Court commuted the death sentence of “Surendra Kohli” to life imprisonment for the murder of “Rimpa Haldar”

Allahabad high Court: While holding “Surendra Koli” (Convict) guilty of committing murder of “Rimpa Haldar”, the division bench of D.Y. Chandrachud C.J. and P.K.S Baghel J. allowed the petition and held that the execution of the sentence of death on the convict would amount to infringement of his right to life under Article 21 of the COI due to the unwarranted delay caused in the disposal of the mercy petition. The Court also observed that a prolonged delay in the execution of the sentence of death has dehumanizing effect on the convict and as a well settled principle of our constitutional jurisprudence is regarded as a deprivation of the right to life itself.

The Court in the instant case discussed the issue of  avoidable delay by the authorities concerned in disposing the mercy petitions under Article 72 or Article 161 of the COI and referred series of Supreme Court cases including Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India (2014) 3 SCC 1, V. Sriharan v. Union of India (2014) 4 SCC 242, Navneet kaur v. Union of India (2014) 7 SCC 264, which held that (i) inordinate delay in the disposal of mercy petitions would render the process of execution of the death sentence arbitrary (ii) convict who complains of avoidable delay in the execution of the death sentence is not required to produce evidence of suffering caused on account of delay (iii) considerations for commutation of the death such as gravity of the crime or extraordinary cruelty would not be relevant and finally observed that delay in rejection of mercy petition was avoidable, prolonged and unnecessary.

The Court while considering whether convict is responsible for the delay further observed that convict is not responsible for the delay of three and half years which authorities concerned took in disposal of mercy petition under Articles 72 and 161 of the COI and therefore entitles him for claiming relief under the head of delay. Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) v. Union of India, , decided on 28.01.2015

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