Delhi HC sets aside President’s order rejecting mercy plea of death-row convict
This judgment is an embarrassment for the President’s office, which acts on the aid and advice of the Union home ministry in deciding mercy pleas.india Updated: Jun 29, 2017 07:33 IST
The Delhi high court set aside on Wednesday the President’s order rejecting the mercy plea of a death-row convict and reduced his sentence to life term.
The court order follows a petition filed by the advocate of convicted dacoit Sonu Sardar, who killed five members of a family, including two children, during a robbery in Chhattisgarh’s Cher village in 2004.
A division bench of justices GS Sistani and Vinod Goel said the presidential order rejecting the convict’s appeal for clemency was vitiated.
“The mercy petition was processed in an extremely cavalier and casual fashion by the state government at all stages, right up to placing the note for the governor,” the court said.
This judgment is an embarrassment for the President’s office, which acts on the aid and advice of the Union home ministry in deciding mercy pleas.
The Supreme Court too has commuted death sentences, holding delay and not taking into account relevant factors in deciding mercy pleas as reasons for reducing the punishment.
Dacoit Sardar was sentenced to death in 2008 by a trial court and the Chhattisgarh high court upheld the verdict. The Supreme Court too stood by the two lower courts in February 2012.
His mercy petition was dismissed by the state government and the President in May 2014. In February 2015, the apex court rejected his review plea.
The convict then moved the Delhi high court against the decision of the Chhattisgarh government and the President.
In its order, the high court said: “The relevant considerations of the mitigating circumstances, recommendation of the jail superintendent and the young age of the petitioner were not placed before the governor depriving him of the opportunity to exercise his power in a fair and just manner.”
The court noted that there were “numerous discrepancies and falsities” in the affidavits filed by the Chhattisgarh government.
It further remarked that the “supervening circumstance of solitary confinement coupled with the non-placement of relevant considerations and considering of extraneous considerations has vitiated the decision of the governor and the President”.
Sardar was kept in solitary confinement for five years, which the court said violated his fundamental rights. “This court, being the sentinel of the Constitution, is bound to intervene and give relief to the petitioner,” it added.
Also, the court made it clear that “life imprisonment means (till the) end of one’s life”.