[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Central Government today filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking modification and clarification of the apex court’s decision of 2014 in “Shatrughan Singh Chauhan and another Vs Union of India & ors which had laid down certain guidelines with respect to the procedure to be followed for filing mercy petitions and the execution of the death sentence thereafter, keeping in account the interest of the death row convicts.
Centre now wants the Court to issue the following direction/clarification:
- It would be permissible for the death convicts to file curative petition after the rejection of review petition only within a time to be stipulated by the Supreme Court and not thereafter;
- to clarify and direct that if the convict of death sentence wants to file mercy petition, it would be mandatory for a convict of death sentence to do so only within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of death warrant issued by the competent court; and
- to mandate all the competent courts, State Governments, prison authorities in the country to issue death warrant of a convict within seven days of the rejection of his mercy petition and to execute death sentence within seven days thereafter irrespective of the stage of review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts.
In its plea, the Centre has said it may be pointed out that under the scheme of the criminal justice delivery system in our country, the nation has ensured a full proof judicial regime providing for various stages of judicial scrutiny to ensure that an accused is punished with an appropriate punishment strictly in accordance with the law and only after being judicially scrutinized at several stages before judicial forums. Even in case of persons accused of rape and murder, a detailed trial takes place before a Sessions judge and after the recording of conviction even such an accused gets an opportunity to persuade the court not to impose punishment for death”.
The country, according to Centre, is facing a menace of certain offences, which are punishable with the death sentence. Such offences include offences relating to terrorism, rape, murder etc. It adds that the offence of rape is not only a criminal offence defined in the penal code of the country but is the most horrific and unpardonable offence in any civilized society.
“The offence of rape is not only an offence against an individual and society but is an offence against humanity. There are various instances of such heinous and horrific offences of rape accompanied by an equally horrible and horrific offence of murder of the victim which shakes the collective conscience of the nation”, says the plea.
Further, the Centre asserts that case of multiple accused being awarded death penalty in the same case, it often happens that one accused files the Review Petition/mercy petition which gets rejected and the other co-convicts are either advised to or independently chose not to file any further application or initiate other proceedings.
It adds this is for the simple reason that though many jail manuals or prison rules do not prohibit the execution of death sentence of co-convicts, one by one, there may be some States where the execution of death sentence with regard to all the co-convicts may be simultaneous.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam in 2014 had inter-alia issued guidelines that death convicts were entitled as a right to receive a copy of the rejection of the mercy petition by the President and the Governor and that it was 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:-
- It allows the prisoner to prepare himself mentally for execution, to make his peace with God, prepare his will and settle other earthly affairs.
- 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”, the court had said.