged the execution of the sentence awarded to them in accordance with the law.

“It is more important and need of the hour to lay down guidelines in the interest of the victims,” the home ministry said, reasoning that otherwise the convicts would be permitted to “play with the majesty of law”.

The home ministry said the guidelines spelt out by the Supreme Court in 2014 were “accused centric” and did not account for the trauma, agony, upheaval and derangement of the victims and their family.

“It is found several years before and after the judgment in the Shatrughan that convicts of even such heinous crimes under the garb of Article 21 take the judicial process for a ride,” it said.

The Centre’s request comes against the backdrop of the delay in the hanging of the four men convicted for the 2012 Delhi gang rape because they had not exhausted their legal options.

Only one of the four convicts has filed a mercy petition, which has been rejected. The other three are entitled to file one before February 1 when a death warrant issued against them will be executed.

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