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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Art. 32 and Art. 72 and 161 of Indian Constitution - Right to life - Delay in considering the mercy petitions by various accused in various offence by the Governor/ President of India - Rejection of Mercy petition with out assigning the reasons for delay kept pending in their office - Not valid - Apex court set aside the order on mercy petition and allowed the writ petition filed under sec.32 as Right to seek for mercy under Article 72/161 of the Constitution is a constitutional right and not at the discretion or whims of the executive and Apex court commute the death sentence into imprisonment for life. = Shatrughan Chauhan & Anr. .... Petitioner (s) Versus Union of India & Ors. .... Respondent(s) = 2014 ( January - Vol - 1) Judis.nic.in/ S.C./ file name =41163

Art. 32 and Art. 72 and 161 of Indian Constitution - Right to life - Delay in considering the mercy petitions by various accused in various offence by the Governor/ President of India - Rejection of Mercy petition with out assigning the reasons for delay kept pending in their office - Not valid - Apex court set aside the order on mercy petition and allowed the writ petition filed under sec.32 as Right  to  seek  for mercy under Article 72/161 of the Constitution  is  a  constitutional  right
and not at the discretion or whims of the  executive and Apex court  commute  the death sentence into imprisonment for life. =
right to life’ guaranteed  under  the  Constitution
All the above writ petitions, under Article 32 of the Constitution  of
India, have been filed either  by  the  convicts,  who  were  awarded  death
sentence or by their  family  members  or  by  public-spirited  bodies  like
People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) based on the rejection of  mercy
petitions by the Governor and the President of India. In all the writ petitions, the main  prayer  consistently  relates  to
the issuance of a writ of declaration declaring that execution  of  sentence
of death pursuant to the rejection of the mercy petitions by  the  President
of India is unconstitutional and to set aside  the  death  sentence  imposed
upon them by commuting the same to imprisonment for life.   Further,  it  is
also prayed for declaring the order  passed  by  the  Governor/President  of
India  rejecting  their  respective   mercy   petitions   as   illegal   and
unenforceable. 

whether  it will be in violation of Article 21, amongst  other  provisions,  to  execute the levied death sentence on the accused notwithstanding  the  existence  of supervening circumstances.

It is a time-honored  principle,  as  stipulated  in  R.D  Shetty  vs.
International Airport Authority (1979) 3 SCC 489, that  no  matter,  
whether
the  violation  of  fundamental   right   arises   out   of   an   executive
action/inaction or action of the legislature, Article 32 can be utilized  to
enforce the fundamental rights in either  event.  
In  the  given  case,  the
stand of the petitioners herein  is  that  exercise  of  the  constitutional
power vested in the executive specified under Article  72/161  has  violated
the fundamental rights of the petitioners herein. 
This Court,  as  in  past,
entertained the petitions of the given kind and  issued  appropriate  orders
as in T.V. Vatheeswaran vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1983) 2 SCC 68, Sher  Singh
and Ors. vs. State of Punjab (1983)  2  SCC  344  Triveniben  vs.  State  of
Gujarat (1988) 4 SCC 574 etc. Accordingly, we accede to  the  stand  of  the
petitioners and hold that the petitions are maintainable.

   “Article 72. Power of President to grant pardons, etc. and to suspend,
      remit or commute sentences in certain cases – (1) The President  shall
      have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions  of
      punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any  person
      convicted of any offence –

      a) in all cases where  the  punishment  or  sentence  is  by  a  Court
         Martial;

      b) in all cases where the punishment or sentence  is  for  an  offence
         against any law relating to a matter to which the  executive  power
         of the Union extends;

      c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

        2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect  the  power
           conferred by law on any officer of the Armed Forces of the Union
           to suspend, remit or  commute  a  sentence  passed  by  a  Court
           martial.

        3) Nothing in sub-clause of clause (1) shall affect  the  power  to
           suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death exercisable by the
           Governor of a State, under any law for the time being in force.”

      Article 161. Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc. and to  suspend,
      remit or commute sentences in certain cases – The Governor of a  State
      shall  have  the  power  to  grant  pardons,  reprieves,  respites  or
      remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the  sentence
      of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating  to  a
      matter to which the executive power of the State extends.”

“10. We are of the view that it is  open  to  the  President  in  the
       exercise of the power vested in him by Article 72 of the Constitution
       to scrutinise the evidence on the record of  the  criminal  case  and
       come to a different conclusion from that recorded  by  the  court  in
       regard to the guilt of, and sentence  imposed  on,  the  accused.  In
       doing so, the President does not amend or  modify  or  supersede  the
       judicial record. The judicial record remains intact, and undisturbed.
       The President acts in a wholly different plane from that in which the
       Court acted. He acts under a  constitutional  power,  the  nature  of
       which is entirely different from the judicial  power  and  cannot  be
       regarded as an extension of it. and this is so, notwithstanding  that
       the practical effect of the Presidential act is to remove the  stigma
       of guilt from the accused or to remit the sentence imposed on him....

       The legal effect of a pardon is  wholly  different  from  a  judicial
       supersession of the original sentence. It is the nature of the  power
       which is determinative....

       It is apparent that the power under Article 72 entitles the President
       to examine the record  of  evidence  of  the  criminal  case  and  to
       determine for himself whether the case is one deserving the grant  of
       the relief falling within that power. We  are  of  opinion  that  the
       President  is  entitled  to  go  into  the   merits   of   the   case
       notwithstanding  that  it  has  been  judicially  concluded  by   the
       consideration given to it by this Court.

       16. …the power under Article 72  is  of  the  widest  amplitude,  can
       contemplate a myriad kinds and categories of  cases  with  facts  and
       situations varying from case to case, in which the merits and reasons
       of State may  be  profoundly  assisted  by  prevailing  occasion  and
       passing time. and it is  of  great  significance  that  the  function
       itself enjoys high status in the constitutional scheme.”
The President or the Governor, as  the  case  may  be,  in
exercise of  power  under  Article  72/161  respectively,  may  examine  the
evidence afresh and this exercise of power is  clearly  independent  of  the
judiciary. This Court, in numerous instances, clarified that  the  executive
is not sitting as a court of appeal rather the power  of  President/Governor
to grant  remission  of  sentence  is  an  act  of  grace  and  humanity  in
appropriate cases, i.e., distinct, absolute and unfettered in its nature.

13)   In this context, the deliberations in Epuru Sudhakar & Anr. vs.  Govt.
of A.P. & Ors., (2006) 8 SCC 161 are relevant which are as under:
       “16. The philosophy  underlying  the  pardon  power  is  that  "every
       civilized country recognizes, and has  therefore  provided  for,  the
       pardoning power to be exercised as an act of grace  and  humanity  in
       proper cases. Without such a power of clemency, to  be  exercised  by
       some department or functionary of a government, a  country  would  be
       most imperfect and deficient in its political morality, and  in  that
       attribute of Deity whose judgments are always  tempered  with  mercy.
       [See 59 American Jurisprudence 2d, page 5]


       17.  The  rationale  of  the  pardon  power  has  been   felicitously
       enunciated by the celebrated Justice  Holmes  of  the  United  States
       Supreme Court in the case of Biddle v. Perovich in these words 71  L.
       Ed. 1161 at 1163: A pardon in our days is not a private act of  grace
       from an individual happening to possess power. It is a  part  of  the
       constitutional scheme. When granted, it is the determination  of  the
       ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better  served  by
       inflicting less than what the judgment fixed.” (emphasis added)

14)   Article 72/161 of the Constitution entail remedy to all  the  convicts
and not limited  to  only  death  sentence  cases  and  must  be  understood
accordingly.  It contains the power of reprieve, remission, commutation  and
pardon for all offences, though death sentence cases  invoke  the  strongest
sentiment since it is the only sentence that cannot be  undone  once  it  is
executed.

It is well established that exercising of power under  Article  72/161
by the President or the Governor is a constitutional obligation  and  not  a
mere prerogative. Considering the high status of office, the  Constitutional
framers did not stipulate any outer  time  limit  for  disposing  the  mercy
petitions under the said Articles, which means it should be  decided  within
reasonable time. 
However, when the  delay  caused  in  disposing  the  mercy
petitions is seen to be unreasonable, unexplained and exorbitant, it is  the
duty of this Court to step in and consider this aspect. Right  to  seek  for
mercy under Article 72/161 of the Constitution  is  a  constitutional  right
and not at the discretion or whims of the  executive.  Every  Constitutional
duty must be fulfilled with  due  care  and  diligence;  otherwise  judicial
interference is the command of the Constitution for upholding its values.

264)  Remember, retribution has  no  Constitutional  value  in  our  largest
democratic country. 
In India, even an accused  has  a  de  facto  protection
under the Constitution and it is the Court’s duty to shield and protect  the
same. 
Therefore, we make it clear that  when  the  judiciary  interferes  in
such matters, it does not really interfere with the  power  exercised  under
Article 72/161 but only to uphold the de facto protection  provided  by  the
Constitution to every convict including death convicts.

In the light of the above discussion and observations,  we  dispose  of
the writ petitions.  In the cases  of  Suresh,  Ramji,  Bilavendran,  Simon,
Gnanprakasam, Madiah, Praveen Kumar, Gurmeet Singh, Sonia,  Sanjeev,  Sundar
Singh, Jafar Ali, Magan Lal Berala, Shivu  and  Jadeswamy,  we  commute  the
death sentence into imprisonment for life.   All  the  writ  petitions  are,
accordingly, allowed on the above terms.

 2014 ( January - Vol - 1) Judis.nic.in/ S.C./ file name  =41163

P SATHASIVAM, RANJAN GOGOI, SHIVA KIRTI SINGH
                                                              
 REPORTABLE


           IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION


                  1 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 55 OF 2013


Shatrughan Chauhan & Anr.                 .... Petitioner (s)

            Versus

Union of India & Ors.                     .... Respondent(s)

                                      2


                                 3     WITH


4


                  5 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 34 OF 2013


                  6 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 56 OF 2013


                 7 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 136 OF 2013


                 8 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 139 OF 2013


                 9 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 141 OF 2013


                 10 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 132 OF 2013


                 11 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 187 OF 2013


                 12 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 188 OF 2013


                 13 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 190 OF 2013


                 14 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 191 OF 2013


                 15 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 192 OF 2013


                 16 WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 193 OF 2013


                                     17

                               J U D G M E N T


P.Sathasivam, CJI.


1)    Our Constitution is highly  valued  for  its  articulation.  One  such
astute drafting is Article 21 of  the  Constitution  which  postulates  that
every human being has inherent right to life and  mandates  that  no  person
shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except  according  to  the
procedure established by law.  Over  the  span  of  years,  this  Court  has
expanded the horizon of ‘right to life’ guaranteed  under  the  Constitution
to balance with the progress of human life. This case provides  yet  another
momentous occasion, where this Court is called upon  to  decide
whether  it
will be in violation of Article 21, amongst  other  provisions,  to  execute the levied death sentence on the accused notwithstanding  the  existence  of supervening circumstances.
Let us examine the supervening  circumstances  of
each individual case to arrive at a coherent decision.

2)    All the above writ petitions, under Article 32 of the Constitution  of
India, have been filed either  by  the  convicts,  who  were  awarded  death
sentence or by their  family  members  or  by  public-spirited  bodies  like
People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) based on the rejection of  mercy
petitions by the Governor and the President of India.

3)    In all the writ petitions, the main  prayer  consistently  relates  to
the issuance of a writ of declaration declaring that execution  of  sentence
of death pursuant to the rejection of the mercy petitions by  the  President
of India is unconstitutional and to set aside  the  death  sentence  imposed
upon them by commuting the same to imprisonment for life.   Further,  it  is
also prayed for declaring the order  passed  by  the  Governor/President  of
India  rejecting  their  respective   mercy   petitions   as   illegal   and
unenforceable.  In view of the similarity of the reliefs sought for  in  all
the writ petitions, we are not reproducing every prayer hereunder,  however,
while dealing with individual claims, we shall discuss factual details,  the
reliefs sought for and the grounds urged in support of their  claim  at  the
appropriate place. Besides, in the writ petition filed by PUDR, PUDR  prayed
for various  directions  in  respect  of  procedure  to  be  followed  while
considering the mercy petitions, and in general for protection of rights  of
the death row convicts.  We shall discuss discretely the  aforesaid  prayers
in the ensuing paragraphs.

4)    Heard Mr. Ram Jethmalani, Mr. Anand Grover, Mr. R. Basant,  Mr.  Colin
Gonsalves, learned senior counsel  and  Dr.  Yug  Mohit  Chaudhary,  learned
counsel for the petitioners  and  Mr.  Mohan  Parasaran,  learned  Solicitor
General, Mr. L.N. Rao, Mr. Siddharth Luthra,  learned  Additional  Solicitor
Generals, Mr. V.C. Mishra, learned Advocate General,  Mr.  V.N.  Raghupathy,
Ms. Anitha Shenoy, Mr. Rajiv Nanda, Mr. C.D. Singh, learned counsel and  Mr.
Manjit Singh, Additional Advocate General  for  the  respondents.   We  also
heard Mr. T.R. Andhyarujina, learned senior counsel as amicus curiae.

5)    Before considering the merits of the claim of individual case,  it  is
essential to deliberate  on  certain  vital  points  of  law  that  will  be
incidental and decisive for determining the case at hand.

Maintainability of the Petitions

6)    Before we advert to the issue of maintainability of the petitions,  it
is pertinent to grasp the significance of Article  32  as  foreseen  by  Dr.
Ambedkar, the principal architect of the  Indian  Constitution.  
His  words
were appositely reiterated in Minerva Mills  Ltd.  and  Ors.  vs.  Union  of
India and Ors. (1980) 2 SCC 625 as follows:-

       “87. ….If I  was  asked  to  name  any  particular  Article  in  this
       Constitution as the most important – an Article  without  which  this
       Constitution would be a nullity – I could  not  refer  to  any  other
       Article except this one. It is the very soul of the Constitution  and
       the very heart of it.” (emphasis supplied)

The fundamental right to move this Court can,  therefore,  be  appropriately
described as the corner-stone  of  the  democratic  edifice  raised  by  the
Constitution. At the same time, this Court, in  A.R  Antulay  vs.  Union  of
India (1988) 2 SCC 602, clarified and  pronounced  that  any  writ  petition
under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the validity of  the  order
or judgment passed by this Court as nullity or  otherwise  incorrect  cannot
be entertained.
In this light, let us examine the maintainability  of  these
petitions.

7)    The aforesaid petitions, under Article 32 of  the  Constitution,  seek
relief  against  alleged  infringement  of  certain  fundamental  rights  on
account of failure on the part of the executive  to  dispose  of  the  mercy
petitions  filed  under  Article  72/161  of  the  Constitution   within   a
reasonable time.

8)    At the outset, the petitioners herein justly elucidated that they  are
not challenging the final verdict of this Court wherein death  sentence  was
imposed. In fact, they asserted in their respective petitions  that  if  the
sentence had been  executed  then  and  there,  there  would  have  been  no
grievance or cause of action. However, it wasn’t and the supervening  events
that occurred after the final confirmation of the  death  sentence  are  the
basis of filing these petitions.

9)    It is a time-honored  principle,  as  stipulated  in  R.D  Shetty  vs.
International Airport Authority (1979) 3 SCC 489, that  no  matter,  
whether
the  violation  of  fundamental   right   arises   out   of   an   executive
action/inaction or action of the legislature, Article 32 can be utilized  to
enforce the fundamental rights in either  event.  
In  the  given  case,  the
stand of the petitioners herein  is  that  exercise  of  the  constitutional
power vested in the executive specified under Article  72/161  has  violated
the fundamental rights of the petitioners herein. 
This Court,  as  in  past,
entertained the petitions of the given kind and  issued  appropriate  orders
as in T.V. Vatheeswaran vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1983) 2 SCC 68, Sher  Singh
and Ors. vs. State of Punjab (1983)  2  SCC  344  Triveniben  vs.  State  of
Gujarat (1988) 4 SCC 574 etc. Accordingly, we accede to  the  stand  of  the
petitioners and hold that the petitions are maintainable.

Nature of power guaranteed under Article 72/161 of the Constitution

10)   It is apposite to refer the relevant Articles which give power to  the
President of India and the Governor to grant pardons and to  suspend,  remit
or commute sentences in certain cases.  They are as follows:

      “Article 72. Power of President to grant pardons, etc. and to suspend,
      remit or commute sentences in certain cases – (1) The President  shall
      have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions  of
      punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any  person
      convicted of any offence –

      a) in all cases where  the  punishment  or  sentence  is  by  a  Court
         Martial;

      b) in all cases where the punishment or sentence  is  for  an  offence
         against any law relating to a matter to which the  executive  power
         of the Union extends;

      c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

        2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect  the  power
           conferred by law on any officer of the Armed Forces of the Union
           to suspend, remit or  commute  a  sentence  passed  by  a  Court
           martial.

        3) Nothing in sub-clause of clause (1) shall affect  the  power  to
           suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death exercisable by the
           Governor of a State, under any law for the time being in force.”

      Article 161. Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc. and to  suspend,
      remit or commute sentences in certain cases – The Governor of a  State
      shall  have  the  power  to  grant  pardons,  reprieves,  respites  or
      remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the  sentence
      of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating  to  a
      matter to which the executive power of the State extends.”



11)   The memoir and  scope  of  Article  72/161  of  the  Constitution  was
extensively considered in Kehar Singh vs. Union of India &  Anr.,  (1989)  1
SCC 204 in the following words:
       “7. The Constitution of India, in keeping with modern  constitutional
       practice, is a constitutive document, fundamental to  the  governance
       of the country, whereby, according to accepted political theory,  the
       people of India have provided a constitutional polity  consisting  of
       certain primary organs, institutions and  functionaries  to  exercise
       the powers provided in the Constitution. All  power  belongs  to  the
       people, and it is entrusted by them  to  specified  institutions  and
       functionaries with the intention  of  working  out,  maintaining  and
       operating a constitutional order. The  Preambular  statement  of  the
       Constitution begins with the significant recital:

           We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to  constitute
           India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic  Republic...
           do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.

       To any civilized society, there can be no attributes  more  important
       than the life and personal liberty of its members.  That  is  evident
       from the paramount position given by the courts to Article 21 of  the
       Constitution. These twin attributes enjoy  a  fundamental  ascendancy
       over all other attributes of the  political  and  social  order,  and
       consequently, the Legislature, the Executive and  the  Judiciary  are
       more sensitive  to  them  than  to  the  other  attributes  of  daily
       existence. The deprivation of personal liberty and the threat of  the
       deprivation of life by the action of the State is in  most  civilised
       societies regarded seriously  and,  recourse,  either  under  express
       constitutional provision or through legislative enactment is provided
       to the judicial organ. But, the fallibility of human  judgment  being
       undeniable even in the most trained  mind,  a  mind  resourced  by  a
       harvest of experience, it has been considered appropriate that in the
       matter of  life  and  personal  liberty,  the  protection  should  be
       extended by entrusting  power  further  to  some  high  authority  to
       scrutinise the validity of the  threatened  denial  of  life  or  the
       threatened or continued denial of  personal  liberty.  The  power  so
       entrusted is a power belonging to  the  people  and  reposed  in  the
       highest dignitary of the State. In England, the power is regarded  as
       the royal prerogative of pardon exercised by the Sovereign, generally
       through the Home Secretary.  It  is  a  power  which  is  capable  of
       exercise on a variety of grounds, for reasons of State as well as the
       desire to safeguard against judicial error. It is  an  act  of  grace
       issuing from the Sovereign. In the United States, however, after  the
       founding of the Republic, a pardon by the President has been regarded
       not as a private act of grace but as a  part  of  the  constitutional
       scheme. In an opinion, remarkable for its erudition and  clarity,  Mr
       Justice Holmes, speaking  for  the  Court  in  W.I.  Biddle  v.  Vuco
       Perovich  71 L Ed 1161) enunciated this view, and it has  since  been
       affirmed in other decisions. The power to pardon is  a  part  of  the
       constitutional scheme, and we have no doubt, in  our  mind,  that  it
       should be so treated also in the Indian Republic. It has been reposed
       by the people through the Constitution in the Head of the State,  and
       enjoys high status. It is a constitutional  responsibility  of  great
       significance, to be exercised when occasion arises in accordance with
       the discretion contemplated by the context. It  is  not  denied,  and
       indeed it has been repeatedly affirmed in the course of  argument  by
       learned  Counsel,  Shri  Ram  Jethmalani  and  Shri  Shanti  Bhushan,
       appearing for the Petitioner that the power to pardon  rests  on  the
       advice tendered by the Executive to the President, who subject to the
       provisions  of  Article  74(1)  of  the  Constitution,  must  act  in
       accordance with such advice……” (Emphasis Supplied)

In that case, the Constitution Bench also considered whether  the  President
can, in exercise  of  the  power  under  Article  72  of  the  Constitution,
scrutinize the evidence on record and come to a  different  conclusion  than
the one arrived at by the Court and held as under:

       “10. We are of the view that it is  open  to  the  President  in  the
       exercise of the power vested in him by Article 72 of the Constitution
       to scrutinise the evidence on the record of  the  criminal  case  and
       come to a different conclusion from that recorded  by  the  court  in
       regard to the guilt of, and sentence  imposed  on,  the  accused.  In
       doing so, the President does not amend or  modify  or  supersede  the
       judicial record. The judicial record remains intact, and undisturbed.
       The President acts in a wholly different plane from that in which the
       Court acted. He acts under a  constitutional  power,  the  nature  of
       which is entirely different from the judicial  power  and  cannot  be
       regarded as an extension of it. and this is so, notwithstanding  that
       the practical effect of the Presidential act is to remove the  stigma
       of guilt from the accused or to remit the sentence imposed on him....

       The legal effect of a pardon is  wholly  different  from  a  judicial
       supersession of the original sentence. It is the nature of the  power
       which is determinative....

       It is apparent that the power under Article 72 entitles the President
       to examine the record  of  evidence  of  the  criminal  case  and  to
       determine for himself whether the case is one deserving the grant  of
       the relief falling within that power. We  are  of  opinion  that  the
       President  is  entitled  to  go  into  the   merits   of   the   case
       notwithstanding  that  it  has  been  judicially  concluded  by   the
       consideration given to it by this Court.

       16. …the power under Article 72  is  of  the  widest  amplitude,  can
       contemplate a myriad kinds and categories of  cases  with  facts  and
       situations varying from case to case, in which the merits and reasons
       of State may  be  profoundly  assisted  by  prevailing  occasion  and
       passing time. and it is  of  great  significance  that  the  function
       itself enjoys high status in the constitutional scheme.”



12)   Both Articles 72 and 161  repose  the  power  of  the  people  in  the
highest dignitaries, i.e., the President or the Governor of a State, as  the
case may be, and there are no words of limitation  indicated  in  either  of
the two Articles. The President or the Governor, as  the  case  may  be,  in
exercise of  power  under  Article  72/161  respectively,  may  examine  the
evidence afresh and this exercise of power is  clearly  independent  of  the
judiciary. This Court, in numerous instances, clarified that  the  executive
is not sitting as a court of appeal rather the power  of  President/Governor
to grant  remission  of  sentence  is  an  act  of  grace  and  humanity  in
appropriate cases, i.e., distinct, absolute and unfettered in its nature.

13)   In this context, the deliberations in Epuru Sudhakar & Anr. vs.  Govt.
of A.P. & Ors., (2006) 8 SCC 161 are relevant which are as under:
       “16. The philosophy  underlying  the  pardon  power  is  that  "every
       civilized country recognizes, and has  therefore  provided  for,  the
       pardoning power to be exercised as an act of grace  and  humanity  in
       proper cases. Without such a power of clemency, to  be  exercised  by
       some department or functionary of a government, a  country  would  be
       most imperfect and deficient in its political morality, and  in  that
       attribute of Deity whose judgments are always  tempered  with  mercy.
       [See 59 American Jurisprudence 2d, page 5]


       17.  The  rationale  of  the  pardon  power  has  been   felicitously
       enunciated by the celebrated Justice  Holmes  of  the  United  States
       Supreme Court in the case of Biddle v. Perovich in these words 71  L.
       Ed. 1161 at 1163: A pardon in our days is not a private act of  grace
       from an individual happening to possess power. It is a  part  of  the
       constitutional scheme. When granted, it is the determination  of  the
       ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better  served  by
       inflicting less than what the judgment fixed.” (emphasis added)

14)   Article 72/161 of the Constitution entail remedy to all  the  convicts
and not limited  to  only  death  sentence  cases  and  must  be  understood
accordingly.  It contains the power of reprieve, remission, commutation  and
pardon for all offences, though death sentence cases  invoke  the  strongest
sentiment since it is the only sentence that cannot be  undone  once  it  is
executed.

15)   Shri Andhyarujina, learned senior counsel, who assisted the  Court  as
amicus commenced his submissions by pointing out that the power  reposed  in
the President under Article 72 and the Governor under  Article  161  of  the
Constitution is not a matter of grace or  mercy,  but  is  a  constitutional
duty of great significance and the same has to be exercised with great  care
and circumspection keeping in view the larger public interest.  He  referred
to the judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court in Biddle vs. Perovoch 274 US  480
as also the judgments of  this  Court  in  Kehar  Singh  (supra)  and  Epuru
Sudhakar (supra).

16)   In this context, in Kuljeet Singh vs. Lt. Governor (1982) 1  SCC  417,
this Court held:
      “1.  The question as regards the scope of the power of  the  President
      under Article 72 of the Constitution to commute a  sentence  of  death
      into a lesser sentence may have to await examination on an appropriate
      occasion. This clearly is not that occasion because  insofar  as  this
      case is concerned,  whatever  be  the  guide-lines  observed  for  the
      exercise of the power conferred by Article 72, the only sentence which
      can possibly be imposed upon the petitioner is that of  death  and  no
      circumstances exist for interference with that sentence. Therefore  we
      see no justification for  saying  that  in  refusing  to  commute  the
      sentence of death imposed upon the petitioner into a lesser  sentence,
      the President has in any manner transgressed his  discretionary  power
      under Article 72. Undoubtedly, the  President  has  the  power  in  an
      appropriate case to commute any sentence imposed by  a  court  into  a
      lesser sentence and as said by Chief Justice Taft in James Shewan  and
      Sons v. U.S., the “executive clemency exists  to  afford  relief  from
      undue harshness or evident mistake in the operation or enforcement  of
      the criminal law” and that the administration of justice by the courts
      is not necessarily or certainly considerate of circumstances which may
      properly mitigate guilt. But the question as to whether  the  case  is
      appropriate for the exercise of the  power  conferred  by  Article  72
      depends upon the facts and circumstances of each particular case.  The
      necessity or the justification for exercising that power has therefore
      to be judged from case to case. In fact, we do  not  see  what  useful
      purpose will be achieved by the petitioner by ensuring the  imposition
      of any severe, judicially evolved constraints on the  wholesome  power
      of the President to use it as the justice of a case may require. After
      all, the power conferred by Article  72  can  be  used  only  for  the
      purpose of reducing the sentence, not for enhancing it. We  need  not,
      however, go into that question elaborately  because  insofar  as  this
      case is concerned, we are quite clear that not even the  most  liberal
      use of his mercy jurisdiction could have persuaded  the  President  to
      interfere with the sentence of death imposed upon the  petitioner,  in
      view particularly  of  the  considerations  mentioned  by  us  in  our
      judgment in Kuljeet Singh v. Union of India. We  may  recall  what  we
      said in that judgment that “the  death  of  the  Chopra  children  was
      caused by the petitioner  and  his  companion  Billa  after  a  savage
      planning which bears a professional stamp”, that the “survival  of  an
      orderly society demands the extinction of the  life  of  persons  like
      Ranga and Billa who are a menace to social order  and  security”,  and
      that “they are professional murderers and deserve no sympathy even  in
      terms of the evolving standards of decency of a mature society.”

17)   In concise, the power vested in the President  under  Article  72  and
the Governor under Article 161  of  the  Constitution  is  a  Constitutional
duty. As a result, it  is  neither  a  matter  of  grace  nor  a  matter  of
privilege but is an important constitutional responsibility reposed  by  the
people in the highest authority.  The power  of  pardon  is  essentially  an
executive action, which needs to be exercised in the aid of justice and  not
in defiance of it. Further, it is well settled that the power under  Article
72/161 of the Constitution of India is  to  be  exercised  on  the  aid  and
advice of the Council of Ministers.
Limited Judicial Review of the executive orders under Article 72/161

18)   As already emphasized, the power of  the  executive  to  grant  pardon
under Article 72/161 is a Constitutional power and this Court,  on  numerous
occasions, has declined to frame guidelines for the exercise of power  under
the said Articles for two reasons. Firstly,  it  is  a  settled  proposition
that there is always a presumption that the  constitutional  authority  acts
with application of mind as has been  reiterated  in  Bikas  Chatterjee  vs.
Union of India (2004) 7 SCC 634. Secondly, this  Court,  over  the  span  of
years, unanimously took the  view  that  considering  the  nature  of  power
enshrined in Article  72/161,  it  is  unnecessary  to  spell  out  specific
guidelines. In this context, in Epuru  Sudhakar  (supra),  this  Court  held
thus:
      “36. So far as desirability to indicate  guidelines  is  concerned  in
      Ashok Kumar case it was held as follows: (SCC pp. 518-19, para 17)


          “17. In Kehar Singh case on the question of laying down guidelines
          for the exercise of power under Article  72  of  the  Constitution
          this Court observed in para 16 as under: (SCC pp. 217-18, para 16)
          ‘It seems to us that there is sufficient indication in  the  terms
          of Article 72 and in the history of the power  enshrined  in  that
          provision as well as existing case-law,  and  specific  guidelines
          need not be spelled out. Indeed, it may not  be  possible  to  lay
          down any precise, clearly  defined  and  sufficiently  channelised
          guidelines, for we must remember that the power under  Article  72
          is of the widest amplitude, can contemplate  a  myriad  kinds  and
          categories of cases with facts and situations varying from case to
          case, in which the merits and reasons of State may  be  profoundly
          assisted by prevailing occasion and passing time.  And  it  is  of
          great significance that the function itself enjoys high status  in
          the constitutional scheme.’


      These observations do  indicate  that  the  Constitution  Bench  which
      decided Kehar Singh case was of the view that the language of  Article
      72 itself provided sufficient guidelines for the exercise of power and
      having regard to its wide amplitude and the status of the function  to
      be discharged thereunder, it was  perhaps  unnecessary  to  spell  out
      specific guidelines since such guidelines may not be able to  conceive
      of all myriad kinds and categories of cases which may come up for  the
      exercise of such power. No doubt in Maru  Ram  case  the  Constitution
      Bench did recommend the framing of  guidelines  for  the  exercise  of
      power under Articles 72/161 of the Constitution. But that was  a  mere
      recommendation and not a ratio decidendi having a  binding  effect  on
      the Constitution Bench which decided Kehar Singh case.  Therefore, the
      observation made by the Constitution Bench in Kehar  Singh  case  does
      not upturn any ratio laid down in Maru Ram case. Nor has the Bench  in
      Kehar Singh case said anything with regard to using the provisions  of
      extant Remission Rules as guidelines for the exercise of the  clemency
      powers.”



19)    Nevertheless, this Court has been of the  consistent  view  that  the
executive orders under Article 72/161 should be subject to limited  judicial
review based on the rationale that the power under Article 72/161 is per  se
above judicial review but the manner  of  exercise  of  power  is  certainly
subject to judicial review. Accordingly, there  is  no  dispute  as  to  the
settled legal proposition that the  power  exercised  under  Article  72/161
could be the subject matter of limited judicial review.  [vide  Kehar  Singh
(supra); Ashok Kumar (supra); Swaran Singh vs. State  of  U.P  AIR  1998  SC
2026; Satpal and Anr. vs. State of Haryana and Ors. AIR 2000  SC  1702;  and
Bikas Chatterjee (supra)]

20)   Though the contours of  power  under  Article  72/161  have  not  been
defined, this Court, in Narayan Dutt vs. State of Punjab (2011) 4  SCC  353,
para 24, has held that the exercise of power is subject to challenge on  the
following grounds:

        a) If the Governor had been  found  to  have  exercised  the  power
           himself without being advised by the government;

        b) If the Governor transgressed his jurisdiction in exercising  the
           said power;

        c) If the Governor had passed the order without applying his mind;

        d) The order of the Governor was mala fide; or

        e) The  order  of  the  Governor  was  passed  on  some  extraneous
           considerations.

These propositions are culmination of views settled by this Court that:

        i) Power should not be exercised malafidely.  (Vide  Maru  Ram  vs.
           Union of India, paras 62, 63 & 65).

       ii) No political considerations behind exercise of  power.  In  this
           context, in Epuru Sudhakar (supra),   this Court held thus:
           “34. The position, therefore, is undeniable that judicial review
           of the order of the President or the Governor under  Article  72
           or Article 161, as the case  may  be,  is  available  and  their
           orders can be impugned on the following grounds:
           a) that the order has been passed without application of mind;
           (b) that the order is mala fide;
           (c) that the order has  been  passed  on  extraneous  or  wholly
           irrelevant considerations;
           (d) that relevant materials have been kept out of consideration;
              (e) that the order suffers from arbitrariness.


           35. Two important  aspects  were  also  highlighted  by  learned
           amicus curiae; one relating to the  desirability  of  indicating
           reasons in the order granting pardon/remission while  the  other
           was an equally more important  question  relating  to  power  to
           withdraw   the   order   of   granting   pardon/remission,    if
           subsequently, materials are placed to show that certain relevant
           materials were not considered or certain materials of  extensive
           value were kept  out  of  consideration.  According  to  learned
           amicus curiae, reasons are to be indicated, in  the  absence  of
           which the exercise of judicial review will be affected.


           37. In Kehar Singh case this Court held that: (SCC p. 216,  para
           13)
                “There is also no question involved in this case  of  asking
                for the reasons for the President’s order.”


           38. The same obviously means that the affected party need not be
           given the reasons. The question whether reasons can or cannot be
           disclosed to the Court when the same is challenged was  not  the
           subject-matter of consideration. In any event,  the  absence  of
           any obligation to convey the reasons does not  mean  that  there
           should not be legitimate or relevant  reasons  for  passing  the
           order.”



21)  A  perusal  of  the  above  case-laws   makes   it   clear   that   the
President/Governor is not bound to hear a petition for mercy  before  taking
a decision on the petition.  The manner of exercise of the power  under  the
said articles is primarily a matter of discretion and ordinarily the  courts
would not interfere with the  decision  on  merits.    However,  the  courts
retain  the  limited  power  of  judicial  review   to   ensure   that   the
constitutional  authorities  consider  all  the  relevant  materials  before
arriving at a conclusion.

22)   It is the claim of the petitioners herein that the impugned  executive
orders of rejection of mercy  petitions  against  15  accused  persons  were
passed without considering the supervening  events  which  are  crucial  for
deciding the same. The legal  basis  for  taking  supervening  circumstances
into account is that Article 21 inheres a right in every prisoner  till  his
last breath and this Court will protect that right  even  if  the  noose  is
being tied on the condemned prisoner’s  neck.   [vide  Sher  Singh  (supra),
Triveniben (supra),  Vatheeswaran  (supra),  Jagdish  vs.  State  of  Madhya
Pradesh (2009) 9 SCC 495].

23)   Certainly, delay is one of the permitted grounds for limited  judicial
review as stipulated in the stare decisis. Henceforth, we  shall  scrutinize
the claim of the petitioners herein and find out the effect  of  supervening
circumstances in the case on hand.

Supervening Circumstances
24)   The petitioners herein have  asserted  the  following  events  as  the
supervening  circumstances,  for  commutation  of  death  sentence  to  life
imprisonment.
    i) Delay
   ii)  Insanity
  iii) Solitary Confinement
   iv) Judgments declared per incuriam
    v)  Procedural Lapses
25)   All the petitioners have  more  or  less  asserted  on  the  aforesaid
grounds which, in their opinion, the executive had failed to  take  note  of
while rejecting the mercy petitions filed  by  them.  Let  us  discuss  them
distinctively and come to a conclusion whether  each  of  the  circumstances
exclusively or together warrants the  commutation  of  death  sentence  into
life imprisonment.
(i) Delay

26)   It is pre-requisite to comprehend the procedure adopted under  Article
72/161 for processing the mercy petition so that we may be in a position  to
appreciate the aspect of delay as one of the supervening circumstances.

27)   The death  row  convicts  invariably  approached  the  Governor  under
Article 161 of the Constitution of India with a mercy  petition  after  this
Court  finally  decided  the  matter.  During  the  pendency  of  the  mercy
petition,  the  execution  of  death  sentence  was  stayed.   As  per   the
procedure, once the mercy petition is rejected by the Governor, the  convict
prefers mercy petition to the President.   Thereafter,  the  mercy  petition
received in  President’s  office  is  forwarded  to  the  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs.  Normally, the mercy petition consists of one or two  pages  giving
grounds for mercy.  To examine the mercy petition so received and to  arrive
at a conclusion, the documents like copy  of  the  judgments  of  the  trial
Court, High Court and  the  Supreme  Court  are  requested  from  the  State
Government.  The other documents required include details  of  the  decision
taken  by  the   Governor   under   Article   161   of   the   Constitution,
recommendations of  the  State  Government  in  regard  to  grant  of  mercy
petition, copy of the records of the case,  nominal  role  of  the  convict,
health status of the  prisoner  and  other  related  documents.   All  these
details are gathered from the State/Prison authorities after the receipt  of
the mercy petition and, according to the Union of India, it takes a  lot  of
time and involve  protracted  correspondence  with  prison  authorities  and
State Government.  It is also the claim of the Union  of  India  that  these
documents are  then  extensively  examined  and  in  some  sensitive  cases,
various pros and cons are weighed  to  arrive  at  a  decision.   Sometimes,
person or at their instance some of their relatives,  file  mercy  petitions
repeatedly which cause undue delay.  In other words, according to the  Union
of India, the time taken in examination of mercy petitions may  depend  upon
the nature of the case and the scope of inquiry to be  made.   It  may  also
depend upon the number of mercy petitions submitted by or on behalf  of  the
accused.  It is the  claim  of  the  respondents  that  there  cannot  be  a
specific time limit for examination of mercy petitions.

28)   It is also the claim of the respondents that Article 72  envisages  no
limit as to time within which the mercy petition is to  be  disposed  of  by
the President of India.  Accordingly, it is contended  that  since  no  time
limit is prescribed for the President under Article 72, the courts  may  not
go into it or fix any outer limit.  It is also contended that the  power  of
the President under Article 72 is discretionary which cannot be  taken  away
by any statutory provision and cannot be  altered,  modified  or  interfered
with, in any manner, whatsoever, by any statutory  provision  or  authority.
The powers conferred on the President  are  special  powers  overriding  all
other laws, rules and regulations  in  force.   Delay  by  itself  does  not
entail the person under sentence of death  to  request  for  commutation  of
sentence into life imprisonment.

29)   It is also pointed out that the decision taken by the President  under
Article  72  is  communicated  to  the  State   Government/Union   Territory
concerned and to the prisoner through State Government/Union Territory.   It
is also brought to our notice that as per List II Entry  4  of  the  Seventh
Schedule to  the  Constitution  of  India,  “Prisons  and  persons  detained
therein” is a State subject.  Therefore, all steps for execution of  capital
punishment including informing the convict  and  his/her  family,  etc.  are
required to be taken  care  of  by  the  concerned  State  Governments/Union
Territories in accordance with their jail manual/rules etc.

30)   On the contrary,  it  is  the  plea  of  the  petitioners  that  after
exhausting of the proceedings in the courts of law,  the  aggrieved  convict
gets right to make a mercy petition before the Governor  and  the  President
of India highlighting his grievance.  If there is  any  undue,  unreasonable
and prolonged delay in disposal  of  his  mercy  petition,  the  convict  is
entitled to approach this Court by way of a writ petition under  Article  32
of the Constitution. It is vehemently asserted that the execution  of  death
penalty in the face of such an inordinate delay would  infringe  fundamental
right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, which would  invite  the
exercise of the jurisdiction by this Court.

31)   The right to life is the most fundamental of all  rights.   The  right
to life, as guaranteed under  Article  21  of  the  Constitution  of  India,
provides that no person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except  in
accordance with the procedure established  by  law.   According  to  learned
counsel for the Union of India, death sentence is imposed on a person  found
guilty of an offence of heinous nature after adhering to the  due  procedure
established by law which is subject to appeal and review.  Therefore,  delay
in execution must not be a ground for commutation  of  sentence  of  such  a
heinous crime. On the other hand, the argument of  learned counsel  for  the
petitioners/death convicts is that human life is sacred and  inviolable  and
every effort should be made to protect it. Therefore,  inasmuch  as  Article
21 is available to all the persons including  convicts  and  continues  till
last breath if they  establish  and  prove  the  supervening  circumstances,
viz., undue delay in disposal of mercy petitions, undoubtedly,  this  Court,
by virtue of power under Article 32, can commute  the  death  sentence  into
imprisonment for life.  As a  matter  of  fact,  it  is  the  stand  of  the
petitioners that in a petition  filed  under  Article  32,  even  without  a
presidential order, if there is unexplained, long and  inordinate  delay  in
execution of death sentence, the grievance of the convict can be  considered
by this Court.

32)   This Court is conscious of the fact, namely, while Article 21  is  the
paramount principle on which rights of the convicts are based,  it  must  be
considered along with the rights of the victims or the deceased’s family  as
also  societal  consideration  since  these  elements  form  part   of   the
sentencing process as well.  The right of a victim to a  fair  investigation
under Article 21 has been recognized in State of West Bengal  vs.  Committee
for Democratic Rights, West Bengal, (2010) 3 SCC 571, which is as under:

        “68. Thus, having examined the rival contentions in the context  of
        the constitutional scheme, we conclude as follows:
           (i) The  fundamental  rights,  enshrined  in  Part  III  of  the
        Constitution, are  inherent  and  cannot  be  extinguished  by  any
        constitutional or statutory provision. Any law  that  abrogates  or
        abridges such rights would be  violative  of  the  basic  structure
        doctrine. The actual effect and impact of the  law  on  the  rights
        guaranteed  under  Part  III  has  to  be  taken  into  account  in
        determining whether or not it destroys the basic structure.
           (ii) Article 21 of the Constitution  in  its  broad  perspective
        seeks to protect the persons of their lives and personal  liberties
        except according to the procedure  established  by  law.  The  said
        article in its broad application not only  takes  within  its  fold
        enforcement of the rights of an accused but also the rights of  the
        victim. The State has a duty to  enforce  the  human  rights  of  a
        citizen providing for fair and impartial investigation against  any
        person accused of commission of a  cognizable  offence,  which  may
        include its own officers. In certain situations even a  witness  to
        the crime may seek for and  shall  be  granted  protection  by  the
        State…”



We do comprehend the critical facet involved in the arguments  by  both  the
sides and we will strive to strike a  balance  between  the  rights  of  the
accused as well as of the victim while deciding the given case.

33)   This is not the first time when the question  of  such  a   nature  is
raised before this Court. In Ediga Anamma vs. State  of  A.P.,  1974(4)  SCC
443 Krishna Iyer, J. spoke of the “brooding horror of haunting the  prisoner
in the condemned cell for years”.   Chinnappa  Reddy,  J.  in   Vatheeswaran
(supra) said that prolonged delay in execution of a sentence of death had  a
dehumanizing  effect  and  this  had  the  constitutional   implication   of
depriving a person of his life in an unjust, unfair and unreasonable way  so
as to offend the fundamental right under Article  21  of  the  Constitution.
Chinnappa Reddy, J. quoted the Privy Council’s  observation  in  a  case  of
such an inordinate delay in execution, viz.,  “The  anguish  of  alternating
hope and despair the agony of  uncertainty  and  the  consequences  of  such
suffering on the mental, emotional and physical integrity and health of  the
individual has to be seen.” Thereby, a Bench of two  Judges  of  this  Court
held that the delay of two years in execution  of  the  sentence  after  the
judgment of the trial court will entitle the  condemned  prisoner  to  plead
for  commutation  of  sentence  of   death   to   imprisonment   for   life.
Subsequently, in Sher Singh (supra), which was a  decision  of  a  Bench  of
three Judges, it was held that a condemned prisoner  has  a  right  of  fair
procedure at all stages, trial, sentence and incarceration but  delay  alone
is not good enough for commutation and two years’ rule  could  not  be  laid
down in cases of delay.

34)   Owing to the conflict in the two decisions, the  matter  was  referred
to a Constitution Bench of this Court for deciding the two questions of  law
viz., (i) whether the delay  in  execution  itself  will  be  a  ground  for
commutation of sentence and (ii) whether two years’ delay in execution  will
automatically entitle the condemned prisoner for  commutation  of  sentence.
In Smt. Triveniben vs. State of Gujarat (1988) 4 SCC 574,  this  Court  held
thus:

      “2.  …..Undue long delay in execution of the sentence  of  death  will
      entitle the condemned person to approach this Court under  Article  32
      but this Court will only  examine  the  nature  of  delay  caused  and
      circumstances that ensued after sentence was finally confirmed by  the
      judicial  process  and  will  have  no  jurisdiction  to  re-open  the
      conclusions  reached  by  the  court  while  finally  maintaining  the
      sentence of death.  This Court, however, may consider the question  of
      inordinate delay in the light of all  circumstances  of  the  case  to
      decide whether the execution of sentence  should  be  carried  out  or
      should be altered into imprisonment for  life.   No  fixed  period  of
      delay could be held to make the sentence of death inexecutable and  to
      this extent the decision in Vatheeswaran case cannot be  said  to  lay
      down the correct law and therefore to that extent stands overruled.”

35)   While giving full reasons which is reported  in  Smt.  Triveniben  vs.
State of Gujarat, (1989) 1 SCC 678 this Court, in para 22,  appreciated  the
aspect of delay in execution in the following words:-
      “22. It was contended that the delay in execution of the sentence will
      entitle a prisoner to approach this Court as his right  under  Article
      21 is being infringed. It is well settled now that a judgment of court
      can never be challenged under Article  14  or  21  and  therefore  the
      judgment of the court awarding the sentence of death is  not  open  to
      challenge as violating Article 14 or Article 21 as has been laid  down
      by this Court in Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar v. State of Maharashtra  and
      also in A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak the only jurisdiction  which  could
      be sought to be exercised by a prisoner for infringement of his rights
      can be to challenge the subsequent events  after  the  final  judicial
      verdict is pronounced and it is because of this that on the ground  of
      long or inordinate delay a  condemned  prisoner  could  approach  this
      Court and that is what has consistently been held by this  Court.  But
      it will not be open to this Court in exercise  of  jurisdiction  under
      Article 32 to go behind or to examine the final verdict reached  by  a
      competent court convicting and sentencing the condemned  prisoner  and
      even  while  considering  the  circumstances  in  order  to  reach   a
      conclusion as to whether the inordinate delay coupled with  subsequent
      circumstances  could  be  held  to  be  sufficient  for  coming  to  a
      conclusion that execution of the sentence of death will  not  be  just
      and proper. The nature of the  offence,  circumstances  in  which  the
      offence was committed will have to be taken as found by the  competent
      court while finally passing the verdict. It may also be  open  to  the
      court to examine or consider any circumstances after the final verdict
      was  pronounced  if  it  is  considered  relevant.  The  question   of
      improvement in the conduct of the prisoner  after  the  final  verdict
      also cannot be considered for coming to  the  conclusion  whether  the
      sentence could be altered on that ground also.”



36)   Though learned counsel appearing for the  Union  of  India  relied  on
certain observations  of  Shetty,  J.  who  delivered  concurring  judgment,
particularly, para  76,  holding  that  “the  inordinate  delay,  may  be  a
significant  factor,  but  that  by  itself  cannot  render  the   execution
unconstitutional”, after careful reading of the majority  judgment  authored
by Oza, J., particularly, para 2 of the order dated 11.10.1988 and  para  22
of the subsequent order dated 07.02.1989, we reject the said stand taken  by
learned counsel for the Union of India.

37)   In Vatheeswaran (supra), the dissenting opinion of the two  judges  in
the Privy  Council  case,  relied  upon  by  this  Court,  was  subsequently
accepted as the correct law by the Privy Council in Earl Pratt  vs.  AG  for
Jamaica [1994] 2 AC 1 – Privy Council, after 22 years.  There  is  no  doubt
that judgments of  the  Privy  Council  have  certainly  received  the  same
respectful consideration as the judgments of this Court.   For  clarity,  we
reiterate that except the ratio relating to delay  exceeding  two  years  in
execution of sentence of death, all other propositions  are  acceptable,  in
fact, followed in subsequent decisions and should be  considered  sufficient
to entitle the person under sentence of  death  to  invoke  Article  21  and
plead for commutation of the sentence.

38)   In view of the above, we hold that undue long delay  in  execution  of
sentence of death will entitle  the  condemned  prisoner  to  approach  this
Court  under  Article  32.   However,  this  Court  will  only  examine  the
circumstances surrounding the delay that has occurred and  those  that  have
ensued after sentence was finally confirmed by the judicial  process.   This
Court cannot reopen the conclusion already  reached  but  may  consider  the
question of inordinate delay to decide whether  the  execution  of  sentence
should be carried out or should be altered into imprisonment for life.

39)   Keeping a  convict  in  suspense  while  consideration  of  his  mercy
petition by the President for many years is certainly an agony for  him/her.
 It creates adverse physical conditions and psychological  stresses  on  the
convict  under  sentence  of  death.   Indisputably,   this   Court,   while
considering the rejection of the clemency petition by the  President,  under
Article 32 read with Article 21  of  the  Constitution,  cannot  excuse  the
agonizing delay caused to the convict only on the basis of  the  gravity  of
the crime.

40)   India has been a signatory  to  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human
Rights, 1948 as well  as  to  the  United  Nations  Covenant  on  Civil  and
Political  Rights,  1966.   Both  these   conventions   contain   provisions
outlawing cruel and degrading treatment and/or punishment.  Pursuant to  the
judgment of this Court in Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC  241,
international covenants to which India is a party are  a  part  of  domestic
law unless they are contrary to  a  specific  law  in  force.   It  is  this
expression (“cruel and degrading treatment  and/or  punishment”)  which  has
ignited the philosophy of Vatheeswaran (supra) and the  cases  which  follow
it.  It is in this light, the Indian cases, particularly, the  leading  case
of Triveniben (supra) has been followed in the Commonwealth  countries.   It
is useful to refer  the  following  foreign  judgments  which  followed  the
proposition :

i)    Earl Pratt vs. AG for Jamaica [1994] 2 AC 1 – Privy Council

ii)   Catholic Commission for Justice  &  Peace  in  Zimbabwe  vs.  Attorney
General, 1993 (4) S.A. 239 – Supreme Court of Zimbabwe

iii)  Soering vs. United Kingdom [App. No. 14038/88, 11 Eur. H.R.  Rep.  439
(1989)] – European Court of Human Rights

iv)   Attorney General vs. Susan Kigula,  Constitutional  Appeal  No.  3  of
2006 – Supreme Court of Uganda

v)    Herman Mejia and Nicholas Guevara  vs.  Attorney  General,  A.D.  2000
Action No. 296 – Supreme Court of Belize.

41)   It is clear that after the completion of the judicial process, if  the
convict files a mercy petition to the Governor/President,  it  is  incumbent
on the authorities to dispose of the same  expeditiously.   Though  no  time
limit can be fixed for the Governor and the President, it  is  the  duty  of
the executive to expedite the matter at every stage, viz., calling  for  the
records, orders and documents filed in the court, preparation  of  the  note
for approval of the Minister concerned, and the  ultimate  decision  of  the
constitutional authorities.  This  court,  in  Triveniben  (supra),  further
held that in doing so, if it is established that there was  prolonged  delay
in the execution  of  death  sentence,  it  is  an  important  and  relevant
consideration for determining whether the sentence should be allowed  to  be
executed or not.

42)   Accordingly, if there is undue, unexplained amd  inordinate  delay  in
execution due to pendency of mercy petitions or the  executive  as  well  as
the constitutional authorities have failed  to  take  note  of/consider  the
relevant aspects, this Court is well within its powers under Article  32  to
hear the grievance of the convict and commute the death sentence  into  life
imprisonment on this ground alone however, only after  satisfying  that  the
delay was not caused at the  instance  of  the  accused  himself.   To  this
extent, the jurisprudence has developed in the light of  the  mandate  given
in  our  Constitution  as  well  as  various  Universal   Declarations   and
directions issued by the United Nations.

43)   The procedure prescribed by law, which deprives a person of  his  life
and liberty must be just, fair and reasonable and  such  procedure  mandates
humane conditions of  detention  preventive  or  punitive.   In  this  line,
although the petitioners were sentenced to  death  based  on  the  procedure
established by law, the  inexplicable  delay  on  account  of  executive  is
unexcusable.  Since  it  is  well  established  that  Article  21   of   the
Constitution does not end with the pronouncement of sentence but extends  to
the stage of execution of that  sentence,  as  already  asserted,  prolonged
delay in execution of sentence of death has a  dehumanizing  effect  on  the
accused.  Delay  caused  by  circumstances  beyond  the  prisoners’  control
mandates commutation of death sentence.  In fact, in  Vatheeswaran  (supra),
particularly,  in  para  10,  it  was   elaborated   where   amongst   other
authorities, the minority view of Lords Scarman and Brightman  in  the  1972
Privy Council case of Noel Noel Riley vs. Attorney General,  (1982)  Crl.Law
Review 679 by quoting “sentence of death is one  thing,  sentence  of  death
followed by  lengthy  imprisonment  prior  to  execution  is  another”.  The
appropriate relief in  cases  where  the  execution  of  death  sentence  is
delayed, the Court held, is to vacate the sentence of death.   In  para  13,
the Court made it clear that Articles 14, 19 and 21 supplement  one  another
and the right which was spelled out from the Constitution was a  substantive
right of the convict and not merely a matter  of  procedure  established  by
law.  This was the consequence of the judgment in Maneka  Gandhi  vs.  Union
of India (1978) 1 SCC 248 which made the content of Article  21  substantive
as distinguished from merely procedural.

44)   Another argument advanced by learned ASG is that  even  if  the  delay
caused seems to be undue, the matter must be referred back to the  executive
and a  decision  must  not  be  taken  in  the  judicial  side.   Though  we
appreciate the contention argued by the learned ASG, we are not inclined  to
accept the argument.  The concept of supervening  events  emerged  from  the
jurisprudence set out in Vatheeswaran (supra) and Triveniben  (supra).   The
word ‘judicial review’ is not even mentioned  in  these  judgments  and  the
death sentences have been  commuted  purely  on  the  basis  of  supervening
events such as delay.  Under the ground of supervening events, when  Article
21 is held to be violated, it is not a question of judicial  review  but  of
protection of fundamental rights and  courts  give  substantial  relief  not
merely procedural protection.  The question of violation of Article 21,  its
effects and the appropriate relief is the domain of this  Court.   There  is
no question of remanding the matter for consideration because this Court  is
the custodian and enforcer of fundamental rights and the  final  interpreter
of the Constitution.  Further, this Court is  best  equipped  to  adjudicate
the content of those rights and their  requirements  in  a  particular  fact
situation.   This  Court  has  always  granted  relief  for   violation   of
fundamental rights and has never  remanded  the  matter.   For  example,  in
cases  of  preventive  detention,  violation  of  free  speech,  externment,
refusal of passport etc., the impugned action is quashed,  declared  illegal
and  violative  of  Article  21,  but  never  remanded.   It  would  not  be
appropriate to say at this point that this Court should not give relief  for
the violation of Article 21.

45)   At this juncture,  it  is  pertinent  to  refer  the  records  of  the
disposal of mercy petitions compiled by Mr. Bikram Jeet  Batra  and  others,
which are attached as annexures in almost all the petitions herein.  At  the
outset, this document reveals that the  mercy  petitions  were  disposed  of
more expeditiously in former days than in the present times.  Mostly,  until
1980, the mercy petitions were decided in minimum of 15 days and in  maximum
of 10-11 months. Thereafter, from 1980 to 1988, the time taken  in  disposal
of mercy petitions was gradually increased to an average of 4 years.  It  is
exactly at this point of time,  the  cases  like  Vatheeswaran  (supra)  and
Triveniben  (supra)  were  decided  which  gave  way  for   developing   the
jurisprudence of commuting the death sentence based on undue  delay.  It  is
also pertinent to mention that this Court has observed in these  cases  that
when such petitions under Article 72 or 161 are received by the  authorities
concerned, it  is  expected  that  these  petitions  shall  be  disposed  of
expeditiously. In Sher Singh (supra) their  Lordships  have  also  impressed
the Government of India and all the State Governments  for  speedy  disposal
of petitions filed under Articles 72 and 161 and issued  directions  in  the
following manner:
      “23. We must take this opportunity to impress upon the  Government  of
      India and the State Governments that petitions filed under Articles 72
      and 161 of the Constitution or under  Sections  432  and  433  of  the
      Criminal Procedure Code must be disposed  of  expeditiously.  A  self-
      imposed  rule  should  be  followed  by  the   executive   authorities
      rigorously, that every such petition shall be  disposed  of  within  a
      period of three months from the date on which it is received. Long and
      interminable delays in the disposal of these petitions are  a  serious
      hurdle in the dispensation of justice and indeed, such delays tend  to
      shake the confidence of the people in the very system of justice.



46)    Obviously,  the  mercy  petitions  disposed  of  from  1989  to  1997
witnessed  the  impact  of  the  observations  in  the  disposal  of   mercy
petitions. Since the average time taken for  deciding  the  mercy  petitions
during this period was brought down to an average of 5 months from  4  years
thereby paying due regard to the observations made in the decisions of  this
Court, but unfortunately, now the history seems to be  repeating  itself  as
now the delay of maximum  12  years  is  seen  in  disposing  of  the  mercy
petitions under Article 72/161 of the Constitution.

47)   We sincerely hope and believe that the mercy petitions  under  Article
72/161 can be disposed of at a much faster pace than what  is  adopted  now,
if the due procedure prescribed by law is followed  in  verbatim.  Although,
no time frame can be set  for  the  President  for  disposal  of  the  mercy
petition but we can certainly request the concerned Ministry to  follow  its
own rules rigorously which can reduce, to a large extent, the delay caused.

48)   Though guidelines to define the contours of the  power  under  Article
72/161 cannot be laid down, however, the Union Government,  considering  the
nature of the power, set out certain criteria in the  form  of  circular  as
under for deciding the mercy petitions.

    • Personality of the accused (such as age, sex or mental deficiency)  or
      circumstances  of  the  case   (such   as   provocation   or   similar
      justification);

    • Cases  in  which  the  appellate  Court  expressed  doubt  as  to  the
      reliability of evidence but has nevertheless decided on conviction;

    • Cases where it is alleged that fresh  evidence  is  obtainable  mainly
      with a view to see whether fresh enquiry is justified;

    • Where the High Court on appeal reversed  acquittal  or  on  an  appeal
      enhanced the sentence;

    • Is there any difference of opinion in the Bench of High  Court  Judges
      necessitating reference to a larger Bench;

    • Consideration of evidence in fixation of responsibility in gang murder
      case;

    • Long delays in investigation and trial etc.

49)   These guidelines and the scope of the power  set  out  above  make  it
clear  that  it  is  an  extraordinary  power  not   limited   by   judicial
determination of the case and is not to be exercised lightly or as a  matter
of course. We also suggest, in view of the jurisprudential development  with
regard to delay in execution,  another  criteria  may  be  added  so  as  to
require consideration of the delay that may have occurred in disposal  of  a
mercy petition.  In this way, the constitutional authorities are made  aware
of the delay caused at their end which aspect has  to  be  considered  while
arriving at a decision in the mercy petition.  The obligation to do  so  can
also be read from the fact that, as observed by the  Constitution  Bench  in
Triveniben (supra), delays in the judicial process are accounted for in  the
final verdict of the Court terminating the judicial exercise.

50)   Another vital aspect, without mention of which the present  discussion
will not be complete, is that, as aforesaid, Article  21  is  the  paramount
principle on which rights of the convict are based, this must be  considered
along with the rights of the  victims  or  the  deceased’s  family  as  also
societal consideration since these elements  form  part  of  the  sentencing
process as well. It is the stand of the respondents that the commutation  of
sentence of death  based  on  delay  alone  will  be  against  the  victim’s
interest.

51)   It is true that the  question  of  sentence  always  poses  a  complex
problem, which requires a working compromise  between  the  competing  views
based on reformative, deterrent and retributive theories of punishments.  As
a  consequence,  a  large  number  of  factors  fall  for  consideration  in
determining the appropriate sentence. The object of  punishment  is  lucidly
elaborated in Ram Narain vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (1973) 2 SCC 86  in  the
following words:-

      “8. …the broad object of punishment of  an  accused  found  guilty  in
      progressive civilized societies is to impress on the guilty party that
      commission of crimes does not pay and that  it  is  both  against  his
      individual interest and  also  against  the  larger  interest  of  the
      society to which he belongs. The sentence to  be  appropriate  should,
      therefore, be neither too harsh nor too lenient....”




52) The object of punishment has been succinctly stated in  Halsbury's  Laws
of England, (4th Edition: Vol. II: para 482) thus:

        “The aims of  punishment  are  now  considered  to  be  retribution,
        justice,  deterrence,  reformation   and   protection   and   modern
        sentencing policy reflects a combination of several or all of  these
        aims. The retributive element is intended to show  public  revulsion
        to the offence and to punish the offender for his wrong conduct. The
        concept of justice as an aim  of  punishment  means  both  that  the
        punishment should fit the offence and also that like offences should
        receive similar punishments. An  increasingly  important  aspect  of
        punishment is deterrence and sentences are aimed  at  deterring  not
        only the actual offender from further offences  but  also  potential
        offenders from breaking the law. The importance  of  reformation  of
        the offender is shown by the growing emphasis laid upon it  by  much
        modern legislation, but judicial opinion towards this particular aim
        is varied and rehabilitation will not usually be accorded precedence
        over deterrence. The main aim of  punishment  in  judicial  thought,
        however, is still the protection of society and  the  other  objects
        frequently receive only secondary consideration when  sentences  are
        being decided.”




53)   All these aspects were emphatically considered  by  this  Court  while
pronouncing  the  final  verdict  against  the  petitioners  herein  thereby
upholding the sentence of death imposed by  the  High  Court.  Nevertheless,
the same accused (petitioners herein) are before us  now  under  Article  32
petition seeking commutation of sentence on the basis of undue delay  caused
in execution of their levied death sentence, which amounts  to  torture  and
henceforth violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. We must clearly  see
the distinction under both circumstances. Under  the  former  scenario,  the
petitioners herein were the persons who were accused of the offence  wherein
the sentence of death was imposed but in  later  scenario,  the  petitioners
herein approached  this  Court  as  a  victim  of  violation  of  guaranteed
fundamental rights under the Constitution seeking commutation  of  sentence.
This distinction must be considered and appreciated.

54)   As already asserted, this Court has no jurisdiction under  Article  32
to reopen the case on merits. Therefore,  in  the  light  of  the  aforesaid
elaborate discussion, we are of the cogent view that undue,  inordinate  and
unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence does  certainly  attribute
to torture which indeed is in violation of Article 21  and  thereby  entails
as the ground for commutation of sentence.  However,  the  nature  of  delay
i.e. whether it is undue or unreasonable must be appreciated  based  on  the
facts of individual cases and no exhaustive  guidelines  can  be  framed  in
this regard.

Rationality of Distinguishing between Indian Penal Code, 1860 And  Terrorist
and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act Offences for Sentencing Purpose

55)   In Writ Petition No. 34 of 2013 – the accused were mulcted  with  TADA
charges which ultimately ended  in  death  sentence.   Mr.  Ram  Jethmalani,
learned senior counsel for the petitioners  in  that  writ  petition  argued
against the ratio laid down in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar  vs.  State  (NCT)
of Delhi (2013) 6 SCC 195 which holds that when the  accused  are  convicted
under TADA, there is no question of  showing  any  sympathy  or  considering
supervening circumstances for commutation of sentence,  and  emphasized  the
need for reconsideration of the verdict.  According to Mr.  Ram  Jethmalani,
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra) is per incuriam  and  is  not  a  binding
decision for other cases.  He also prayed that inasmuch as  the  ratio  laid
down in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra) is erroneous, this  Court,  being
a larger Bench, must overrule the same.

56)   He pointed out that delay in execution of sentence of death  after  it
has  become  final  at  the  end  of  the   judicial   process   is   wholly
unconstitutional inasmuch it constitutes  torture,  deprivation  of  liberty
and detention in custody  not  authorized  by  law  within  the  meaning  of
Article  21  of  the  Constitution.   He  further  pointed  out  that   this
involuntary detention of the convict is an  action  not  authorized  by  any
penal provision including Section 302 IPC or any other law  including  TADA.
On  the  other  hand,  Mr.  Luthra,  learned  ASG  heavily  relying  on  the
reasonings in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra) submitted that inasmuch  as
the crime involved is a serious and heinous and  the  accused  were  charged
under TADA, there cannot be any sympathy or leniency even on the  ground  of
delay in disposal of mercy petition.   According  to  him,  considering  the
gravity of the crime, death sentence is warranted  and  Devender  Pal  Singh
Bhullar (supra) has correctly arrived  at  a  conclusion  and  rejected  the
claim for commutation on the ground of delay.

57)   From the analysis of the arguments of both the counsel, we are of  the
view that only delay which could not have been avoided even  if  the  matter
was  proceeded  with  a  sense  of  urgency  or  was  caused  in   essential
preparations for execution of sentence may be  the  relevant  factors  under
such petitions in Article 32.  Considerations such as  the  gravity  of  the
crime, extraordinary cruelty involved therein or some horrible  consequences
for society caused by the offence are not relevant  after  the  Constitution
Bench ruled in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC  684  that  the
sentence of death  can  only  be  imposed  in  the  rarest  of  rare  cases.
Meaning, of course, all death  sentences  imposed  are  impliedly  the  most
heinous and barbaric and rarest  of  its  kind.  The  legal  effect  of  the
extraordinary depravity of the offence exhausts itself when court  sentences
the person to death for that offence.  Law does not prescribe an  additional
period of imprisonment in addition to the sentence of  death  for  any  such
exceptional depravity involved in the offence.

58)   As rightly pointed out by Mr.  Ram  Jethmalani,  it  is  open  to  the
legislature in its wisdom to decide by enacting an appropriate  law  that  a
certain fixed period of imprisonment in addition to the  sentence  of  death
can be imposed  in  some  well  defined  cases  but  the  result  cannot  be
accomplished by a judicial decision alone.  The unconstitutionality of  this
additional incarceration is itself inexorable and must  not  be  treated  as
dispensable through a judicial decision.

59)   Now, in this background, let  us  consider  the  ratio  laid  down  in
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra).

60)   The brief facts of that case were: Devender  Pal  Singh  Bhullar,  who
was convicted by the Designated Court at Delhi for  various  offences  under
TADA, IPC and was found guilty and sentenced to death.  The appeal  as  well
as the review filed by him was dismissed  by  this  Court.  Soon  after  the
dismissal of the review petition, Bhullar submitted a mercy  petition  dated
14.01.2003 to the President of India under Article 72  of  the  Constitution
and prayed for commutation of  his  sentence.   Various  other  associations
including  Delhi  Sikh  Gurdwara  Management  Committee  sent   letters   in
connection with commutation of the death sentence awarded  to  him.   During
the pendency of the petition filed under Article 72, he also filed  Curative
Petition (Criminal) No. 5 of 2013 which was also dismissed by this Court  on
12.03.2013.  After prolonged correspondence and based on the advice  of  the
Home Minister, the President rejected his mercy petition which was  informed
vide letter dated 13.06.2011 sent by the  Deputy  Secretary  (Home)  to  the
Jail Authorities.   After  rejection  of  his  petition  by  the  President,
Bhullar filed a writ petition, under Article  32  of  the  Constitution,  in
this regard praying for quashing the communication dated 13.06.2011.   While
issuing notice in Writ Petition (Criminal) Diary No. 16039/2011, this  Court
directed the respondents to clarify as to why  the  petitions  made  by  the
petitioner had not been disposed of for the last  8  years.   In  compliance
with the courts direction, the Deputy Secretary (Home)  filed  an  affidavit
giving reasons for the delay.   This  Court,  after  adverting  to  all  the
earlier decisions, instructions  regarding  procedure  to  be  observed  for
dealing with the petitions for mercy, accepted that there was a delay  of  8
years.  Even after accepting that long delay may be one of the  grounds  for
commutation  of  sentence  of  death  into  life  imprisonment,  this  Court
dismissed his writ petition on the ground that the same  cannot  be  invoked
in cases where a person is convicted for an offence under  TADA  or  similar
statutes.  This Court also held that  such  cases  stand  on  an  altogether
different footing and cannot be  compared  with  murders  committed  due  to
personal animosity or over property  and  personal  disputes.   It  is  also
relevant to point out that while arriving  at  such  conclusion,  the  Bench
heavily relied on  opinion  expressed  by  Shetty,  J.  in  Smt.  Triveniben
(supra).  Though  the  Bench  adverted  to  paras  73,  74,  75  and  76  of
Triveniben (supra), the Court very much emphasized para 76  which  reads  as
under:-
      “76. … The court while examining the matter, for the  reasons  already
      stated, cannot take into account the time  utilised  in  the  judicial
      proceedings up to the final verdict. The court also cannot  take  into
      consideration the time taken for disposal of any petition filed by  or
      on behalf of the accused either under Article 226 or under Article  32
      of the Constitution after the final judgment affirming the  conviction
      and sentence. The court may only consider whether there was undue long
      delay in disposing of mercy petition; whether the State was guilty  of
      dilatory conduct and whether the delay was for no reason at  all.  The
      inordinate delay, may be a significant  factor,  but  that  by  itself
      cannot render the execution unconstitutional. Nor it can  be  divorced
      from the dastardly and diabolical circumstances of the crime  itself…”
      (emphasis supplied)

61)   On going through the judgment of Oza, J. on his behalf  and  for  M.M.
Dutt, K.N. Singh and L.M. Sharma, JJ., we are of the  view  that  the  above
quoted statement of Shetty, J. is not a majority view and at the  most  this
is a view  expressed  by  him  alone.   In  this  regard,  at  the  cost  of
repetition it is relevant to refer once again the operative portion  of  the
order dated 11.10.1988 in Triveniben (supra)  which is as under:-

      “2.  We are of the opinion that:

      Undue long delay in execution of the sentence of  death  will  entitle
      the condemned person to approach this Court under Article 32 but  this
      Court will only examine the nature of delay caused  and  circumstances
      that ensued after sentence  was  finally  confirmed  by  the  judicial
      process and will have  no  jurisdiction  to  re-open  the  conclusions
      reached by the court while finally maintaining the sentence of  death.
      This Court, however, may consider the question of inordinate delay  in
      the light of all circumstances of  the  case  to  decide  whether  the
      execution of sentence should be carried out or should be altered  into
      imprisonment for life.  No fixed period of delay could be held to make
      the sentence of death inexecutable and to this extent the decision  in
      Vatheeswaran case cannot be said to  lay  down  the  correct  law  and
      therefore to that extent stands overruled.”

62)   The same view was once again reiterated by  all  the  Judges  and  the
very same reasonings have been reiterated in Para  23  of  the  order  dated
07.02.1989.  In such circumstances and  also  in  view  of  the  categorical
opinion of Oza, J. in para 22 of the judgment  in  Triveniben  (supra)  that
“it will not be open  to  this  Court  in  exercise  of  jurisdiction  under
Article 32 to go behind or to examine the final verdict…the  nature  of  the
offence, circumstances in which the offence was committed will  have  to  be
taken as found by the competent court…”, it cannot be  held,  as  urged,  on
behalf of the Union  of  India  that  the  majority  opinion  in  Triveniben
(supra) is to the effect that delay is only one of  the  circumstances  that
may be considered along with “other circumstances of the case” to  determine
as to whether  the  death  sentence  should  be  commuted  to  one  of  life
imprisonment.  We are, therefore, of the view that the opinion  rendered  by
Shetty, J. as quoted in para 76 of the judgment in Triveniben (supra)  is  a
minority view and not a view consistent with what has been contended  to  be
the majority opinion. We reiterate that as per the majority view,  if  there
is undue long delay  in  execution  of  sentence  of  death,  the  condemned
prisoner is entitled to approach this Court under Article 32 and  the  court
is bound to examine the  nature  of  delay  caused  and  circumstances  that
ensued after sentence was finally confirmed by the judicial process  and  to
take a decision whether execution of  sentence  should  be  carried  out  or
should be altered into imprisonment for life.  It  is,  however,  true  that
the majority of the Judges have not approved the fixed period of  two  years
enunciated in Vatheeswaran (supra) and only to  that  extent  overruled  the
same.

63)   Incidentally, it is relevant to point out Mahendra Nath Das vs.  Union
of India and Ors. (2013) 6 SCC 253, wherein  the  very  same  bench,  taking
note of the fact that there was a delay of 12 years in the disposal  of  the
mercy petition and also considering the fact  that  the  appellants  therein
were prosecuted and convicted under Section 302 IPC held  the  rejection  of
the appellants’ mercy petition as illegal and consequently, the sentence  of
death awarded to them by the trial Court which was  confirmed  by  the  High
Court, commuted into life imprisonment.

64)   In the light of the same, we are of the view that the ratio laid  down
in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra) is per incuriam.  There is no  dispute
that in the same decision this Court has accepted the  ratio  enunciated  in
Triveniben (supra) (Constitution Bench) and also noted some other  judgments
following the ratio laid down in those cases  that  unexplained  long  delay
may be one of the grounds for commutation of sentence  of  death  into  life
imprisonment.  There is no good reason to disqualify all  TADA  cases  as  a
class from relief on account of delay in execution of death sentence.   Each
case requires consideration on its own facts.

65)   It is useful to refer a Constitution Bench decision of this  Court  in
Mithu vs. State of Punjab (1983) 2 SCC 277, wherein this Court held  Section
303 of the IPC as unconstitutional  and  declared  it  void.   The  question
before the Constitution Bench was whether Section 303 of IPC  infringes  the
guarantee contained in Article 21 of the Constitution, which  provides  that
“no person shall  be  deprived  of  his  life  or  personal  liberty  except
according to the procedure established by law”.  Chandrachud,  J.  the  then
Hon’ble the Chief Justice, speaking for himself, Fazal Ali, Tulzapurkar  and
Varadarajan, JJ., struck  down  Section  303  IPC  as  unconstitutional  and
declared it void.  The Bench also held that all the  cases  of  murder  will
now fall under Section 302 IPC and there shall be no mandatory  sentence  of
death for the offence of  murder.  The  reasons  given  by  this  Court  for
striking down this aforesaid  section  will  come  in  aid  for  this  case.
Section 303 IPC was as under:
      “303. Punishment for murder  by  life  convict.—Whoever,  being  under
      sentence of imprisonment for life, commits murder, shall  be  punished
      with death.”



66)   Before striking down Section 303 IPC, this Court  made  the  following
conclusion:

      “3…The reason, or at least one of the reasons, why the  discretion  of
      the court to impose a lesser sentence was taken away and the  sentence
      of death was made mandatory in cases which are covered by Section  303
      seems to have been that if, even the sentence of life imprisonment was
      not sufficient to act as a deterrent  and  the  convict  was  hardened
      enough to commit a  murder  while  serving  that  sentence,  the  only
      punishment  which  he  deserved  was  death.  The  severity  of   this
      legislative judgment  accorded  with  the  deterrent  and  retributive
      theories of punishment which then held sway. The reformative theory of
      punishment attracted the attention of criminologists later in the day…


      5…The sum  and  substance  of  the  argument  is  that  the  provision
      contained in Section 303 is  wholly  unreasonable  and  arbitrary  and
      thereby, it violates Article 21 of the Constitution which affords  the
      guarantee that no person shall be deprived of  his  life  or  personal
      liberty except in accordance with the procedure  established  by  law.
      Since the procedure by which Section 303 authorises the deprivation of
      life is unfair and unjust, the  Section  is  unconstitutional.  Having
      examined this argument with care and concern, we are  of  the  opinion
      that it must be accepted and Section 303  of  the  Penal  Code  struck
      down.”




67)    After  quoting  Maneka  Gandhi  (supra),  Sunil   Batra   vs.   Delhi
Administration (1978) 4  SCC  494  and  Bachan  Singh  (supra),  this  Court
opined:

      “19…To prescribe a mandatory sentence of death for the second of  such
      offences for the reason that the offender was under  the  sentence  of
      life imprisonment for the first of such offences is  arbitrary  beyond
      the bounds of all reason. Assuming that Section 235(2) of the Criminal
      Procedure Code were applicable to the case and the court was under  an
      obligation to hear the accused on the question of sentence,  it  would
      have to put some such question to the accused:
      “You were sentenced to life imprisonment for the offence  of  forgery.
      You have committed a murder while you were under that sentence of life
      imprisonment. Why should you not be sentenced to death”
      The question carries its own refutation. It highlights  how  arbitrary
      and irrational it is to provide for a mandatory sentence of  death  in
      such circumstances…”


      23. On a consideration of the  various  circumstances  which  we  have
      mentioned in this judgment, we are of the opinion that Section 303  of
      the Penal Code violates the guarantee of equality contained in Article
      14 as also the right conferred by Article 21 of the Constitution  that
      no person shall be deprived of his life  or  personal  liberty  except
      according to procedure established by law. The section was  originally
      conceived to discourage assaults by life convicts on the prison staff,

      but the legislature chose language which far exceeded  its  intention.
      The Section also assumes that life convicts are a dangerous  breed  of
      humanity  as  a  class.  That  assumption  is  not  supported  by  any
      scientific data. As observed by the Royal Commission in its Report  on
      “Capital Punishment”
      “There is a popular belief that  prisoners  serving  a  life  sentence
      after conviction of murder form a specially troublesome and  dangerous
      class. That is not so. Most find themselves  in  prison  because  they
      have yielded to temptation under the  pressure  of  a  combination  of
      circumstances unlikely to recur.”
      In Dilip Kumar Sharma v. State of M.P. this Court  was  not  concerned
      with the question of the vires of Section 303, but  Sarkaria,  J.,  in
      his concurring judgment, described the vast sweep of that  Section  by
      saying that “the section is  Draconian  in  severity,  relentless  and
      inexorable in operation” [SCC para 22, p. 567: SCC (Cri)  p.  92].  We
      strike down Section 303 of the  Penal  Code  as  unconstitutional  and
      declare it void. It is needless to add that all cases of  murder  will
      now fall under Section 302 of the Penal Code and  there  shall  be  no
      mandatory sentence of death for the offence of murder.”


68)   Chinnappa Reddy, J., concurring with the above view, held thus:

      “25. Judged in the light shed by Maneka Gandhi and Bachan Singh, it is
      impossible to uphold  Section  303  as  valid.  Section  303  excludes
      judicial discretion. The scales of justice are removed from the  hands
      of the Judge so soon as  he  pronounces  the  accused  guilty  of  the
      offence.  So  final,  so  irrevocable  and  so   irrestitutable   [sic
      irresuscitable] is the sentence of death that no  law  which  provides
      for it without involvement of the judicial mind  can  be  said  to  be
      fair, just and reasonable. Such a law must necessarily be  stigmatised
      as arbitrary and oppressive. Section 303 is such a law and it must  go
      the way of all bad laws. I agree  with  my  Lord  Chief  Justice  that
      Section  303,  Indian   Penal   Code,   must   be   struck   down   as
      unconstitutional.”



69)   It is clear that since Section 303 IPC excludes  judicial  discretion,
the Constitution Bench has concluded that such a  law  must  necessarily  be
stigmatized as arbitrary and oppressive.  It is further clear  that  no  one
should be deprived of equality contained in Article 14  as  also  the  right
conferred by Article 21 of the Constitution regarding his life  or  personal
liberty except according to the procedure established by law.

70)   Taking guidance from the above principles and  in  the  light  of  the
ratio enunciated in Triveniben (supra), we are of the view that  unexplained
delay is one of the grounds for commutation of sentence of death  into  life
imprisonment and the said supervening  circumstance  is  applicable  to  all
types of cases including the offences  under  TADA.   The  only  aspect  the
courts  have  to  satisfy  is  that  the  delay  must  be  unreasonable  and
unexplained or inordinate at the hands of the executive.   The  argument  of
Mr. Luthra, learned ASG that a distinction can be drawn between IPC and non-
IPC offences since the nature of the offence is a relevant factor is  liable
to be rejected at the outset.  In view of our conclusion, we are  unable  to
share the views expressed in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar (supra).

 (ii) Insanity/Mental Illness/Schizophrenia

71)   In this batch of cases, two convict prisoners prayed  for  commutation
of death sentence into sentence of life imprisonment on the ground that  the
unconscionably long delay in deciding the  mercy  petition  has  caused  the
onset of chronic psychotic illness, and in view of  this  the  execution  of
death sentence will be inhuman and against the  well-established  canons  of
human rights.

72)   The principal question raised in those petitions  is  whether  because
of the aforementioned supervening events after the  verdict  of  this  Court
confirming the death sentence, the infliction of the  most  extreme  penalty
in the circumstances of the case,  violates  the  fundamental  rights  under
Article  21.   The  petitioners  have  made  it  clear  that  they  are  not
challenging the death sentence imposed by this Court.  However, as on  date,
they are suffering from insanity/mental illness.  In  this  background,  let
us consider whether the petitioners have made out a case for commutation  to
life sentence on the ground of insanity.

73)   India is  a  member  of  the  United  Nations  and  has  ratified  the
International Covenant on Civil  and  Political  Rights  (ICCPR).   A  large
number of United Nations international documents prohibit the  execution  of
death sentence on an insane person.  Clause 3(e) of the  Resolution  2000/65
dated 27.04.2000  of  the  U.N.  Commission  on  Human  Rights  titled  “The
Question of Death Penalty” urges “all States that still maintain  the  death
penalty…not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any  form
of mental disorder or to execute any such person”.  It  further  elaborates:

      “3. Urges all States that still maintain the death penalty:
      (a) To comply fully with their  obligations  under  the  International
      Covenant on Civil and Political  Rights  and  the  Convention  on  the
      Rights of the Child, notably not to impose the death penalty  for  any
      but the most serious crimes and only pursuant  to  a  final  judgement
      rendered by an  independent  and  impartial  competent court,  not  to
      impose it for crimes committed by persons below 18 years  of  age,  to
      exclude pregnant women from capital punishment and to ensure the right
      to a fair trial and  the  right  to  seek  pardon  or  commutation  of
      sentence;
      (b) To ensure that the notion of "most serious  crimes"  does  not  go
      beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave  consequences
      and that the death penalty is not imposed  for  non-violent  financial
      crimes  or  for  non-violent  religious  practice  or  expression   of
      conscience;
      (c) Not  to  enter  any  new  reservations  under  article  6  of  the
      International Covenant on Civil and  Political  Rights  which  may  be
      contrary to the object and the purpose of the Covenant and to withdraw
      any such existing reservations, given that article 6 of  the  Covenant
      enshrines the minimum rules for the protection of the  right  to  life
      and the generally accepted standards in this area;
      (d) To observe the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of
      those facing  the  death  penalty  and  to  comply  fully  with  their
      international obligations, in particular with those under  the  Vienna
      Convention on Consular Relations;
      (e) Not to impose the death penalty on a  person  suffering  from  any
      form of mental disorder or to execute any such person;
      (f) Not to execute any person as long as any  related legal procedure,
      at the international or at the national level, is pending;
      4. Calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty:
      (a) Progressively to restrict the number of  offences  for  which  the
      death penalty may be imposed;
      (b) To establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to completely
      abolishing the death penalty;
      (c) To make available to the public information  with  regard  to  the
      imposition of the death penalty;
      5. Requests States that have received a request for extradition  on  a
      capital charge to reserve explicitly the right to  refuse  extradition
      in the absence of effective assurances from  relevant  authorities  of
      the requesting State that capital punishment will not be carried out;
      6. Requests the  Secretary-General  to  continue  to  submit  to   the
      Commission  on  Human  Rights,  at  its  fifty-seventh   session,   in
      consultation    with    Governments,    specialized    agencies    and
      intergovernmental  and  non-governmental   organizations,   a   yearly
      supplement on changes in law and practice concerning the death penalty
      worldwide  to  his  quinquennial  report  on  capital  punishment  and
      implementation of the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights
      of those facing the death penalty;
      7. Decides to continue consideration  of  the  matter  at  its  fifty-
      seventh session under the same agenda item.

      66th meeting

      26 April 2000”

74)   Similarly, Clause 89 of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extra-
Judicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions published on 24.12.1996 by  the  UN
Commission on Human Rights under the caption “Restrictions  on  the  use  of
death  penalty”  states  that  “the  imposition  of  capital  punishment  on
mentally retarded or insane persons, pregnant women and  recent  mothers  is
prohibited”.   Further,  Clause  116  thereof  under  the  caption  “Capital
punishment” urges that  “Governments  that  enforce  such  legislation  with
respect to minors and the mentally  ill  are  particularly  called  upon  to
bring their domestic criminal laws into conformity with international  legal
standards”.

75)   United Nations General Assembly in its Sixty-second  session,  adopted
a Resolution on 18.12.2007, which speaks about moratorium on the use of  the
death penalty.  The following decisions are relevant:
      “1.   Expresses its deep concern about the  continued  application  of
      the death penalty;
      2.    Calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty:
      (a)   To  respect  international  standards  that  provide  safeguards
      guaranteeing protection of  the  rights  of  those  facing  the  death
      penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out in the  annex
      to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984;
                 ***         ***        ***
                                                        76th plenary meeting
                                                           18 December 2007”



76)   The following passage from the Commentary on the Laws  of  England  by
William Blackstone is relevant for our consideration:
      “…In criminal cases therefore idiots and lunatics are  not  chargeable
      for their own acts, if committed when under  these  incapacities:  no,
      not even for treason itself.  Also, if  a  man  in  his  sound  memory
      commits a capital offense, and before arraignment for it,  he  becomes
      mad, he ought not to be arraigned for it; because he is  not  able  to
      plead to it with that advice and caution that he ought.  And if, after
      he has pleaded, the prisoner becomes mad, he shall not be  tried;  for
      how can he make his defense?  If, after he be tried and found  guilty,
      he loses his senses before judgment, judgment shall not be pronounced;
      and if, after judgment, he becomes of nonsane memory, execution  shall
      be stayed: for peradventure, says the humanity of the English law, had
      the prisoner been of sound memory, he might have alleged something  in
      stay of judgment or execution.”



77)   India too has similar line of law and rules in  the  respective  State
Jail Manuals. Paras 386 and 387 of the U.P. Jail Manual  applicable  to  the
State  of  Uttarakhand  are  relevant  for  our  purpose  and   are   quoted
hereinbelow:
      “386. Condemned convicts developing insanity – When  a  convict  under
      sentence  of   death   develops   insanity   after   conviction,   the
      Superintendent shall stay the execution of the sentence of  death  and
      inform the District Magistrate, who shall submit immediately a report,
      through the Sessions Judge, for the orders of the State Government.
      387. Postponement of execution in certain cases – The execution  of  a
      convict under sentence of death shall not be carried out on  the  date
      fixed if he is physically unfit to receive the punishment,  but  shall
      not be postponed unless the illness is both serious  and  acute  (i.e.
      not chronic).   A  report  giving  full  particulars  of  the  illness
      necessitating postponement of execution should at once be made to  the
      Secretary to the State Government, Judicial  (A)  Department  for  the
      orders of the Government.”

Similar provisions are available  in  Prison  Manuals  of  other  States  in
India.

78)   The above  materials,  particularly,  the  directions  of  the  United
Nations International Conventions, of which India is a party,  clearly  show
that  insanity/mental  illness/schizophrenia  is   a   crucial   supervening
circumstance, which should be considered by this Court in  deciding  whether
in the facts and circumstances of the case death sentence could be  commuted
to  life  imprisonment.   To  put  it  clear,  “insanity”  is   a   relevant
supervening factor for consideration by this Court.
79)   In addition, after it is established that the death convict is  insane
and it is duly certified by the competent doctor,  undoubtedly,  Article  21
protects  him  and  such  person  cannot   be   executed   without   further
clarification from the competent authority about his mental problems. It  is
also highlighted by relying on  commentaries  from  various  countries  that
civilized countries have not executed death penalty  on  an  insane  person.
Learned counsel also relied on United Nations Resolution  against  execution
of death  sentence,  debate  of  the  General  Assembly,  the  decisions  of
International  Court  of  Justice,  Treaties,  European   Conventions,   8th
amendment in the United States which prohibits execution of  death  sentence
on an insane person.  In view of the well established laws both at  national
as well as international sphere, we are inclined  to  consider  insanity  as
one of the supervening circumstances that warrants for commutation of  death
sentence to life imprisonment.

(iii) Solitary Confinement

80)   Another  supervening  circumstance,  which  most  of  the  petitioners
appealed in their petitions is  the  ground  of  solitary  confinement.  The
grievance of some of the petitioners herein is that they  were  confined  in
solitary confinement from the date of imposition of death  sentence  by  the
Sessions Court which is contrary to  the  provisions  of  the  Indian  Penal
Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Prisons Act  and  Articles
14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and it is certainly  a  form  of  torture.
However, the respective States, in their  counter  affidavits  and  in  oral
submissions, have out rightly denied having  kept  any  of  the  petitioners
herein in solitary  confinement  in  violation  of  existing  laws.  It  was
further submitted that they were kept separately from  the  other  prisoners
for  safety  purposes.  In  other  words,  they  were  kept   in   statutory
segregation and not per se in solitary confinement.

81)   Similar line of arguments were  advanced  in  Sunil  Batra  vs.  Delhi
Administration and Ors. etc. (1978) 4 SCC 494, wherein this  Court  held  as
under:-
    “87. The propositions of law canvassed in Batra's case turn on what  is
    solitary confinement as a punishment and what is non-punitive custodial
    isolation of a prisoner awaiting execution. And secondly,  if  what  is
    inflicted is, in effect, 'solitary', does  Section  30(2)  of  the  Act
    authorise  it,  and,  if  it  does,  is   such   a   rigorous   regimen
    constitutional. In  one  sense,  these  questions  are  pushed  to  the
    background, because  Batra's  submission  is  that  he  is  not  'under
    sentence of death' within the scope of Section  30  until  the  Supreme
    Court has affirmed and Presidential mercy  has  dried  up  by  a  final
    'nay'. Batra has been sentenced to death by  the  Sessions  Court.  The
    sentence has since been confirmed,  but  the  appeal  for  Presidential
    commutation are ordinarily precedent to the hangmen's lethal move,  and
    remain to be gone through. His contention is that solitary  confinement
    is a separate substantive punishment of maddening  severity  prescribed
    by Section 73 of the Indian Penal Code which can be imposed only by the
    Court; and so tormenting is this sentence that even the  socially  less
    sensitive Penal Code of 1860 has interposed, in its  cruel  tenderness,
    intervals, maxima and like softening features in both Sections  73  and
    74. Such being the penal situation, it is argued that the incarceratory
    insulation inflicted by the Prison Superintendent on the petitioner  is
    virtual solitary  confinement  unauthorised  by  the  Penal  Code  and,
    therefore,  illegal.  Admittedly,  no  solitary  confinement  has  been
    awarded to Batra. So, if he is de facto so confined it is illegal.  Nor
    does a sentence of death under Section  53,  I.P.C.  carry  with  it  a
    supplementary secret clause of solitary confinement. What warrant  then
    exists for solitary confinement on Batra? None. The answer  offered  is
    that he is not under  solitary  confinement.  He  is  under  'statutory
    confinement' under the authority of Section 30(2) of  the  Prisons  Act
    read with Section  366(2)  Cr.P.C.  It  will  be  a  stultification  of
    judicial power if under guise of using Section  30(2)  of  the  Prisons
    Act,  the  Superintendent  inflicts  what  is  substantially   solitary
    confinement which is a species of  punishment  exclusively  within  the
    jurisdiction of the criminal court. We hold, without  hesitation,  that
    Sunil Batra shall not be solitarily confined. Can he be segregated from
    view and voice and visits and comingling, by resort to Section 30(2) of
    the Prisons Act and reach the same result ? To give the answer we  must
    examine the essentials of solitary confinement to distinguish  it  from
    being 'confined in a cell apart from all other prisoners'.


    88. If solitary  confinement  is  a  revolt  against  society's  humane
    essence, there is no  reason  to  permit  the  same  punishment  to  be
    smuggled into the prison system by naming it differently. Law is not  a
    formal label, nor logomachy but a working  technique  of  justice.  The
    Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code regard punitive solitude too
    harsh and the Legislature  cannot  be  intended  to  permit  preventive
    solitary confinement, released even from the restrictions of Section 73
    and 74 I.P.C., Section 29 of the Prisons Act and the restrictive Prison
    Rules. It would be extraordinary that a far worse solitary confinement,
    masked as safe custody, sans maximum, sans intermission, sans  judicial
    oversight or natural justice, would be sanctioned. Commonsense quarrels
    with such nonsense.

    89. For a fuller  comprehension  of  the  legal  provisions  and  their
    construction we may have to quote the relevant sections and  thereafter
    make a laboratory dissection thereof to get  an  understanding  of  the
    components which make up the  legislative  sanction  for  semi-solitary
    detention of Shri Batra. Section 30 of the Prisons Act rules :

          30. (1) Every prisoner under sentence of death shall,  immediately
          on his arrival in the prison after sentence, be searched by, or by
          order of, the Deputy Superintendent, and  all  articles  shall  be
          taken from him which the Deputy Superintendent deems it  dangerous
          or inexpedient to leave in his possession.

          (2) Every such prisoner, shall be confined in a  cell  apart  from
          all other prisoners, and shall be placed by day and by night under
          charge of a guard.

    This falls in Chapter V relating to discipline of prisoners and has  to
    be read in that  context.  Any  separate  confinement  contemplated  in
    Section 30(2) has this disciplinary limitation  as  we  will  presently
    see. If we pull to pieces the whole provision  it  becomes  clear  that
    Section 30 can be applied only to a prisoner "under sentence of death".
    Section 30(2) which speaks of "such" prisoners necessarily  relates  to
    prisoners under sentence of death. We have  to  discover  when  we  can
    designate a prisoner as one under sentence of death.

    90. The next attempt is to discern the meaning  of  confinement  "in  a
    cell apart from all  other  prisoners".  The  purpose  is  to  maintain
    discipline and  discipline  is  to  avoid  disorder,  fight  and  other
    untoward incidents, if apprehended.


    91. Confinement inside a prison does not  necessarily  import  cellular
    isolation. Segregation of one person all alone  in  a  single  cell  is
    solitary confinement. That is a separate  punishment  which  the  Court
    alone can impose. It would be a subversion of this statutory  provision
    (Section 73 and 74 I.P.C.) to impart a meaning to Section 30(2) of  the
    Prisons Act whereby a disciplinary variant of solitary confinement  can
    be clamped down on a prisoner, although no court  has  awarded  such  a
    punishment, by a mere construction, which clothes an executive officer,
    who happens to be the governor of the jail, with harsh judicial  powers
    to be exercised by punitive restrictions and unaccountable  to  anyone,
    the power being discretionary and disciplinary.

    92. Indeed, in a jail, cells are ordinarily occupied by more  than  one
    inmate and community life  inside  dormitories  and  cells  is  common.
    Therefore, "to be confined in  a  cell"  does  not  compel  us  to  the
    conclusion that the confinement should be in a solitary cell.

    93. "Apart from all other prisoners" used in Section 30(2)  is  also  a
    phrase of flexible import. 'Apart' has  the  sense  of  'To  one  side,
    aside,... apart from each other,  separately  in  action  or  function'
    (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). Segregation into an isolated  cell
    is not warranted by the word. All that it connotes is that  in  a  cell
    where there are a plurality of inmates the death sentencees  will  have
    to be kept separated from the rest in the same cell but not  too  close
    to the others. And this separation can be effectively achieved  because
    the condemned prisoner will be placed under the charge of  a  guard  by
    day and by night. The guard will thus  stand  in  between  the  several
    inmates and the  condemned  prisoner.  Such  a  meaning  preserves  the
    disciplinary   purpose   and   avoids   punitive   harshness.    Viewed
    functionally, the separation is authorised, not obligated. That  is  to
    say, if discipline needs it the authority shall be entitled to and  the
    prisoner shall be liable to separate keeping within the  same  cell  as
    explained above. "Shall" means, in this disciplinary context, "shall be
    liable to". If the condemned prisoner is docile and needs the attention
    of fellow prisoners nothing forbids the jailor  from  giving  him  that
    facility.


    96. Solitary confinement has the severest sting and is  awardable  only
    by Court. To island a human being, to keep him incommunicado  from  his
    fellows is the story of the Andamans under the British, of Napoleon  in
    St. Helena ! The anguish of aloneness has already been dealt with by me
    and I hold that Section  30(2)  provides  no  alibi  for  any  form  of
    solitary or separated cellular tenancy for the death sentence, save  to
    the extent indicated.


    111. In my  judgment  Section  30(2)  does  not  validate  the  State's
    treatment of Batra. To argue that it is not solitary confinement  since
    visitors are allowed, doctors and officials come and a guard stands  by
    is not to take it out of the category.”

82)   It was,  therefore,  held  that  the  solitary  confinement,  even  if
mollified and modified marginally, is not sanctioned by Section  30  of  the
Prisons Act for prisoners 'under sentence of  death'.  The  crucial  holding
under Section 30(2) is that a person is not 'under sentence of death',  even
if the Sessions Court has sentenced him to death subject to confirmation  by
the High Court. He is not 'under sentence of death' even if the  High  Court
imposes, by confirmation or fresh appellate infliction,  death  penalty,  so
long as an appeal to the Supreme Court is likely to be or has been moved  or
is pending. Even if this Court has awarded capital  sentence,  it  was  held
that Section 30 does not cover him so long as his petition for mercy to  the
Governor and/or to the President permitted  by  the  Constitution,  has  not
been disposed  of.  Of  course,  once  rejected  by  the  Governor  and  the
President, and on further application, there is no stay of execution by  the
authorities,  the  person  is  under  sentence  of   death.    During   that
interregnum, he attracts the  custodial  segregation  specified  in  Section
30(2), subject to the ameliorative meaning assigned to the provision. To  be
'under sentence of death' means 'to be  under  a  finally  executable  death
sentence'.

83)   Even in  Triveniben  (supra),  this  Court  observed  that  keeping  a
prisoner in solitary confinement is contrary to the ruling  in  Sunil  Batra
(supra) and would amount to inflicting “additional and separate”  punishment
not authorized by law. It is completely unfortunate  that  despite  enduring
pronouncement on judicial side, the actual implementation of the  provisions
is far from reality. We take this occasion to urge to the  jail  authorities
to comprehend and implement the actual intent of the verdict in Sunil  Batra
(supra).

84)   As far as this batch of cases is concerned, we  are  not  inclined  to
interfere on this ground.

(iv) Judgments Declared Per Incuriam

85)   Many counsels, while  adverting  to  the  cause  of  the  petitioners,
complained that either the trial court or the High Court relied  on/adverted
to certain earlier decisions which were either doubted or held per  incuriam
such as Machhi Singh vs. State of Punjab  (1983)  3  SCC  470,  Ravji  alias
Ramchandra vs. State of Rajasthan (1996) 2 SCC 175, Sushil Murmu  vs.  State
of Jharkhand (2004) 2 SCC  338,  Dhananjoy  Chatterjee  vs.  State  of  W.B.
(1994) 2 SCC 220, State of U.P. vs. Dharmendra Singh (1999) 8  SCC  325  and
Surja Ram vs. State of Rajasthan (1996) 6 SCC 271.   Therefore,  it  is  the
claim of the petitioners herein that this aspect constitutes  a  supervening
circumstance that warrants for commutation of  sentence  of  death  to  life
imprisonment.

86)   It is the stand of few of the petitioners herein that  the  guidelines
issued in Machhi Singh (supra) are contrary to the law laid down  in  Bachan
Singh (supra). Therefore, in three decisions, viz., Swamy  Shraddananda  (2)
vs. State of Karnataka (2008) 13 SCC 767, Sangeet and Another vs.  State  of
Haryana (2013) 2 SCC 452 and Gurvail Singh vs. State of Punjab (2013) 2  SCC
713 the verdict pronounced by  Machhi  Singh  (supra)  is  held  to  be  per
incuriam.

87)   In the light of  the  above  stand,  we  carefully  scrutinized  those
decisions.  Even in Machhi Singh  (supra),  paragraphs  33  to  37  included
certain aspects, viz., I. manner of commission of  murder;  II.  motive  for
commission of murder; III. anti-social or socially abhorrent nature  of  the
crime; IV. magnitude of crime  and  V.  personality  of  victim  of  murder.
Ultimately,  in  paragraph  38,  this  Court  referred  to  the   guidelines
prescribed in Bachan Singh (supra).  In other words, Machhi  Singh  (supra),
after noting the propositions emerged from Bachan Singh (supra),  considered
the individual appeals and disposed of the same.   In  this  regard,  it  is
useful to refer  a  three-Judge  Bench  decision  of  this  Court  in  Swamy
Shraddananda (2) (supra). The Bench considered the principles enunciated  in
Machhi  Singh  (supra),  Bachan  Singh  (supra)  and  after  analyzing   the
subsequent decisions, came to the conclusion in paragraph 48:

      “48…It is noted above that Bachan Singh laid down the principle of the
      rarest  of  rare  cases.  Machhi  Singh,  for  practical   application
      crystallised the principle into five definite categories of  cases  of
      murder and in doing  so  also  considerably  enlarged  the  scope  for
      imposing death penalty. But the unfortunate reality is that  in  later
      decisions neither the rarest of rare cases principle  nor  the  Machhi
      Singh categories were followed uniformly and consistently.”



88)   Except the above  observations,  the  three-Judge  Bench  has  nowhere
discarded Machhi Singh (supra).  In other words, we are  of  the  view  that
the three-Judge Bench considered and clarified the principles/guidelines  in
Machhi Singh (supra).  It is also  relied  by  the  majority  in  Triveniben
(supra).  As regards other cases, in view  of  the  factual  position,  they
must be read in consonance with the three-Judge Bench and  the  Constitution
Bench.

89)   As pointed out by learned ASG for the  Union  of  India,  no  decision
mentioned above was found to be erroneous or wrongly decided.  However,  due
to various factual situations, certain  decisions  were  clarified  and  not
applied to the facts of the peculiar case.  In these circumstances,  we  are
of the view that there is no  need  to  give  importance  to  the  arguments
relating to per incuriam.

(v) Procedural Lapses

90)   The last supervening circumstance averred by  the  petitioners  herein
is the ground of procedural lapses. It  is  the  claim  of  the  petitioners
herein that the prescribed procedure for disposal  of  mercy  petitions  was
not duly followed in these cases and the lapse in following  the  prescribed
rules have caused serious injustice to both  the  accused  (the  petitioners
herein) and their family members.

91)   Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has  detailed  procedure
regarding handling of petitions for mercy in death sentence cases.   As  per
the said procedure, Rule I enables a convict  under  sentence  of  death  to
submit a petition for mercy within seven days after  and  exclusive  of  the
day on which the Superintendent of Jail informs him of the dismissal by  the
Supreme Court of his appeal or of  his  application  for  special  leave  to
appeal to the Supreme Court.  Rule II prescribes  procedure  for  submission
of petitions.  As per this Rule, such petitions shall be  addressed  to,  in
the case of States, to the Governor of the State at the first  instance  and
thereafter to the President of India and in the case  of  Union  Territories
directly to the President of India.  As soon as mercy petition is  received,
the execution of sentence shall in all cases be  postponed  pending  receipt
of orders on the same.  Rule III states  that  the  petition  shall  in  the
first instance, in the case of States, be sent to the  State  concerned  for
consideration and orders of the Governor.   If  after  consideration  it  is
rejected, it shall be forwarded  to  the  Secretary  to  the  Government  of
India, Ministry of Home Affairs.  If it is decided to commute  the  sentence
of death, the  petition  addressed  to  the  President  of  India  shall  be
withheld and intimation to that effect shall  be  sent  to  the  petitioner.
Rule V states that in all cases  in  which  a  petition  for  mercy  from  a
convict under sentence of death is to be forwarded to the Secretary  to  the
Government of India,  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs,  the  Lt.  Governor/Chief
Commissioner/Administrator or the Government of the State concerned, as  the
case may be, shall forward such  petition,  as  expeditiously  as  possible,
along with the records of the case and his or its  observations  in  respect
of any of the grounds urged in the petition.  Rule  VI  mandates  that  upon
receipt of the orders of the President, an acknowledgement shall be sent  to
the Secretary  to  the  Government  of  India,  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs,
immediately in the manner prescribed. In the case of Assam and  Andaman  and
Nicobar Islands, all orders  will  be  communicated  by  telegraph  and  the
receipt thereof shall be acknowledged by telegraph.  In the  case  of  other
States and Union Territories, if the petition is rejected, the  orders  will
be communicated by express letter and receipt thereof shall be  acknowledged
by  express  letter.   Orders  commuting  the   death   sentence   will   be
communicated by express letters, in the case of Delhi and  by  telegraph  in
all other cases and receipt thereof shall be acknowledged by express  letter
or telegraph, as the case may be.  Rule VIII(a) enables the convict that  if
there is a change of circumstance or if any new  material  is  available  in
respect of rejection of his earlier mercy  petition,  he  is  free  to  make
fresh application to  the  President  for  reconsideration  of  the  earlier
order.

92)   Specific instructions relating to the  duties  of  Superintendents  of
Jail in connection with the petitions for mercy for  or  on  behalf  of  the
convicts under sentence of death have been issued.   Rule  I  mandates  that
immediately  on  receipt  of  warrant  of  execution,  consequent   on   the
confirmation  by  the  High  Court  of  the  sentence  of  death,  the  Jail
Superintendent shall inform the convict  concerned  that  if  he  wishes  to
appeal to the Supreme Court or to make an application for special  leave  to
appeal to the Supreme Court under any of  the  relevant  provisions  of  the
Constitution of India, he/she should do so within the period  prescribed  in
the Supreme Court Rules. Rule II makes it clear  that,  on  receipt  of  the
intimation of the dismissal by the  Supreme  Court  of  the  appeal  or  the
application for special leave to  appeal  filed  by  or  on  behalf  of  the
convict, in case the convict concerned has made  no  previous  petition  for
mercy, the Jail  Superintendent  shall  forthwith  inform  him  that  if  he
desires to submit a petition for mercy, it should be  submitted  in  writing
within seven days of the date of such intimation. Rule III says that if  the
convict submits a petition within the period of  seven  days  prescribed  by
Rule  II, it should be addressed, in the case of States, to the Governor  of
the State at the first instance and, thereafter, to the President  of  India
and in the case of Union  Territories,  to  the  President  of  India.   The
Superintendent of Jail shall forthwith dispatch it to the Secretary  to  the
State Government in the  Department  concerned  or  the  Lt.  Governor/Chief
Commissioner/Administrator, as the case may be,  together  with  a  covering
letter reporting the date fixed for execution and  shall  certify  that  the
execution has been stayed pending receipt of orders  of  the  Government  on
the petition. Rule IV mandates that if the convict  submits  petition  after
the period prescribed by Rule II,  the  Superintendent  of  Jail  shall,  at
once, forward it to the State Government and at the  same  time  telegraphed
the substance of it requesting orders whether execution should be  postponed
stating that pending reply sentence will not be carried out.

93)   The above Rules make it clear that at every stage the  matter  has  to
be expedited and there cannot be any delay at the instance of the  officers,
particularly, the Superintendent of Jail,  in  view  of  the  language  used
therein as “at once”.

94)   Apart from the above Rules regarding presentation of  mercy  petitions
and  disposal  thereof,  necessary  instructions  have   been   issued   for
preparation of note to be approved by the  Home  Minister  and  for  passing
appropriate orders by the President of India.

95)   Extracts from Prison Manuals of  various  States  applicable  for  the
disposal of mercy petitions have been placed before  us.   Every  State  has
separate Prison  Manual  which  speaks  about  detailed  procedure,  receipt
placing required materials  for  approval  of  the  Home  Minister  and  the
President for taking decision expeditiously.  Rules also  provide  steps  to
be taken by the Superintendent of Jail after the receipt of  mercy  petition
and subsequent action after disposal of the same by the President of  India.
 Almost all the Rules prescribe how the death convicts  are  to  be  treated
till final decision is taken by the President of India.

96)   The elaborate procedure clearly shows that even  death  convicts  have
to be treated fairly in the light of  Article  21  of  the  Constitution  of
India. Nevertheless, it is the claim of all the petitioners herein that  all
these rules were not adhered to strictly and that is the primary reason  for
the inordinate delay in disposal of mercy petitions.  For  illustration,  on
receipt of mercy petition, the Department concerned has to call for all  the
records/materials connected with the  conviction.   Calling  for  piece-meal
records instead of all the materials connected with  the  conviction  should
be deprecated.  When the matter  is  placed  before  the  President,  it  is
incumbent upon the part of the Home Ministry  to  place  all  the  materials
such as judgment of the Trial Court, High Court and the final  Court,  viz.,
Supreme Court as well as any other  relevant  material  connected  with  the
conviction at once and not call for the documents in piece meal.

97)   At the time of considering individual  cases,  we  will  test  whether
those Rules have been strictly complied with or not on individual basis.

Analysis on Case-to-Case Basis

Writ Petition (Crl.) Nos. 55 and 132 of 2013

98)   Mr. Shatrughan Chauhan and Mr. Mahinder  Chauhan,  family  members  of
death convicts – Suresh and Ramji have filed Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 55  of
2013.  Subsequent to the filing of the Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 55  of  2013
by the family members, the  death  convicts  themselves,  viz.,  Suresh  and
Ramji, aged 60 years and 45 years respectively, belonging to  the  State  of
Uttar Pradesh, filed Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 132 of the 2013.

99)   On 19.12.1997, the petitioners were convicted under  Section  302  IPC
for the murder of five family members of the first petitioner’s brother  for
which they were awarded death sentence. On 23.02.2000,  the  Allahabad  High
Court confirmed their conviction and death sentence and,  subsequently  this
Court dismissed their Criminal Appeal being No. 821 of 2000,  vide  judgment
dated 02.03.2001.

100)  On 09.03.2001 and 29.04.2001, the first  and  the  second  petitioners
herein   filed   mercy   petitions    respectively    addressed    to    the
Governor/President of India.   On  28.03.2001,  Respondent  No.  2–State  of
Uttar Pradesh wrote to the  prison  authorities  seeking  information  inter
alia on the conduct of the first petitioner in prison.  On  05.04.2001,  the
prison authorities informed Respondent No. 2 about his good conduct.

101)  On 18.04.2001, this Court dismissed the Review Petition  (Crl.)  being
No. 416 of 2001 which was filed on 30.03.2001.

102)  On 22.04.2001, Respondent No. 1–Union of  India  wrote  to  Respondent
No. 2 asking for the record of the  case  and  for  information  on  whether
mercy petition has been rejected by the Governor.   Meanwhile,  other  mercy
petitions were received by Respondent No. 1.  There is no reference  in  the
affidavit of Respondent No. 1 that the same  were  forwarded  to  Respondent
No. 2 for consideration.

103)  On 04.05.2001, Respondent No. 2  wrote  to  the  Government  Advocate,
District Varanasi asking for a copy  of  the  trial  court  judgment,  which
information is available from the counter affidavit filed by Respondent  No.
2.  On 23.05.2001, Respondent No.  2  sent  a  reminder  to  the  Government
Advocate, District Varanasi to send a copy of the trial court judgment.   On
04.09.2001, the District Magistrate,  Varanasi  informed  Respondent  No.  2
that it is not possible to get a copy of the trial  court  judgment  as  all
the papers are lying in the Supreme Court.

104)  On 13.12.2001, without obtaining a copy of the trial  court  judgment,
Respondent No. 2 advised the Governor to  reject  the  mercy  petition.   On
18.12.2001, the Governor rejected  the  mercy  petition  after  taking  nine
months’ time. On 22.01.2002, Respondent No.  2  informed  Respondent  No.  1
that the Governor has rejected the petitioners’ mercy petition.  It  is  the
grievance of the petitioners that neither the petitioners nor  their  family
members were informed about the rejection.

105)  On 28.03.2002, Respondent No. 1 wrote  to  Respondent  No.  2  seeking
copy of the trial court judgment.  On 12.06.2002, the judgment of the  trial
court was furnished by Respondent No. 2 to Respondent No. 1.

106)  Rule V of the Mercy Petition Rules  which  exclusively  provides  that
the mercy petition should be sent  along  with  the  judgments  and  related
documents immediately, states as follows:

      “In all cases in which a petition  for  mercy  from  a  convict  under
      sentence of  death  is  to  be  forwarded  to  the  Secretary  to  the
      Government  of  India,   Ministry   of   Home   Affairs,   the   Lieut
      Governor/Chief Commissioner/Administrator or  the  Government  of  the
      State concerned as the case may be  shall  forward  such  petition  as
      expeditiously as possible along with the records of the case  and  his
      or its observations in respect of any of  the  grounds  urged  in  the
      petition”.

107)  There is no explanation for the delay of about five months in  sending
the papers to Respondent No. 1.  On 07.12.2002, Respondent No.  2  wrote  to
Respondent No. 1 seeking information about the status  of  the  petitioners’
mercy  petition.   Twelve  reminders  were  sent  between   17.01.2003   and
14.12.2005.

108)  On 27.07.2003, Respondent No. 4-Superintendent of Jail, in  accordance
with the provisions of the U.P. Jail  Manual,  wrote  to  Respondent  No.  2
seeking  information  about  the  petitioners’  pending   mercy   petitions.
Thereafter, twenty-seven reminders  were  sent  by  the  prison  authorities
between 29.09.2003 and 29.05.2006.

109)  On 08.04.2004, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
mercy petition.  On 21.07.2004,  the  President  returned  the  petitioners’
file (along with the files of ten other death-row  convicts)  to  Respondent
No. 1 for the advice of the new Home Minister.   On  20.06.2005,  Respondent
No. 1 advised the President to reject the mercy petitions.   On  24.12.2010,
Respondent No. 1 recalled the files from the President.  On 13.01.2011,  the
said files were received from the President.  On 19.02.2011, Respondent  No.
1 advised the President to reject the mercy petition.

110)  On 14.11.2011, Respondent No. 2 wrote  to  Respondent  No.  1  seeking
information about the status of the petitioners’ mercy petitions.

111)  On 29.10.2012, the President returned the file for the advice  of  the
new Home Minister.  On 16.01.2013, Respondent No. 1  advised  the  President
to reject the mercy petition.  On 08.02.2013,  the  President  rejected  the
mercy petitions.

112)  On 05.04.2013, the petitioners  heard  the  news  reports  that  their
mercy petitions have been  rejected  by  the  President  of  India.   It  is
asserted that they have not received  any  written  confirmation  till  this
date.

113)  On 06.04.2013, the petitioners authorized their family  members,  viz.
Mr. Shatrughan Chauhan and Mr. Mahinder Chauhan,  to  file  an  urgent  writ
petition in this Court, which  was  ultimately  numbered  as  Writ  Petition
(Crl.) No. 55 of 2013.  By order dated 06.04.2013,  this  Court  stayed  the
execution of the petitioners.  Only on 20.06.2013,  the  prison  authorities
informed vide letter dated 18.06.2013 that the petitioners’ mercy  petitions
have been rejected by the President.

114)  All the above details have been culled out  from  the  writ  petitions
filed by the petitioners and the counter affidavit filed on  behalf  of  the
Union of India as well as the State of Uttar  Pradesh.  
The  following  are
the details relating to disposal of mercy petitions by the Governor and  the
President:


|Custody suffered till date     |6.10.1996 –       |17 years 2     |
|                               |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Custody suffered under sentence|19.12.1997 –      |16 years       |
|of death                       |17.12.2013        |               |
|Total delay since filing of    |27.04.2001 –      |12 years 2     |
|mercy petition till prisoner   |20.06.2013        |months         |
|informed of rejection by the   |                  |               |
|President                      |                  |               |
|Delay in disposal of mercy     |                  |               |
|petition by Governor           |                  |               |
|First petitioner               |9.3.2001 –        |10 months      |
|                               |28.01.2002        |               |
|                               |                  |               |
|Second petitioner              |27.04.2001 –      |9 months       |
|                               |28.01.2002        |               |
|Delay in disposal of mercy     |28.01.2002 –      |11 years       |
|petition by the President      |08.02.2013        |               |
|Delay in communicating         |8.02.2013 –       |4 months       |
|rejection by the President     |20.06.2013        |               |


115)  There is no dispute that these  petitioners  killed  five  members  of
their family – two adults and three children over property dispute.   It  is
a heinous crime  and  they  were  awarded  death  sentence  which  was  also
confirmed by this Court.  However, the details  furnished  in  the  form  of
affidavits by the petitioners, counter affidavit filed by Respondent Nos.  1
and 2 as well as the records produced  by  Mr.  Luthra,  learned  Additional
Solicitor General, clearly show that there was a delay of  twelve  years  in
disposal of their mercy petitions.  To put it clear, the Governor  of  Uttar
Pradesh took around ten months to reject the mercy petitions (09.03.2001  to
28.01.2002) and the President rejected the petitions with a delay of  eleven
years (28.01.2002 to 08.02.2013).  We also verified the summary prepared  by
the Ministry of Home Affairs for the  President  and  the  connected  papers
placed by learned ASG wherein no discussion with  regard  to  the  same  was
attributed to.

116)  On going through various details, stages  and  considerations  and  in
the light of various principles discussed above and also of  the  fact  that
this Court has accepted in a series of decisions that undue and  unexplained
delay in execution is one of the supervening circumstances, we hold that  in
the absence of proper, plausible and acceptable reasons for the  delay,  the
delay of twelve years in considering  the  mercy  petitions  is  a  relevant
ground for the commutation of death sentence  into  life  imprisonment.   We
are also satisfied that  the  summary  prepared  by  the  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs for the President makes no mention of twelve years’ delay much  less
any plausible reason.  Accordingly, both the death  convicts  –  Suresh  and
Ramji have made out a case for commutation  of  their  death  sentence  into
life imprisonment.

Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 34 of 2013

117)  This writ petition is filed by Shamik Narain  which  relates  to  four
death convicts, viz., Bilavendran, Simon, Gnanprakasam and  Madiah  aged  55
years, 50 years, 60 years and 64 years respectively.

118)  The case emanates from the  State  of  Karnataka.   According  to  the
petitioners, the accused persons are in custody for nearly 19  years  and  7
months.  All the persons were  charged  under  IPC  as  well  as  under  the
provisions of the TADA.  By judgment dated 29.09.2001, the  Designated  TADA
Court, Mysore convicted the  accused  persons  for  the  offence  punishable
under TADA as well as IPC and the Arms Act and sentenced them inter alia  to
undergo rigorous imprisonment for life.

119)  All the accused persons preferred Criminal Appeal being  Nos.  149-150
of 2002 before this Court which were admitted by this Court.  The  State  of
Karnataka also filed a Criminal Appeal being No.  34  of  2003  against  the
judgment dated 29.09.2001 praying for  enhancement  of  sentence  from  life
imprisonment to death  sentence.   On  09.01.2003,  this  Court  refused  to
accept the claim of the State of Karnataka and dismissed its appeal  on  the
ground of limitation.  However, this Court,  by  judgment  and  order  dated
29.01.2004, suo motu enhanced the sentence of the accused persons from  life
imprisonment to  death.   In  the  same  order,  this  Court  confirmed  the
conviction and sentence imposed by the TADA Court and dismissed the  appeals
preferred by the accused.

120)  On 12.02.2004, separate mercy petitions were filed by the  petitioners
and  the  Superintendent,  Central  Jail,  Belgaum  forwarded  the  same  to
Respondent No. 1.

121)  On 29.04.2004, the review petitions  filed  by  the  petitioners  were
also dismissed by this Court.

122)   On  29.07.2004,  the  Governor  rejected  the  mercy  petitions  and,
according to the petitioners, they were never informed about the same.

123)  On 07.08.2004, Respondent No.  2  forwarded  the  mercy  petitions  to
Respondent No. 1 which were received on 16.08.2004.  Here  again,  there  is
no explanation for the delay of six months from 12.02.2004, when  the  mercy
petitions were first forwarded to Respondent No. 1.

124)  On 19.08.2004, Respondent No. 1 requested Respondent No. 2 for a  copy
of the trial court judgment.  Here  again,  the  trial  court  judgment  and
other relevant documents should have been sent to  Respondent  No.  1  along
with the mercy petitions.  We have already extracted Rule  V  of  the  Mercy
Petition  Rules  relating  to  forwarding  of  the  required  materials   as
expeditiously as possible.  On 30.08.2004, Respondent No. 2 sent a  copy  of
the trial  court  judgment  to  Respondent  No.  1  which  was  received  on
09.09.2004.

125)  On 18.10.2004, the petitioners’ gang leader Veerappan  was  killed  in
an encounter by a Special Task Force and his gang disbanded.

126)  On 29.04.2005, the Home Minister advised the President to  reject  the
mercy petitions.  There was no further progress in the  petitions  till  the
files were recalled from the President and received back in the Ministry  of
Home Affairs, i.e., six years later on 16.05.2011.  Though separate  counter
affidavit has been filed by  Respondent  No.  1,  there  is  no  explanation
whatsoever for the delay of six years.  Learned counsel for the  petitioners
pointed out that it  is  pertinent  to  take  note  of  the  fact  that  two
consecutive  Presidents  had  deemed  it  fit  not  to  act  on  the  advice
suggested.  In any event, this  procrastination  violated  the  petitioners’
right under Article 21 of the  Constitution  by  inflicting  six  additional
years of  imprisonment  under  the  constant  fear  of  imminent  death  not
authorized by judgment of any court.

127)  On 28.02.2006, Curative Petition being No. 6 of 2006 was dismissed  by
this Court.

128)  In the  meanwhile,  letters  were  sent  by  the  petitioners  to  the
President of India highlighting their grievance about their  procrastination
for about last twelve years.  The information furnished by the  Ministry  of
Home Affairs under the Right to Information Act shows that  mercy  petitions
submitted after the petitions of the petitioners  were  given  priority  and
decided earlier while the mercy  petitions  of  the  petitioners  were  kept
pending.

129)  On 16.05.2011, the mercy petitions were recalled by Respondent  No.  1
from the President.  Here again, there is no explanation for  the  delay  of
six years.  On 25.05.2011, the Home Minister advised the President  for  the
second time to reject the mercy  petition.   On  19.11.2012,  the  President
returned the file stating that the views of the new  Home  Minister  may  be
ascertained.  Here again, there is no explanation  for  the  delay  of  1  ½
years while the file was pending with the  President.   On  16.01.2013,  the
Home Minister advised the President for the third time to reject  the  mercy
petitions.  On 08.02.2013, the President rejected the  mercy  petitions  and
Respondent No. 2 was informed vide letter dated 09.02.2013.

130)  It is the grievance of the petitioners that though they were  informed
orally and signatures were obtained, the prison authorities refused to  hand
over the copy of the rejection letter to them or  to  their  advocate.   The
details regarding delay in this matter are as follows:
|Custody suffered till date     |14.07.1993 –      |20 years 5     |
|                               |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Custody suffered under sentence|29.01.2004 –      |9 years 11     |
|of death                       |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Total delay in disposal of the |12.02.2004 –      |9 years        |
|mercy petitions                |08.02.2013        |               |


131)  The delay of six months  (12.02.2004  –  07.08.2004)  when  the  mercy
petitions were being considered by the Governor is attributed to  Respondent
No. 1 because the mercy petition had  been  sent  to  Respondent  No.  1  on
12.02.2004  and  also  because  Respondent  No.  2/Governor  did  not   have
jurisdiction to entertain the mercy petitions and even if clemency had  been
granted, it would have been null and void.

132)  From the particulars furnished by  the  petitioners  as  well  as  the
details mentioned in the counter affidavit of Respondent Nos. 1  and  2,  we
are satisfied that the delay of  nine  years  in  disposal  of  their  mercy
petitions is unreasonable and no proper explanation  has  been  offered  for
the same.  Apart from  the  delay  in  question,  according  to  us,  it  is
important to note that  delay  is  undue  and  unexplained.   Certain  other
aspects also support the case of the petitioners for commutation.

133)  We have already mentioned that  on  29.01.2004,  this  Court,  by  its
judgment and order, suo motu enhanced the sentence  from  life  imprisonment
to death.  It is relevant to point out that  when  the  State  preferred  an
appeal for enhancement of the  sentence  from  life  to  death,  this  Court
rejected the claim of the State, however, this Court suo motu  enhanced  the
same  and  the  fact  remains  that  the  appeal  filed  by  the  State  for
enhancement was rejected by this Court.

134)  In the earlier part of our discussion, we have already held  that  the
decision in Devender Pal Singh  Bhullar  (supra),  holding  that  the  cases
pertaining to offences under TADA have to be treated differently and on  the
ground of delay in disposal of mercy petition the death sentence  cannot  be
commuted, is per incuriam.  Further, this Court in Yakub Memon vs. State  of
Maharashtra (Criminal Appeal No. 1728 of 2007) delivered on  21.03.2013  and
in subsequent cases commuted the death  sentence  passed  in  TADA  case  to
imprisonment for life.

135)  Taking note of these aspects, viz., their age, in custody  for  nearly
twenty  years,  unexplained  delay  of  nine  years  in  disposal  of  mercy
petitions coupled with other reasons and also of the fact that  the  summary
prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the President makes no  mention
of the delay of  9  ½  years  and  also  in  the  light  of  the  principles
enunciated in the earlier paragraphs, we  hold  that  the  petitioners  have
made out a case for commutation of death sentence to imprisonment for life.

Writ Petition (Crl.)No. 187 of 2013

136)  Praveen Kumar, aged about 55 years, hailing from Karnataka, has  filed
this petition.  He was charged for murdering four members of  a  family  and
ultimately by judgment dated 05.02.2002, he  was  convicted  under  Sections
302, 392 and 397 IPC and sentenced to death. The petitioner was defended  on
legal aid.

137)  By judgment dated 28.10.2002, death  sentence  was  confirmed  by  the
Division  Bench  of  the  High  Court  of  Karnataka  and  by  order   dated
15.10.2003, this Court dismissed the appeal filed by the petitioner.

138)  On 25.10.2003, the petitioner sent the  mercy  petition  addressed  to
the President of India wherein he highlighted  that  he  has  been  kept  in
solitary  confinement  since  the  judgment  of  the  trial   Court,   i.e.,
05.02.2002.

139)   On 12.12.2003,  Respondent  No.  1  requested  Respondent  No.  2  to
consider  the  petitioner’s  mercy  petition  under  Article  161   of   the
Constitution and  intimate  the  decision  along  with  the  copies  of  the
judgment  of  the  trial  Court,  High  Court,  police   diary   and   court
proceedings. Respondent No. 1 also received mercy  petition  signed  by  260
persons.  By  order  dated  15.09.2004,  the  Governor  rejected  the  mercy
petition. On 30.09.2004, Respondent No. 2 informed  Respondent  No.  1  that
the petitioner’s mercy petition has been rejected by the Governor.

140)   On 18.10.2004, Respondent No. 1 requested Respondent No.  2  for  the
second time to send the judgment of the trial Court along  with  the  police
diary and court proceedings.  On 20.12.2004, according to Respondent No.  1,
Respondent No. 2 sent the  requested  documents  to  Respondent  No.  1  but
Respondent No. 1 claimed that the  same  were  in  Kannada.  On  07.01.2005,
Respondent No. 1 returned the documents sent by  Respondent  No.  2  with  a
request to provide English translation.   The  State  Government  was  again
reminded  in  this  regard  on  05.04.2005,   20.04.2005,   04.06.2005   and
21.07.2005.  Even after these reminders, the translated documents  were  not
sent.

141)  On 06.09.2005, the mercy petition of the petitioner-Praveen Kumar  was
processed and examined without waiting for the copy of the judgment  of  the
trial Court and submitted for consideration of the Home Minister.  The  Home
Minister approved the rejection  of  the  mercy  petition.   On  07.09.2005,
Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the  petitioner’s  mercy
petition.  On 14.03.2006, Respondent No. 2 sent the translated documents  to
Respondent No. 1.

142)  On 20.08.2006, the petitioner wrote to the President referring to  his
earlier mercy petition dated 25.10.2003  stating  that  for  the  last  four
years and seven months he  has  been  languishing  in  solitary  confinement
under constant fear of death.

143)   On  29.09.2006,  the  petitioner  wrote  to  the  Chief  Minister  of
Karnataka  referring  to  his  earlier  mercy  petition   dated   25.10.2003
highlighting the same grievance.

144)  The information received under RTI  Act  shows  that  mercy  petitions
submitted after the petition of  the  petitioner  were  given  priority  and
decided earlier  while  the  mercy  petition  of  the  petitioner  was  kept
pending.

145)   On 01.07.2011, the petitioner’s mercy petition was recalled from  the
President and received by  Respondent  No.  1  and  thereafter  it  remained
pending consideration of the President  of  India  for  five  years  and  10
months.  There is no explanation for this inordinate delay.

146)  On 14.07.2011, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
petitioner’s mercy petition.  The file  remained  with  the  President  till
29.10.2012, i.e. for 1 year 3 months and  no  explanation  was  offered  for
this delay.

147)  On 29.10.2012, the President returned the petitioner’s mercy  petition
to Respondent No. 1 ostensibly on the ground of an appeal made by 14  former
Judges.  However, this appeal, as  is  admitted  in  the  counter  affidavit
filed by Respondent No. 1 itself, “had not indicated any plea in respect  of
Praveen Kumar”.  On 16.01.2013, Respondent No. 1 advised  the  President  to
reject the petitioner’s mercy petition.

148)   On  26.03.2013,  the  President  rejected  the   petitioner’s   mercy
petition.  On 05.04.2013, the petitioner heard news reports that  his  mercy
petition has been rejected by the President of India.  He has  not  received
any written confirmation of the same till date.

149)  On 06.04.2013, this Court stayed the  execution  of  the  sentence  in
Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 56 of 2013 filed by PUDR.   The  following  details
show the delay in disposal of petitioner’s mercy petition  by  the  Governor
and the President:

|Custody suffered till|2.3.94-19.2.95+1.2.99-|15 years 9 months    |
|date                 |17.12.13              |                     |
|Custody suffered     |04.02.02-17.12.13     |11 years 10 months   |
|under sentence of    |                      |                     |
|death                |                      |                     |
|Total delay since    |25.10.2003-5.4.2013   |9 years 5 months     |
|filing of mercy      |                      |                     |
|petition till        |                      |                     |
|prisoner coming to   |                      |                     |
|know of rejection by |                      |                     |
|President            |                      |                     |
|Delay in disposal of |25.10.03-30.09.04     |11 months            |
|mercy petition by    |                      |                     |
|Governor             |                      |                     |
|Delay in disposal of |30.09.04-26.03.2013   |8 ½ years            |
|mercy petition by    |                      |                     |
|President            |                      |                     |


150)  Though learned counsel for the petitioner highlighted that  the  trial
Court relied on certain decisions which were later held to be per  incuriam,
in view of the fact that there is a delay of 9½ years  in  disposal  of  the
mercy petition, there is no need to go  into  the  aspect  relating  to  the
merits of the judicial decision.  On the other hand, we are  satisfied  that
even though the Union of India has filed  counter  affidavit,  there  is  no
explanation for the huge delay.  Accordingly, we  hold  that  the  delay  in
disposal of the mercy petition is one  of  the  relevant  circumstances  for
commutation of death sentence.  Further, we perused the  notes  prepared  by
the Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  as  well  as  the  decision  taken  by  the
President. The summary prepared by the Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  for  the
President makes no mention of the unexplained and undue delay of 9  ½  years
in considering the mercy petition.  The petitioner has rightly  made  out  a
case for commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment.

Writ Petition (Crl.)No. 193 of 2013

151)  Gurmeet Singh, aged about 56 years, hailing from U.P. has  filed  this
petition.  According to him, he is in custody for 26 years.

152)  The allegation against the petitioner is that he murdered  13  members
of his family on 17.08.1986.  By order dated  20.07.1992,  the  trial  Court
convicted the petitioner under Sections 302, 307 read with  Section  34  IPC
and awarded death sentence.

153)  On  28.04.1994,  the  Division  Bench  of  the  Allahabad  High  Court
pronounced the judgment in the petitioner’s  Criminal  Appeal  No.  1333  of
1992.  The two Hon’ble Judges disagreed with each other on the  question  of
guilt, Malviya, J. upheld the petitioner’s  conviction  and  death  sentence
and dismissed his appeal, while Prasad, J. acquitted the  petitioner  herein
and allowed his appeal.

154)  On 29.02.1996, in terms of Section 392 of the Code,  the  papers  were
placed before a third Judge (Singh, J.), who agreed  with  Malviya,  J.  and
upheld the petitioner’s conviction and sentence.

155)  On  08.03.1996,  the  Division  Bench  dismissed  the  appeal  of  the
petitioner herein and confirmed his death sentence.

156)  On 28.09.2005,  this  Court  dismissed  the  petitioner’s  appeal  and
upheld the death sentence passed on him.  The petitioner was represented  on
legal aid.

157)  On 06.10.2005, the petitioner sent separate  mercy  petitions  through
jail addressed to the President of India and the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

158)   On  24.12.2005,  the  Prison  Superintendent  sent  a  radiogram   to
Respondent No. 2  reminding  about  the  pendency  of  the  mercy  petition.
Thereafter, 10 radiograms/letters  were  sent  till  16.05.2006.   These  11
reminders are itself testimony  of  the  unreasonable  delay  by  the  State
Government in deciding the petitioner’s mercy petition.

159)  On 04.04.2006, the Governor rejected the petitioner’s mercy  petition.


160)  On  26.05.2006,  the  fact  of  the  rejection  by  the  Governor  was
communicated to Respondent No. 1 and  to  the  Prison  authorities  after  a
delay of more than 1½ months.

161)  On 16.06.2006, the President forwarded  to  Respondent  No.  1  letter
dated 02.06.2006 of the Additional District & Sessions Judge,  Shahjahanpur,
addressed to Respondent No. 2 requesting  to  intimate  the  status  of  the
petitioner’s mercy petition pending before the President.

162)   On  07.07.2006,  Respondent  No.  1  forwarded  the  letter  of   the
Additional District and Sessions Judge to Respondent No. 2  with  a  request
to forward the  petitioner’s  mercy  petition  as  the  same  has  not  been
received along with the judgment of the courts, police diary etc.

163)  On 09.02.2007, Respondent No. 2 sent  the  mercy  petition  and  other
related documents to Respondent No. 1,  i.e.,  10  months  after  the  mercy
petition was rejected by the Governor.  The Mercy Petition Rules,  which  we
have already extracted in the earlier  part,  explicitly  provide  that  the
mercy petition and the related documents should be sent immediately.   There
is no explanation for the delay of  10  months  in  sending  the  papers  to
Respondent No. 1.

164)  On 18.05.2007, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
petitioner’s mercy petition.

165)  On 04.11.2009, the petitioner’s mercy petition file was received  from
the President’s office by Respondent No. 1.

166)  Again on 09.12.2009, Respondent No. 1 advised the President to  reject
the petitioner’s mercy petition.  There was no progress in the  petitioner’s
case for the next 2 years and 11 months, i.e., till 29.10.2012.

167)  On 29.10.2012, the President returned the petitioner’s mercy  petition
to Respondent No. 1, ostensibly on the pretext  of  an  appeal  made  by  14
former judges, even though, as is admitted in the  counter  affidavit  filed
by Respondent No. 1, this appeal does not in any way relate to the  case  of
the petitioner.

168)  On 16.01.2013, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
petitioner’s mercy petition.

169)  On 01.03.2013, the President of India rejected the petitioner’s  mercy
petition.

170)  On 05.04.2013, the petitioner heard the news reports  that  his  mercy
petition has been rejected by the President of India.   However,  till  date
the petitioner has not received any official written communication that  his
mercy  petition  has  been  rejected  either  by  the  Governor  or  by  the
President.

171)  On 06.04.2013, this Court stayed the execution of the  death  sentence
of the petitioner in W.P. (Crl.) No. 56 of 2013 filed by the Peoples’  Union
for Democratic Rights (PUDR).

172)   On  20.06.2013,  3  ½  months  after  the  actual  rejection  of  the
petitioner’s mercy  petition,  the  news  was  communicated  to  the  prison
authorities.
The following are the details regarding the delay in  disposal
of mercy petition by the Governor and the President:

|Custody suffered till|16.10.1986-17.12.2013|26 years 2 months    |
|date                 |less 1 year of       |                     |
|                     |under-trial bail     |                     |
|Custody suffered     |20.07.1992-17.12.2013|21 years 5 months    |
|under sentence of    |                     |                     |
|death                |                     |                     |
|Total delay since    |6.10.2005-20.06.2013 |7 years 8 months     |
|filing of mercy      |                     |                     |
|petition till        |                     |                     |
|prisoner coming to   |                     |                     |
|know of rejection by |                     |                     |
|President            |                     |                     |
|Delay in disposal of |6.10.2005-4.4.2006   |6 months             |
|mercy petition by    |                     |                     |
|Governor             |                     |                     |
|Delay in disposal of |4.4.2006-1.3.2013    |6 years 11 months    |
|mercy petition by    |                     |                     |
|President            |                     |                     |
|Delay in             |1.3.2013-20.06.2013  |3 ½ years            |
|communicating        |                     |                     |
|rejection to         |                     |                     |
|petitioner           |                     |                     |


The above details clearly show that there is a delay of 7 years 8 months  in
disposal of mercy petition by the Governor and the President.

173)  Though Respondent No. 1 has filed a separate counter affidavit,  there
is no acceptable reason for the delay of 7 years 8 months.  In  the  absence
of adequate materials for such a huge delay,  we  hold  that  the  delay  is
undue and unexplained.

174)  In the file of the Home Ministry placed before us, at pages 31  &  32,
the following recommendations  have  been  made  for  commutation  of  death
sentence to life imprisonment which are as under:

            “I think that in this case too, we can recommend commutation  of
      death sentence to life imprisonment for two reasons:

      1)    There was a disagreement amongst the Hon.  Judges  of  the  High
      Court implying thereby that there was some doubt in  the  mind  of  at
      least one Hon. Judge that this might not be the ‘rarest  of  the  rare
      cases’.

      2)    Unusual long delay in investigation and trial is another reason.
       This kind of submission was also made by the  learned  amicus  curiae
      but was disregarded by the Court.  I think the submission should  have
      been accepted.

            Accordingly, I suggest that we  may  recommend  that  the  death
      sentence of Sh. Gurmeet Singh be commuted to that of life imprisonment
      but he would not be allowed to come out of prison till he lives.

                                                       Sd/-“

However, this was not agreed to by the Home Minister.

175)  In view of the reasons and discussion  in  the  earlier  part  of  our
order, the petitioner-convict is entitled to commutation of  death  sentence
into life imprisonment.  Even in the summary prepared  by  the  Ministry  of
Home Affairs for the President makes no mention of the delay of  7  years  8
months.  We are satisfied that the  petitioner  has  made  out  a  case  for
commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment.

Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 188 of 2013

176)  Sonia and Sanjeev Kumar, aged about  30  and  38  years  respectively,
hailing from Haryana, have filed this petition.   According  to  them,  they
are in custody for about 12 years.

177)  On 27.05.2004, both of them were convicted for the offence  punishable
under Section 302 and sentenced to death by the trial Court. By order  dated
12.04.2005, the High Court confirmed their  conviction  but  modified  their
sentence of death into life imprisonment. The order of the  High  Court  was
challenged before this  Court  in  Criminal  Appeal  No.  142  of  2005  and
Criminal Appeal No. 894 of 2005 and Criminal Appeal No.  895  of  2006.   By
order dated 15.02.2007, this Court upheld their conviction and enhanced  the
imprisonment for life to death sentence.

178)  In February, 2007, the petitioners filed a mercy petition  before  the
Governor of Haryana.  Similar mercy petitions were sent to the President.

179)  On 23.08.2007, the Review Petitions being Nos. 260-262 of  2007  filed
by the petitioners were dismissed.

180)  On 31.10.2007, Respondent No. 2 informed Respondent  No.  1  that  the
mercy petitions filed by the petitioners have been rejected by the  Governor
of Haryana and forwarded the relevant documents.

181)  On 08.02.2008, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
petitioner’s mercy petitions.  The mercy  petitions  remained  pending  with
the President till 16.04.2009.

182)  On 16.04.2009, the President sent the  petitioners’  file  along  with
the first petitioner’s letter dated 17.02.2009  to  reject  their  petitions
conveying  their  difficult  position  to  continue  with  their   life   to
Respondent No. 1.

183)  On 20.05.2009, Respondent No. 1 advised the President for  the  second
time to reject the petitioners’ mercy petitions.

184)  On  04.02.2010,  the  President  returned  the  petitioners’  file  to
Respondent No.  1  seeking  clarification  whether  the  first  petitioner’s
request to reject the mercy  petition  amounts  to  withdrawal  of  original
mercy petition and if so, is there further need to reject the  petition?  On
17.02.2010, Respondent No. 1 referred  the  President’s  query  to  the  Law
Department. On 05.03.2010, Respondent No. 1 advised the  President  for  the
3rd time to reject the petitioners’ mercy  petitions.  On  03.01.2012,  upon
the request of Respondent No. 1, the  President  returned  the  petitioners’
file to Respondent No. 1.  On  18.01.2012,  Respondent  No.  1  advised  the
President for the 4th time to reject the petitioners’ mercy petitions.

185)  On 29.10.2012, the President returned the petitioners’  file  back  to
Respondent No. 1 in the light of the appeal made by 14  former  judges.   It
is pointed out by learned counsel that admittedly the appeal  was  made  for
other prisoners and not for the petitioners and so  there  was  no  need  to
return the files.

186)  On 29.01.2013, since it was found that  the  judges’  appeal  did  not
pertain to the petitioners, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  for  the
5th time to reject the petitioners’  mercy  petitions.  On  21.02.2013,  the
petitioners, anxious for a decision on their mercy petitions, wrote  to  the
President again reiterating their plea for mercy.

187)  On  28.03.2013,  the  President  returned  the  petitioners’  file  to
Respondent No. 1, supposedly on account of  the  petitioners’  letter  dated
21.02.2013. On 06.06.2013, Respondent No. 1 advised the  President  for  the
6th time to reject  the  petitioners’  mercy  petitions  “as  no  mitigating
circumstance was found”. Finally, on  29.06.2013,  the   President  rejected
the petitioners’ mercy petitions.

188)  On 13.07.2013, the  petitioners’  family  members  received  a  letter
dated  11.07.2013  from  the   prison   authorities   informing   that   the
petitioners’ mercy petitions have been rejected by the President  of  India.
The following are the details regarding the delay in disposal of  the  mercy
petition by the Governor and the President:

|Custody suffered    |26.08.2001/19.09.2001-17|12 years 3 months   |
|till date           |.12.2013                |                    |
|Total delay since   |Feb.2007-13.07.2013     |6 years 5 months    |
|filing of mercy     |                        |                    |
|petition till       |                        |                    |
|prisoner coming to  |                        |                    |
|know of rejection by|                        |                    |
|President           |                        |                    |
|Delay in disposal of|Feb. 2007-31.10.2007    |8 months            |
|mercy petition by   |                        |                    |
|Governor            |                        |                    |
|Delay in disposal of|31.10.2007-29.06.2013   |5 years 8 months    |
|mercy petition by   |                        |                    |
|President           |                        |                    |


189)  In view of the above details as well as  the  explanation  offered  in
the counter affidavit filed by Respondent No. 1, we hold that the  delay  in
disposal of mercy petitions is undue and unexplained and  in  the  light  of
our conclusion in the earlier part of our order, the unexplained  and  undue
delay is one of the circumstances for commutation  of  death  sentence  into
life imprisonment.

190)  In addition, due to unbearable  mental  agony  after  confirmation  of
death  sentence,  petitioner  No.1  attempted  suicide.   In  view  of   our
conclusion that the delay in  disposal  of  mercy  petitions  is  undue  and
unexplained, we  hold  that  the  petitioners  have  made  out  a  case  for
commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment.

Writ Petition(Crl.)No. 192 of 2013

191)  PUDR has filed this petition for Sundar Singh, who  is   hailing  from
Uttarkhand.  On 30.06.2004, Sundar  Singh  was  convicted  by  the  Sessions
Court under Sections 302, 307  and  436  IPC  and  sentenced  to  death.  On
20.07.2005, the High Court confirmed the death sentence passed by the  trial
Court. On 16.09.2010, this Court dismissed the appeal filed by Sundar  Singh
through legal aid.

192)  On 29.09.2010,  Sundar  Singh  sent  a  mercy  petition  through  jail
authorities addressed to the President of India stating therein that he  had
committed the offence due to insanity and that  he  repented  for  the  same
each day and shall continue to do for the rest of his life.

193)  On 29.09.2010, the prison authorities filled in  a  nominal  roll  for
Sundar Singh in which they stated that Sundar Singh’s  mental  condition  is
abnormal.  The said form was sent to Respondent Nos. 1 and  2.   The  prison
authorities noticed that  Sundar  Singh’s  behaviour  had  become  extremely
abnormal.  He was initially treated for mental illness by the prison  doctor
and, thereafter, he was examined by doctors from the HMM District  Hospital,
Haridwar.   Thereafter, when he continued to show  signs  of  insanity,  the
prison authorities called a team of  psychiatrists  from  the  State  Mental
Institute, Dehradun to examine him.   The  psychiatrists  found  him  to  be
suffering from schizophrenia and recommended that  he  be  sent  to  Benaras
Mental Hospital.  On  15.10.2010,  Sundar  Singh  was  admitted  to  Benaras
Mental Hospital and he remained there for 1 ½ years till  his  discharge  on
28.07.2012 with further prescriptions and advice for follow up treatment.

194)    On 19.10.2010,  Respondent  No.  1  informed  Respondent  No.  2  in
writing that Sundar Singh’s mercy petition  should  be  first  sent  to  the
Governor.

195)  Based on the direction of Respondent No. 1, on 20.10.2010, the  prison
authorities forwarded the mercy petition of Sundar Singh  to  the  Governor.
On 21.01.2011, the Governor rejected the mercy petition of Sundar Singh  and
Respondent No. 2 forwarded the same to the President.

196)  On 24.05.2011, Respondent No. 1 wrote to Respondent No. 2  asking  for
a copy of Sundar Singh’s nominal roll, medical record and crime record.   On
01.06.2011, Respondent No. 2 sent Sundar Singh’s nominal  roll  and  medical
report to Respondent No. 1.   In  the  covering  letter,  Respondent  No.  2
informed Respondent No. 1 that Sundar  Singh  had  been  declared  to  be  a
mental patient by medical  experts  and  was  admitted  to  Varanasi  Mental
Hospital for treatment on 11.12.2010.

197)  On 03.02.2012, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
mercy petition filed by Sundar Singh. On 30.10.2012, the President  returned
the mercy petition of Sundar Singh ostensibly because of the  petition  sent
by 14 former judges wherein there was a specific reference to  the  case  of
Sundar Singh.

198)  On 28.12.2012, Sundar Singh was examined by a  doctor  in  prison  who
noted that he was “suicidally inclined” and prescribed him very strong  anti
psychotic medicines. Despite that, on 01.02.2013, Respondent No.  1  advised
the President to reject the mercy petition of Sundar Singh.

199)  On 16.02.2013, the prison authorities again called  a  team  of  three
psychiatrists from the State Mental Hospital, Dehradun, who examined  Sundar
Singh.  In their report, they mentioned that Sundar Singh had  already  been
diagnosed as suffering  from  undifferentiated  schizophrenia.   They  noted
that  he  was  “unkempt  and  untidy,  cooperative   but   not   very   much
communicative” and his “speech is decreased in flow  and  content”  and  “at
times  is  inappropriate  and  illogical  to  the  question  asked.”    They
concluded as follows:

      “he is suffering from chronic psychotic illness and he needs long term
      management”.

The prison authorities sent this report to Respondent No. 1.

200)  On 31.03.2013, the President rejected the  mercy  petition  of  Sundar
Singh. On 02.04.2013, Respondent No. 1 informed Respondent No.  2  that  the
President has rejected the mercy petition of Sundar Singh.   On  05.04.2013,
Sundar Singh was orally informed by the prison authorities  that  his  mercy
petition had been rejected by  the  President  but  he  did  not  appear  to
understand and did not react.

201)  On 06.04.2013, this Court stayed the execution of  death  sentence  of
Sundar Singh in W.P.(Crl.) No. 56 of 2013 filed by PUDR.

202)  On 31.10.2013, at the instance of the  prison  authorities,  Dr.  Arun
Kumar, Neuro Psychiatrist from the  State  Mental  Institute,  Dehradun  was
brought to the prison to examine Sundar Singh.  He opined as follows:

      “Sundar Singh is suffering from schizophrenia  (undifferentiated)  and
      requires long term bed rest.  He is not mentally fit to be awarded for
      death penalty.”

203)  We have carefully perused all the details.  Though there  is  a  delay
of only 2 ½ years in considering the mercy petition  of  Sundar  Singh,  the
counter affidavit as  well  as  various  communications  sent  by  the  jail
authorities clearly  show  that  Sundar  Singh  was  suffering  from  mental
illness, i.e., Schizophrenia.

204)  In the earlier part of our order, while considering “mental  illness”,
we have noted  Rules  386  and  387  of  the  U.P.  Jail  Manual  which  are
applicable to the State of Uttarakhand also, which clearly  show  that  when
condemned convict develops insanity, it is incumbent  on  the  part  of  the
Superintendent to stay the execution of sentence of  death  and  inform  the
same to the District Magistrate.  In the reply affidavit filed on behalf  of
Respondent Nos. 2-4 insofar as mental illness of the convict – Sundar  Singh
is concerned, it is stated as under:

      “16.  As far as illness of the convict Sunder Singh is  concerned,  he
      has been regularly medically examined as per  the  provisions  of  the
      jail manual, he was examined  by  Medical  Officers  of  HMM  District
      Hospital, Haridwar and thereafter on the recommendation of the Doctors
      of State Mental Health Institute, Dehradun, the Prisoner was  sent  to
      Mental Hospital, Varanasi on 15.10.2010 for examination and treatment.

      17.   Convict Sunder  Singh  was  admitted  in  the  Mental  Hospital,
      Varansai for treatment and after  his  treatment,  Board  of  Visitors
      under Chairpersonship of  District  Judge,  Varansai,  convict  Sunder
      Singh was found fit and, therefore, they discharged the convict Sunder
      Singh along with certain prescription and  advice  on  28.7.2012  from
      Mental Hospital, Varanasi…

      18.   In pursuance of above advice of the Doctors of Mental  Hospital,
      Varansai, on the request of the Jail Administration  to  State  Mental
      Hospital, Selaqui, Dehradun, a  panel  of  three  Doctors  visited  on
      16.2.2013 and examined the Convict Sunder Singh and opined that on the
      basis of information and present  assessment,  he  is  suffering  from
      chronic psychiatric illness and he need long term treatment…

      19.   Convict has  thereafter  been  regularly  provided  due  medical
      assistance in the form of medicine and  examination.   On  31.10.2013,
      Dr. Arun Kumar, neuro psychiatric from State Mental Health  Institute,
      Selaqui, Dehradun visited to the District Jail for examination of  the
      Convict Sunder Singh and opined: Impression: Sunder Singh is suffering
      from Schizophrenia (undifferentiated) and require long term bed  rest.
      He is not mentally fit to be awarded for death penalty…

      20.   On 5.11.2013, on the aforesaid report  dated  31.10.2013,  Chief
      Medical  Superintendent,  State  Medical  Health   Institute   Selaqui
      Dehradun, has been requested to send a panel of Doctors  for  thorough
      examination of the mental state of the  said  Prisoner  Sunder  Singh.
      Upon medical examination by a board of  Doctors  and  receipt  of  the
      examination report  the  State  and  Jail  Authorities  shall  act  in
      accordance with law.

            In view of the above submission, this Hon’ble Court  may  kindly
      pass appropriate  orders  disposing  of  the  present  petition.   The
      answering respondent is duty bound to comply the orders passed by  the
      Hon’ble Court.”



Along with the reply affidavit, the State has fairly  enclosed  the  medical
reports,  various  correspondence/intimation  about  the  Schizophrenia   of
lunatic   nature/mental   illness   of   the   petitioner   suffering   from
Schizophrenia.  Further,  even  on  24.05.2011,  the  Government  of  India,
Ministry of Home Affairs, after receipt of mercy petition of  the  condemned
prisoner – Sundar Singh requested the  Principal  Secretary,  Government  of
Uttarakhand,   Secretariat,    Dehradun    to    furnish    the    following
documents/information at the earliest:

     i) Present age of the prisoner along with nominal roll.

    ii) Medical report of the prisoner

   iii) Previous crime record, if any, of the prisoner.

205)   Pursuant  to  the  same,  Shri  Rajeev  Gupta,  Principal  Secretary,
Government of Uttarakhand furnished all the details to the  Joint  Secretary
(Judicial), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Jaisalmer  House,
New Delhi enclosing various medical reports.  Learned counsel for the  State
has also placed mental status of Sundar Singh duly certified  by  the  State
Mental Health Institute, Dehradun which is as under:

      “MENTAL STATUS EXAMINATION REPORT

      Prisoner Name: Mr. Sunder Singh, age about 40 yrs/male,  S/o  Mr.  Har
      Singh with mark of identification – Black mole over  left  side  lower
      part of neck, has been assessed by following experts on  16/2/2013  at
      District Jail, Haridwar.

      Dr. J.S. Bisht, Psychiatrist

      Dr. Arun Kumar, Psychiatrist

      Dr. Pratibha Sharma, Psychiatrist

            As per information by jail  staff  and  fellow  prisoners  above
      mentioned prisoner is not interacting with others, not concerned about
      personal hygiene and would like to stay alone.

            Previous record show that he  was  referred  to  Banaras  Mental
      Hospital  on  11/12/2010  for  Management  after  being  diagnosed  as
      Undifferentiated Schizophrenia by previous psychiatrist.

            Current mental status examination shows that he is  unkempt  and
      untidy, cooperative  but  not  very  much  communicative.   Speech  is
      decreased in flow and content.   At  time  it  was  inappropriate  and
      illogical to the question asked.  Affect is blunted.  Thought flow  is
      decreased and there is poor awareness…

      OPINION

            On the basis  of  information  and  present  assessments  he  is
      suffering from chronic  Psychotic  illness  and  he  needs  long  term
      treatment.

      (Signature of Dr. illegible) (Signature of Dr. illegible)

      (Signature of Dr. illegible)

      Date 16/2/2013
      Dr. J.S. Bisht   Dr. Arun Kumar   Dr. B. Pratibha Sharma
      Psychiatrist

      Thumb            Date 16/2/13 Distt. Jail Haridwar”

      MENTAL STATUS EXAMINATION REPORT

      Prisoner Name: Mr. Sunder Singh, age about 41 years/male, S/o Mr.  Har
      Singh

      Identification Mark: Black mole over left side lower part of neck.

      Index prisoner is examined by me at District Jail, Haridwar.

      As per information by jail staff, prisoner records and current  mental
      status examination, the sufferings from undifferentiated Schizophrenia
      which is chronic illness.   The  patient/prisoner  require  long  term
      treatment to  remain  in  remission  period.   Person  with  mentioned
      diagnose remain in remission and cannot be said as cured.

      Impression:   Sunder   Singh   is   suffering    from    Schizophrenia
      (Undifferentiated) and required long term treatment.

      He is not mentally fit to be awarded for death penalty.



                                               (Signature of Dr. Arun Kumar)
                                                               Date 31/10/13
                                                              Dr. Arun Kumar
                                                            (MBBS, DPM, DNB)
                                                           Neuropsychiatries
                                               State Mental Health Institute
                                                            Salequi Dehradun

      Thumb       Attested LTI of Sunder Singh


      (Signature of Dr. Arun Kumar)
      Date 31/10/13
      Dr. Arun Kumar
      (MBBS, DPM, DNB)
      Neuropsychiatries
      State Mental Health Institute
      Salequi Dehradun”




206)  Even if we agree that there is no  undue  delay  in  disposal  of  the
mercy petition by the President, we  are  satisfied  that  Sundar  Singh  is
suffering from mental illness, i.e., Schizophrenia as noted  by  3  doctors,
viz.,  Dr.  J.S.  Bisht,  Dr.  Arun  Kumar,   and   Dr.   Pratibha   Sharma,
Psychiatrists attached  to  the  State  Mental  Health  Institute,  Salequi,
Dehradun.

207)  In the earlier part of our discussion,  we  have  highlighted  various
Rules from the U.P. Jail  Manual  which  are  applicable  to  the  State  of
Uttarakhand also, various international conventions  to  which  India  is  a
party and the decisions by the U.N.O. regarding award of death sentence  and
execution of persons suffering from mental illness.  Though all the  details
were furnished by the persons concerned to Respondent  No.  1,  Ministry  of
Home Affairs, unfortunately, those aspects were neither adverted to  by  the
Home Minister nor the summary prepared by the Ministry of Home  Affairs  for
the President makes any reference to the mental condition  as  certified  by
the competent doctors.

208)  We are satisfied that in view of the  mental  illness,  he  cannot  be
executed.  On this ground, the death sentence has to  be  commuted  to  life
imprisonment.  If the condition of Sundar Sigh requires  further  treatment,
we direct the jail authorities to provide all  such  medical  facilities  to
him.

Writ Petition (Crl.)No. 190 of 2013

209)  The death convict Jafar Ali, aged about 48 years, hailing  from  U.P.,
has filed the above writ petition.  According to him, he is in  custody  for
more than 11 years (single cell confinement).

210)  On 14.07.2003, the petitioner was convicted under Section 302 IPC  for
the murder of his wife and five daughters and was sentenced  to  death.   On
27.01.2004, the Division Bench of the Allahabad  High  Court  confirmed  the
death sentence passed on the  petitioner.   On  05.04.2004,  the  petitioner
through legal aid filed SLP (Crl.) No. 1129 of 2004.   This  Court  did  not
grant special leave and dismissed the SLP in limine.

211)  On 19.04.2004, the petitioner  sent  a  mercy  petition  through  jail
superintendent to the President of India and the Governor of Uttar  Pradesh.
On 22.04.2004, Respondent No. 4 sent a radiogram  to  Respondent  No.  2  to
enquire about the status of the petitioner’s  mercy  petition.   Thereafter,
between 24.04.2004 and 16.05.2005,  14  more  such  radiograms/letters  were
sent by Respondent No. 4 to Respondent No. 2 enquiring about the  status  of
the  petitioner’s  mercy  petition.   These  15  reminders  testify  to  the
unreasonable  delay  caused  by  the  State  Government  in   deciding   the
petitioner’s mercy petition.

212)  On 20.05.2005, one year after  the  receipt  of  the  mercy  petition,
Respondent No. 2  wrote  to  the  District  Magistrate  and  the  Government
Advocate, Allahabad High Court for the trial  court  as  well  as  the  High
Court judgments relating to the petitioner’s case.  Here again, there is  no
explanation for the delay of 11 months.

213)  On 30.09.2005, the Government Advocate, Allahabad High Court sent  the
High Court judgment in the petitioner’s case  to  Respondent  No.  2.   Here
again, there is no explanation for the delay of four months in  sending  the
judgment.

214)  On 28.11.2005, the Governor rejected petitioner’s mercy petition.   It
took one year and seven months in rejecting the petitioner’s mercy  petition
in spite  of  15  reminders.   On  30.12.2005,  the  Special  Secretary,  UP
Government informed  the  Home  Ministry,  Government  of  India  about  the
rejection of mercy petition by the Governor.

215)  On 22.12.2005, information about the rejection of the  mercy  petition
by the Governor was communicated to the prison authorities one  month  after
its rejection. On 18.01.2006, Respondent No. 1 requested  Respondent  No.  2
to furnish the petitioner’s mercy petition along with the recommendation  of
the Governor, judgments of the courts and other records of the case.

216)  On 17.07.2006, Respondent No. 2 sent the documents to  Respondent  No.
1 which were requested vide letter dated 18.01.2006  along  with  a  request
for an early intimation of the decision on the mercy petition.  Here  again,
there is no explanation for the delay  of  seven  months  in  sending  those
documents.

217)  As pointed out earlier, Rule V of the Mercy Petition Rules  explicitly
provides that the mercy petition should be sent  along  with  the  judgments
and related  documents  immediately.   There  is  no  explanation  for  this
inordinate delay of seven months in sending the papers to Respondent No. 1.

218)  On 17.08.2006, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
mercy petition.  On 16.01.2007, Respondent No. 2 sent  another  reminder  to
Respondent No. 1 regarding the pendency of the petitioner’s mercy  petition.
 Thereafter, further 15 reminders  were  sent  on  various  dates  i.e.,  on
06.09.2007,  10.07.2008,  19.02.2009,  17.03.2009,  29.05.2009,  27.07.2009,
10.09.2009,  29.09.2009,  10.11.2009,  14.01.2010,  20.04.2010,  26.07.2010,
30.08.2010, 15.07.2011 and  22.11.2011.   These  16  reminders  testify  the
unreasonable delay caused in deciding the petitioner’s mercy petition.

219)   On  30.09.2011,  Respondent  No.  1  recalled  the  files  from   the
President.  There is no explanation for this inordinate  delay  of  5  years
and 1 month.  On 01.11.2011, Respondent  No.  1  advised  the  President  to
reject the mercy petition.

220)   On  30.10.2012,  the  President  returned  the  mercy   petition   to
Respondent No. 1 ostensibly on the ground of a petition sent by  14  retired
judges to the President.  There was no reference of the plea  of  Jafar  Ali
in the representation made by 14 retired judges.  On 24.01.2013,  Respondent
No. 1 advised the President to reject the  mercy  petition.  On  14.03.2013,
the President rejected the mercy petition, viz., 7 years and 4 months  after
rejection by  the  Governor  and  after  16  reminders  sent  by  the  State
Government.

221)  On 19.03.2013, Respondent No. 1  informed  Respondent  No.  2  of  the
rejection of the mercy petition.  On 05.04.2013, the  petitioner  heard  the
news reports that his mercy petition has been rejected by the  President  of
India.

222)  On 06.04.2013, this Court stayed the execution of  the  petitioner  in
Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 56 of 2013 filed by PUDR.

223)  On 22.06.2013, the prison authorities were informed vide letter  dated
18.06.2013 that the President  rejected  the  petitioner’s  mercy  petition.
There is no explanation for this delay of  three  months  in  informing  the
prison authorities and the petitioner  about  the  rejection  of  the  mercy
petition.

224)  On 08.07.2013, Respondent No.  4  informed  the  petitioner  that  his
mercy petition had been rejected by the President.

225)  The details regarding delay in disposal  of  mercy  petitions  by  the
Governor and the President are as follows:
|Custody suffered till date     |27.07.2002 –      |11 years, 5    |
|                               |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Custody suffered under sentence|14.07.2003 –      |10 years, 5    |
|of death                       |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Total delay in disposal of     |19.04.2004 –      |9 years, 2     |
|mercy petition                 |22.06.2013        |months         |
|Delay in disposal of mercy     |19.04.2004 –      |1 year, 5      |
|petition by Governor           |29.09.2005        |months         |
|Delay in disposal of mercy     |29.09.2005 –      |7 years, 5     |
|petition by the President      |14.03.2013        |months         |
|Delay in intimating prisoner of|14.03.2013 –      |3 months       |
|rejection of mercy petition by |22.06.2013        |               |
|President                      |                  |               |


226)  A  perusal  of  the  details  furnished  by  the  petitioner,  counter
affidavit filed by the Union of India as well as  the  State  clearly  shows
that the delay was to  the  extent  of  9  years.   Though  in  the  counter
affidavit Respondent No. 1  has  discussed  various  aspects  including  the
decision taken by the Home Ministry and the note which was prepared for  the
approval of the President, the fact remains that there is no explanation  at
all for taking seven years and five months for disposal of a mercy  petition
by the President.  It is for the executive,  viz.,  the  Home  Ministry,  to
explain the reason for keeping the mercy petition for such a long time.   To
that extent, everyday, after the confirmation  of  death  sentence  by  this
Court is painful for the convict awaiting the date of execution.

227)  Accordingly, in view of the unexplained and undue delay of nine  years
in disposal of mercy petition by the Governor and  the  President,  we  hold
that the petitioner is entitled to commutation of death sentence to life.

228)  Apart from undue and unexplained delay in disposal of mercy  petition,
another relevant aspect has not been noted by the Ministry  while  preparing
the notes for the President, viz., when  the  petitioner  preferred  special
leave to appeal against the decision of the High Court confirming the  death
sentence, this Court did not grant special leave and dismissed  the  SLP  in
limine.  Though such recourse is permissible inasmuch as since it is a  case
of death sentence, it is desirable to examine the materials on record  first
hand in view of time-honoured practice of this Court and  to  arrive  at  an
independent conclusion on all issues  of  facts  and  law,  unbound  by  the
findings of the trial court and the High Court.   This  principle  has  been
highlighted in various decisions including the recent  one  in  Mohd.  Ajmal
Kasab vs. State of Maharashtra (2012) 9 SCC 1.

229)  In addition, we also perused the notes prepared  by  the  Ministry  of
Home Affairs, the decision taken by the Home Ministry and the  notes  placed
for the approval of the President.  It is not in dispute  that  the  summary
prepared by the Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  for  the  President  failed  to
consider the undue delay and there is no explanation for the same at all.

230)  We are satisfied that all these grounds enable this court  to  commute
death sentence into life.

Writ Petition (Crl.) Nos. 191 and 136 of 2013

231)  Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 191  of  2013  has  been  filed  by  Maganlal
Barela, death convict, aged about 40 years, hailing from the State  of  M.P.
and on his behalf, PUDR has filed Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 136 of  2013  for
similar relief.

232)  The petitioner claims that he is in custody for more than three  years
(single cell confinement). On 03.02.2011, the petitioner, who is  a  tribal,
was convicted by the Sessions Court under Section 302 IPC for the murder  of
his five daughters and under Section 309 IPC and was imposed a  sentence  of
death.  On 12.09.2011, the Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh  High  Court
confirmed the death sentence passed on the petitioner  who  was  represented
on legal aid.  On 09.01.2012, the petitioner, through legal aid,  filed  SLP
(Crl.) Nos. 329-330 of 2012.  This Court did not  grant  special  leave  and
dismissed the SLP in limine.

233)  On 02.02.2012, the petitioner  sent  a  mercy  petition  through  jail
addressed to the President of India and  the  Governor  of  Madhya  Pradesh.
The mercy petition, which was verified by  the  prison  authorities,  stated
inter alia that the petitioner was suffering from  mental  illness  and  was
continuously undergoing treatment through Central Jail, Bhopal.

234)  On 20.02.2012, the Prison Superintendent, in accordance with Rule  377
of the  Madhya  Pradesh  Prison  Manual,  submitted  a  form  to  the  State
Government.  In column 18, it was stated that  his  conduct  in  prison  was
good.  Against column 19, which was for the Prison Superintendent  to  opine
on alteration of the petitioner’s sentence,  the  Superintendent  opined  as
follows:

      “Commutation of sentence is recommended”.

235)  On 20.02.2012, the  Prison  Superintendent,  in  accordance  with  the
Government  Law  and  Judiciary  Department  Circular  No.   4837/21   dated
13.12.1982 submitted to the  State  Government  a  form  entitled  “Required
Information”.  The entries made by  the  Superintendent  in  the  said  form
stated inter alia that  the  petitioner  is  not  a  habitual  criminal,  he
belongs to the weaker section of the society and he is  of  mental  disorder
and at present under treatment of Psychiatry  Department  Hamidia  Hospital,
Bhopal.   Against  Column  No.   11   which   seeks   the   Superintendent’s
recommendations,  it  was  stated  that,   “Commutation   of   Sentence   is
recommended”.

236)  On 07.08.2012,  Respondent  No.  1  received  the  petitioner’s  mercy
petition forwarded by Respondent No. 2.  There was a delay of six months  in
forwarding the mercy petition to Respondent No. 1  and  no  explanation  was
given by Respondent No. 2 in the counter affidavit.

237)  On 31.08.2012, Respondent No. 1 wrote to Respondent No.  2  requesting
the petitioner’s medical report since in the mercy petition, it  was  stated
that the petitioner is suffering from  mental  illness.   Respondent  No.  1
also requested Respondent No. 2 to confirm whether the petitioner had  filed
a review petition in this Court against the dismissal of his SLP.

238)  On 19.10.2012, Respondent No. 1 sent a reminder to  Respondent  No.  2
about the queries vide letter dated 31.08.2012.  On  29.11.2012,  Respondent
No. 1 sent the second reminder to Respondent No. 2 about  the  queries.   On
26.02.2013, Respondent No. 1 sent a  third  reminder  to  Respondent  No.  2
about the same.

239)   On  25.03.2013,  the  Jail  Superintendent,  Central   Jail,   Indore
forwarded the medical report to Respondent No. 1 and it  was  also  informed
that the petitioner has not filed a review petition in  this  Court  against
the dismissal of his SLP.

240)  On 06.06.2013, the Home Minister advised the President to  reject  the
mercy petition.  On 16.07.2013,  the  President  rejected  the  petitioner’s
mercy petition.  There was no reference to the  petitioner’s  mental  health
report in the note prepared for approval of the President.  Likewise,  there
was no reference to the fact that this Court had rejected  the  petitioner’s
SLP in limine in a death case.

241)  On 27.07.2013, the  petitioner  was  orally  informed  by  the  prison
authorities that his mercy petition has been rejected by  the  President  of
India.  The petitioner was  neither  furnished  with  any  official  written
communication  regarding  the  rejection  of  his  mercy  petition  by   the
President of India nor the petitioner was informed that his  mercy  petition
has been rejected by the Governor.

242) On 27.07.2013, the Superintendent of the Central Prison, Jabalpur  sent
a  letter  to  the  Icchawar  Police  Station  asking  them  to  inform  the
petitioner’s family to meet the petitioner urgently.

243)  On 07.08.2013, this Court stayed the execution of  the  petitioner  in
Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 136 of 2013 filed by PUDR.  The  details  regarding
delay in disposal of mercy petition are as follows:
|Delay by State to send mercy   |2.02.2012 –       |6 months       |
|petition to MHA                |07.08.2012        |               |
|Total delay since mercy        |2.02.2012 –       |1 year 6 months|
|petition was filed             |27.07.2013        |               |
|Delay by State to send medical |31.08.2012 –      |7 months       |
|report to MHA                  |25.03.2012        |               |
|Delay by President             |7.08.2012 –       |1 year         |
|                               |27.07.2013        |               |


      Insofar as the delay is concerned, it cannot be claimed that the  same
is excessive though there is a delay  of  one  year  in  disposal  of  mercy
petition by the President.  However, during the period of trial  before  the
Sessions court and even after conviction, the petitioner was suffering  from
mental  illness.   This  is  clear  from  the  note  made  by   the   Prison
Superintendent who opined  for  alteration  of  petitioner’s  sentence  from
death to life.  This important aspect was not noted by the Home Ministry.

244)  Another relevant event which was not  noticed  by  the  Home  Ministry
while considering the notes for approval  of  the  President  was  that  the
petitioner filed SLP through legal aid and this Court did not grant  special
leave and dismissed the SLP in  limine.   As  highlighted  in  the  previous
case, we reiterate that in case  of  death  sentence,  it  is  desirable  to
examine all the materials on record first hand in accordance with the  time-
bound practice of this Court and arrive at an independent conclusion on  all
the issues of fact and law irrespective of the findings of the  trial  court
and the High Court.  Such recourse was not adopted in this case.   This  was
not highlighted in the notes prepared for the  approval  of  the  President.
As stated earlier, the summary prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs  for
the President fails to consider the mental illness as well  as  the  opinion
offered by the Prison Superintendent in terms of the M.P. Prison  Manual  as
a  ground  for  commutation  of  sentence.   For  all  these  reasons,  more
particularly, with regard to his  mental  illness,  we  feel  that  ends  of
justice  would  be  met  by  commuting  the  sentence  of  death  into  life
imprisonment.

Writ Petition (Crl.) Nos. 139 and 141 of 2013

245)  Shivu – death convict, aged about 31 years,  hailing  from  Karnataka,
has filed Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 139 of 2013.  Jadeswamy,  aged  about  25
years, also hailing from Karnataka, has filed Writ Petition (Crl.)  No.  141
of 2013.  Both are challenging the rejection of  their  mercy  petitions  on
various grounds.  According to them, they are in custody for  11  years  and
10 months.

246)  Both the petitioners were convicted  for  an  offence  under  Sections
302, 376 read  with  Section  34  IPC  and  were  sentenced  to  death.   On
07.11.2005, the  Karnataka  High  Court  confirmed  the  petitioners’  death
sentence.  On 13.02.2007, this Court dismissed their appeal and  upheld  the
death sentence awarded to them.

247)  On 27.02.2007, both the petitioners  filed  separate  mercy  petitions
addressed to the Governor of Karnataka and the President  of  India  through
the Prison Superintendent.

248)  On 21.03.2007, Respondent No. 1 wrote to Respondent No.  2  requesting
to  consider  petitioners’  mercy  petitions  under  Article  161   of   the
Constitution and, in the event of rejection,  to  send  the  mercy  petition
along with the recommendations, copies  of  the  judgments,  copies  of  the
records of the case, etc.  to  Respondent  No.  1  for  consideration  under
Article 72 of the Constitution.

249)   On  05.04.2007  and  09.05.2007,  review  petitions  filed   by   the
petitioners were dismissed.

250)  On 10.08.2007, Respondent No. 2 informed Respondent  No.  1  that  the
Governor has rejected the mercy petitions and  forwarded  the  copy  of  the
trial court judgment, the Supreme Court judgment and mercy petitions.

251)  On 09.10.2007, Respondent No. 1 wrote to Respondent No.  2  requesting
him to provide the judgment of the High Court, the police diary,  the  court
proceedings and  the  English  translation  of  the  trial  court  judgment.
Respondent No. 2 sent some of these documents on 26.07.2012, i.e.,  after  4
years and 9 ½ months and the rest of the documents were sent on  03.12.2012,
i.e., after 5 years and 2 months.  There was also no explanation as  to  why
Respondent No. 1 did not take steps to expedite the matter for such  a  long
period.

252)  On 03.04.2013, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
mercy petitions.  There was a delay of  5  years  and  8  months  after  the
Governor rejected the mercy petitions.

253)  On 27.05.2013, the President returned the file along  with  the  mercy
petitions sent by Shivu’s mother and the members of the Badrayyanhalli  Gram
Panchayat.

254)  On 24.06.2013, Respondent No. 1 advised the President  to  reject  the
mercy petitions.  On 27.07.2013, the  President  rejected  the  petitioners’
mercy petitions.

255)   On  13.08.2013,  the  petitioners  were  informed   by   the   prison
authorities that their mercy petitions have been rejected by the  President.
 On 16.08.2013, the local police visited  the  petitioners’  family  members
and informed that they would be executed at 6 a.m. on 22.08.2013 at  Belgaum
Central Prison.  The said procedure was contrary to the Prison  Manual.   As
per the present Rules, the execution can only be scheduled after 14 days  of
informing the prisoner of rejection of mercy petition and in this  case  the
same was not being followed.  The following are the details regarding  delay
in disposal of mercy petitions by the Governor and the President:
|Total custody period till date |15.10.2001 –      |12 years 2     |
|                               |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Period under sentence of death |29.07.2005 –      |8 years 5      |
|                               |17.12.2013        |months         |
|Total delay in deciding mercy  |27.02.2007 –      |6 ½ years      |
|petitions                      |13.08.2013        |               |
|Delay by the Governor          |27.02.2007 –      |6 months       |
|                               |10.08.2007        |               |
|Delay by the President         |10.08.2007 –      |6 years        |
|                               |13.08.2013        |               |


256)  It is true that there is some explanation in the  affidavit  filed  on
behalf of the State in respect  of  the  time  taken  by  the  Governor  for
rejection   of   their   mercy   petitions,    however,    there    is    no
acceptable/adequate reason for delay of  six  years  at  the  hands  of  the
Ministry of Home Affairs followed by the rejection order by the President.

257)  Though learned counsel has referred to the fact that the  trial  court
and the High Court followed certain decisions which were later held  as  per
incuriam, in view of the fact that there is undue delay of six  years  which
is one of the circumstances for commutation of sentence from death to  life,
we are not adverting to all other aspects.

258)  We also perused the records of the Ministry of Home  Affairs  produced
by learned ASG and the summary  prepared  for  approval  of  the  President.
There is no specific explanation in the summary prepared by the Ministry  of
Home Affairs for the President for the delay of six years.  In view  of  the
same and in the light of the  principles  enunciated  in  various  decisions
which we have adverted to in the earlier part of our judgment, we hold  that
the petitioners have made out a case for commutation of sentence.

Guidelines:

259)  In W.P (Crl) No 56 of 2013, Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights  have
pleaded for guidelines for effective governing of the  procedure  of  filing
mercy petitions and for the cause of the death convicts. It is well  settled
law that executive action and the  legal  procedure  adopted  to  deprive  a
person of his life or liberty must be fair,  just  and  reasonable  and  the
protection of Article 21 of the  Constitution  of  India  inheres  in  every
person, even death-row prisoners, till the very last breath of their  lives.
 We have already seen the provisions of various  State  Prison  Manuals  and
the actual procedure to be followed in  dealing  with  mercy  petitions  and
execution of convicts.  In view  of  the  disparities  in  implementing  the
already existing laws, we intend  to  frame  the  following  guidelines  for
safeguarding the interest of the death row convicts.

   1. Solitary Confinement: This Court, in Sunil Batra  (supra),  held  that
      solitary or single cell confinement prior to rejection  of  the  mercy
      petition by the President is unconstitutional.  Almost all the  prison
      Manuals  of  the  States  provide  necessary   rules   governing   the
      confinement of death convicts.  The rules should not be interpreted to
      run counter to  the  above  ruling  and  violate  Article  21  of  the
      Constitution.

   2. Legal Aid: There is no provision in any  of  the  Prison  Manuals  for
      providing legal aid, for preparing appeals or mercy petitions  or  for
      accessing  judicial  remedies  after  the  mercy  petition  has   been
      rejected.  Various judgments of this Court have held that legal aid is
      a fundamental right under Article 21.  Since this Court has also  held
      that Article 21 rights inhere in a convict till his last breath,  even
      after rejection of the mercy petition by the  President,  the  convict
      can approach a writ court for commutation of the death sentence on the
      ground  of  supervening  events,  if  available,  and  challenge   the
      rejection of the mercy petition and legal aid should  be  provided  to
      the convict at all stages.  Accordingly, Superintendent of  Jails  are
      directed to intimate the rejection of mercy petitions to  the  nearest
      Legal Aid Centre apart from intimating the convicts.

   3. Procedure in placing the mercy  petition  before  the  President:  The
      Government of India has framed  certain  guidelines  for  disposal  of
      mercy petitions filed by the death convicts after  disposal  of  their
      appeal by the Supreme  Court.   As  and  when  any  such  petition  is
      received or communicated by the State Government after  the  rejection
      by the Governor, necessary materials such as police records,  judgment
      of the trial court, the High Court and the Supreme Court and all other
      connected documents should be called at once fixing a time  limit  for
      the authorities for forwarding  the  same  to  the  Ministry  of  Home
      Affairs.  Even here, though  there  are  instructions,  we  have  come
      across that in certain cases the Department calls for those records in
      piece-meal or  one  by  one  and  in  the  same  way,  the  forwarding
      Departments are also not adhering  to  the  procedure/instructions  by
      sending all the required materials at  one  stroke.   This  should  be
      strictly followed to  minimize  the  delay.   After  getting  all  the
      details,  it  is  for  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  to  send  the
      recommendation/their views to the President within  a  reasonable  and
      rational time.  Even after sending the necessary particulars, if there
      is  no  response  from  the  office  of  the  President,  it  is   the
      responsibility of the Ministry of  Home  Affairs  to  send  periodical
      reminders and to provide required materials for early decision.

   4. Communication of Rejection of  Mercy  Petition  by  the  Governor:  No
      prison manual has any provision for  informing  the  prisoner  or  his
      family of the rejection of the mercy petition by the Governor.   Since
      the convict has a constitutional right under Article  161  to  make  a
      mercy petition to the Governor, he  is  entitled  to  be  informed  in
      writing of the decision on that mercy petition.  The rejection of  the
      mercy petition by the Governor should forthwith be communicated to the
      convict and his family in  writing  or  through  some  other  mode  of
      communication available.

   5. Communication of Rejection of the Mercy  Petition  by  the  President:
      Many, but not all, prison manuals have  provision  for  informing  the
      convict and his family members of the rejection of mercy  petition  by
      the President. All States should inform the prisoner and their  family
      members of the rejection of  the  mercy  petition  by  the  President.
      Furthermore, even where  prison  manuals  provide  for  informing  the
      prisoner of the rejection of the mercy petition,  we  have  seen  that
      this information is always communicated orally, and never in  writing.
      Since the convict has a constitutional right under Article 72 to  make
      a mercy petition to the President, he is entitled to  be  informed  in
      writing of the decision on that mercy petition.  The rejection of  the
      mercy petition by the President should forthwith  be  communicated  to
      the convict and his family in writing.

   6. Death convicts are entitled as a  right  to  receive  a  copy  of  the
      rejection of the mercy petition by the President and the Governor.

   7. Minimum 14 days notice for execution:   Some  prison  manuals  do  not
      provide for any minimum period between  the  rejection  of  the  mercy
      petition being communicated to the prisoner and  his  family  and  the
      scheduled date of execution.   Some  prison  manuals  have  a  minimum
      period of 1 day, others have a minimum  period  of  14  days.   It  is
      necessary that a minimum period of 14 days be stipulated  between  the
      receipt of communication of the rejection of the  mercy  petition  and
      the scheduled date of execution for the following reasons:-

     a) It allows the prisoner to prepare himself mentally  for  execution,
        to make his peace with god,  prepare  his  will  and  settle  other
        earthly affairs.

     b) It allows the prisoner to have a last and final  meeting  with  his
        family members.  It also allows the prisoners’  family  members  to
        make arrangements to travel to the prison which may be located at a
        distant place and meet the prisoner  for  the  last  time.  Without
        sufficient  notice  of  the  scheduled  date  of   execution,   the
        prisoners’ right to avail of judicial remedies will be thwarted and
        they will be prevented from having a last and  final  meeting  with
        their families.

       It is the obligation of the Superintendent of Jail to  see  that  the
       family members of the convict receive the message of communication of
       rejection of mercy petition in time.

   8. Mental Health Evaluation: We have seen that in some  cases,  death-row
      prisoners lost their mental balance on account  of  prolonged  anxiety
      and suffering experienced on death row.  There should,  therefore,  be
      regular mental  health  evaluation  of  all  death  row  convicts  and
      appropriate medical care should be given to those in need.

   9. Physical and Mental Health Reports: All prison manuals give the Prison
      Superintendent the discretion to stop an execution on account  of  the
      convict’s physical or mental ill health.  It is, therefore,  necessary
      that after the mercy petition is rejected and the execution warrant is
      issued, the Prison Superintendent should satisfy himself on the  basis
      of medical reports by Government doctors and  psychiatrists  that  the
      prisoner is in a fit physical and mental condition to be executed.  If
      the Superintendent is of the opinion that the prisoner is not fit,  he
      should forthwith stop the execution, and produce the prisoner before a
      Medical Board for a comprehensive evaluation  and  shall  forward  the
      report of the same to the State Government for further action.

  10. Furnishing documents to the convict: Most of the death  row  prisoners
      are extremely poor and do not  have  copies  of  their  court  papers,
      judgments, etc. These documents are must for preparation  of  appeals,
      mercy petitions and accessing post-mercy judicial remedies  which  are
      available to the prisoner under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Since
      the availability of these documents is a  necessary  pre-requisite  to
      the accessing of these rights, it is necessary that copies of relevant
      documents should be furnished to the prisoner within  a  week  by  the
      prison authorities to assist in making mercy petition and  petitioning
      the courts.

  11. Final Meeting between Prisoner  and  his  Family:  While  some  prison
      manuals provide for a final meeting between a condemned  prisoner  and
      his family immediately prior to execution, many manuals do not.   Such
      a procedure is intrinsic  to  humanity  and  justice,  and  should  be
      followed by all prison authorities.  It is  therefore,  necessary  for
      prison authorities to facilitate and allow a final meeting between the
      prisoner and his family and friends prior to his execution.

  12. Post Mortem Reports: Although, none of the Jail  Manuals  provide  for
      compulsory post mortem to be conducted on  death  convicts  after  the
      execution, we think in the light of  the  repeated  arguments  by  the
      petitioners herein asserting  that  there  is  dearth  of  experienced
      hangman in the country, the same must be made obligatory.

       In Deena alias Deen Dayal and Ors. vs. Union of India  (1983)  4  SCC
      645, the petitioners therein challenged the constitutional validity of
      Section 354(5) on the ground that hanging a convict by rope is a cruel
      and barbarous method of executing death sentence, which  is  violative
      of Article 21 of the Constitution. This court held as follows:-





             “7. …After making this observation Bhagwati, J., proceeds thus
             :


                 The physical pain and suffering which the execution of the
             sentence of death involves is also no less cruel and  inhuman.
             In India, the method of execution followed is hanging  by  the
             rope. Electrocution or application of lethal gas has  not  yet
             taken its place as in some of the  western  countries.  It  is
             therefore with reference to execution by hanging that  I  must
             consider whether the sentence of death is barbaric and inhuman
             as entailing physical pain and agony. It is no doubt true that
             the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1949-53 found  that
             hanging is the most humane method of execution and so also  in
             Ichikawa v.  Japan,  the  Japanese  Supreme  Court  held  that
             execution by hanging does not correspond to  cruel  punishment
             inhibited by Article 36  of  the  Japanese  Constitution.  But
             whether amongst all the methods of execution, hanging  is  the
             most humane or in view of the Japanese Supreme Court,  hanging
             is not cruel punishment within the meaning of Article 36,  one
             thing is clear that hanging is  undoubtedly  unaccompanied  by
             intense physical torture and pain." (emphasis supplied).


             81. Having given our most anxious consideration to the central
             point of inquiry, we have come to the conclusion that, on  the
             basis of the material to which we have  referred  extensively,
             the State has discharged the heavy burden which lies  upon  it
             to prove that the method  of  hanging  prescribed  by  Section
             354(5) of the  CrPC  does  not  violate  the  guarantee  right
             contained in Article 21  of  the  Constitution.  The  material
             before us shows that the system of hanging  which  is  now  in
             vogue consists of a mechanism which is easy to  assemble.  The
             preliminaries to the act of hanging are quick and  simple  and
             they are free from anything that would  unnecessarily  sharpen
             the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension. The  chances  of
             an accident  during  the  course  of  hanging  can  safely  be
             excluded. The method is a quick and certain means of executing
             the extreme penalty of law. It eliminates the possibility of a
             lingering    death.    Unconsciousness    supervenes    almost
             instantaneously after the process is set  in  motion  and  the
             death of the prisoner follows as a result of  the  dislocation
             of the cervical vertebrae. The system of hanging, as now used,
             avoids to the full extent "the chances of strangulation  which
             results on account of too short  a  drop  or  of  decapitation
             which results on account of too long a  drop.  The  system  is
             consistent,with the obligation of the State to ensure that the
             process of execution is conducted  with  decency  and  decorum
             without involving degradation of brutality of any kind.”




 It is obvious from a reading of the aforesaid decision that the  method  of
hanging prescribed by Section 354(5) of the Code was held not  violative  of
the guaranteed right under Article 21 of the Constitution on  the  basis  of
scientific evidence and opinions of eminent medical  persons  which  assured
that hanging is the least painful way of ending the life.   However,  it  is
the contention of learned counsel for the respondents that owing  to  dearth
of experienced hangman, the accused are being hanged  in  violation  of  the
due procedure.

260)  By making the performance of post mortem obligatory, the cause of  the
death of the convict can be found out, which will reveal whether the  person
died as a result of  the  dislocation  of  the  cervical  vertebrate  or  by
strangulation which results on account of too long a drop. Our  Constitution
permits the execution of death sentence only through  procedure  established
by law and this  procedure  must  be  just,  fair  and  reasonable.  In  our
considered view, making post mortem obligatory will ensure  just,  fair  and
reasonable procedure of execution of death sentence.
Conclusion:

261)  In the aforesaid batch of cases, we are called upon to  decide  on  an
evolving jurisprudence, which India has to  its  credit  for  being  at  the
forefront of the global legal  arena.  Mercy  jurisprudence  is  a  part  of
evolving standard of decency, which is the hallmark of the society.

262)  Certainly, a series of Constitution Benches of this Court have  upheld
the Constitutional validity of the death sentence in India over the span  of
decades but these judgments in no way take away the duty to follow  the  due
procedure established by law in the execution of sentence.  Like  the  death
sentence is passed lawfully, the execution of the sentence must also  be  in
consonance with the Constitutional mandate  and  not  in  violation  of  the
constitutional principles.

263)  It is well established that exercising of power under  Article  72/161
by the President or the Governor is a constitutional obligation  and  not  a
mere prerogative. Considering the high status of office, the  Constitutional
framers did not stipulate any outer  time  limit  for  disposing  the  mercy
petitions under the said Articles, which means it should be  decided  within
reasonable time. 
However, when the  delay  caused  in  disposing  the  mercy
petitions is seen to be unreasonable, unexplained and exorbitant, it is  the
duty of this Court to step in and consider this aspect. Right  to  seek  for
mercy under Article 72/161 of the Constitution  is  a  constitutional  right
and not at the discretion or whims of the  executive.  Every  Constitutional
duty must be fulfilled with  due  care  and  diligence;  otherwise  judicial
interference is the command of the Constitution for upholding its values.

264)  Remember, retribution has  no  Constitutional  value  in  our  largest
democratic country. In India, even an accused  has  a  de  facto  protection
under the Constitution and it is the Court’s duty to shield and protect  the
same. Therefore, we make it clear that  when  the  judiciary  interferes  in
such matters, it does not really interfere with the  power  exercised  under
Article 72/161 but only to uphold the de facto protection  provided  by  the
Constitution to every convict including death convicts.

265) In the light of the above discussion and observations,  we  dispose  of
the writ petitions.  In the cases  of  Suresh,  Ramji,  Bilavendran,  Simon,
Gnanprakasam, Madiah, Praveen Kumar, Gurmeet Singh, Sonia,  Sanjeev,  Sundar
Singh, Jafar Ali, Magan Lal Berala, Shivu  and  Jadeswamy,  we  commute  the
death sentence into imprisonment for life.   All  the  writ  petitions  are,
accordingly, allowed on the above terms.


                                                          ……….…………………………CJI.

                                   (P. SATHASIVAM)






                                ……….……………………………J.


                                   (RANJAN GOGOI)


                                ..….….……………………………J.


                                   (SHIVA KIRTI SINGH)

NEW DELHI;
JANUARY 21, 2014.
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