Look how Govt defends mercy plea delay: ‘Gives convict lease of life’

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    Look how Govt defends mercy plea delay: ‘Gives convict lease of life’

    Krishnadas Rajagopal Posted: Thu Oct 20 2011 New Delhi:

    Delay of a mercy petition at least keeps a condemned man alive, gives him a “lease of life”, according to an affidavit by the Centre in the Supreme Court.
    Claiming to voice the “point of view of the prisoner”, the government reasoned in the affidavit that even the condemned man “likes” delay rather than having his mercy plea rejected. Rejection, the affidavit said, means “immediate hanging”.

    This is the government’s latest in the Supreme Court to justify delay in deciding a condemned man’s mercy plea — the last resort afforded to a death row convict under the Constitution — even as he spends years in uncertainty in a prison cell.

    The Home Ministry’s affidavit, heard on Wednesday, was part of a 17-page response on a petition by Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, sentenced to death for killing nine persons and injuring 29 others in a bomb blast attack on then Youth Congress president M S Bitta in September 1993. Bhullar had pleaded for mercy on January 14, 2003. It was rejected by the President about eight years later on May 25, 2011.
    Bhullar moved the Supreme Court arguing that the pendency was an act of cruelty towards the convict, adding to his suffering. He sought commutation of his death penalty to life imprisonment citing the delay as a mitigating circumstance.

    The affidavit called this a “specious argument”.

    Joint Secretary, Home Affairs, J L Chugh, countered that delay is anyway a better prospect for the prisoner than outright rejection of his mercy petition. “It is humbly submitted that if the mercy petition were rejected, the prisoner would face the prospect of immediate hanging. It is the pendency of the mercy petition that has given the petitioner the right to live, albeit in prison.”

    The affidavit reasoned that even commutation to life imprisonment is not much of an alternative: “Even if the mercy petition were to be allowed, the prisoner would not become free. He would remain in prison for the rest of his natural life unless a specific order is passed under section 433 CrPC.”

    “It is therefore submitted that looking at it from the point of view of the prisoner, he would like his mercy petition to remain pending as long as possible and certainly not rejected. Therefore the pendency of the mercy petition cannot be said to be an act of cruelty or an act which adds to the suffering of the prisoner. In fact it is the pendency of the mercy petition which has given a lease of life to the prisoner,” it stated.
     
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