Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, J. contemplated the mercy petition filed by a petitioner who sought re-employment in a Coal Company.

Counsel for the petitioner Ranjan Kumar Singh, submitted that petitioner was dismissed from services on the ground of absent for 58 days and that after dismissal, the petitioner, who is an illiterate person, approached the authorities for re-employment in terms of the scheme but his representation was not considered in the true spirit of the Scheme.

On the contrary, the counsel for the respondent Company submitted that the petitioner had filed the representation after nine years of his dismissal, thus, the writ was liable to be quashed due to delay.

The Court observed that the petitioner was an illiterate person, as it was evident from the representation he had filed with the respondents-authorities on which he gave his thumb impression, and he wasn’t able to understand the legal impediment of approaching at a belated stage. Hence, his claim was not denied solely on the ground of delay and needs consideration.[Dulal Bouri v. BCCL, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 804, decided on 08-07-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava allowed a second appeal for information regarding mercy petition on the grounds that file notings and correspondence sent and received by Ministry of Home Affairs does not form a part of ministerial advice.

In the instant case, an application was filed by the appellant under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to seek information on several points pertaining to mercy petition of her son, who was a death row convict lodged at Yerwada Central Jail. The appellant filed a second appeal as CPIO denied information under Article 74(2) of the Constitution of India and there was no response to her first appeal.

Learned counsel, Ragni Ahuja, on behalf of the appellant contended that information pertaining to ministerial advice is protected under Article 74(2) of Constitution of India. But since the information sought by the appellant did not pertain to Article 74, she had been wrongly denied the said information. The counsel relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, where the Court allowed the disclosure of not only correspondence but also notings by high constitutional functionaries, so the appellants requested the commission to direct the respondent to provide complete information. 

Learned counsel, Hari Mohan Jha, on behalf of the respondent contended that recommendations along with all documents lead to the formation of ministerial advice to the President of India is privileged under Article 74(2) of the Constitution and the same cannot be disclosed under RTI Act. The counsel relied on the case Union of India v. Central Information Commission, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 879, in which the commission gave directions for disclosure of information relating to correspondence between the former President of India and the then Prime Minister relating to Gujarat riots was set aside.

The Commission opined that file notings and correspondence received or sent by Ministry of Home Affairs pertaining to appellant’s mercy petition does not form a part of the ministerial advice to the President, and the file notings of the mercy petition filed could be provided to the appellant. The Commission observed that the file noting and the correspondence contained the names of the officials recording the same, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of those officials and hence its disclosure was exempted under Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. Relying on S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1, it directed the respondent to provide the information sought after severing all the names and other references which could reveal the identities of the public officials concerned.[Ujwala Kokde v. CPIO, Second Appeal No. CIC/MHOME/A/2017/609431, decided on 12-06-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:

“The mercy petition is the last hope of a person on death row. Every dawn will give rise to a new hope that his mercy petition may be accepted. By night fall this hope also dies.” – Deepak Gupta, J

The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Deepak Gupta and Indira Banerjee, JJ commuted the death sentence of a man who was convicted for killing his wife and 5 children due to the the un­explained delay of 4 years in forwarding the mercy petition by the State of Madhya Pradesh leading to delay of almost 5 years in deciding the mercy petition.

The Court said that it has repeatedly held that in cases where death sentence has to be executed the same should be done as early as possible and if mercy petitions are not forwarded for 4 years and no explanation is submitted, it cannot but hold that the delay is inordinate and un­explained. The Court noticed:

“there not only was there a long, inordinate and un­explained delay on the part of the State of Madhya Pradesh but to make matters worse, the State of Madhya Pradesh has not even cared to file any counter affidavit in the Writ Petition even though notice was issued 4 years back on 18.11.2014 and service was effected within a month of issuance of notice.”

The Court also took note of the fact that the petitioner has now been behind bars for almost about 14 years as he was convicted on April 24, 2006. It, hence, held that regardless of the brutal nature of crime this is not a fit case where death sentence should be executed and it commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. However, keeping in view the nature of crime and the fact that 6 innocent lives were lost, the bench directed that life imprisonment in this case shall mean the entire remaining life of the petitioner and he shall not be released till his death. [Jagdish v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 250, decided on 21.02.2019]

High Courts

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