Skip to main content

The injustice of delay

Acountry that retains the death penalty needs constantly to fine-tune its clemency jurisprudence as the
second best option. The Supreme Court’s latest verdict on death row convicts is a thoughtful exposition of the law in this regard. Commuting the death sentences of 15 convicts to life sentences, a three-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, has significantly expanded the scope for judicial intervention to save the lives of convicts after the rejection of their mercy petitions. As the scope for judicial review in such cases is limited, the court has sought to protect the rights of condemned prisoners arising from supervening circumstances after their cases have attained judicial finality. The court has laid down fresh rules to humanise the treatment of those facing the gallows, right up to the moment of their execution and even after that. The breadth of this ruling is impressive: it removes all lingering doubts about the rule against undue delay; it overturns the exception carved out in Devendar Pal Singh Bhullar (2013) for offences involving terrorism; it reminds jail authorities of the bar on keeping death row convicts in solitary confinement before the rejection of their mercy pleas; it lists mental illnesses and solitary confinement as new grounds for commutation. It further mandates legal aid for convicts in drafting mercy petitions and exploring judicial remedies.
Apparently taking note of the secret execution of Afzal Guru, the court has crafted a new rule that families of convicts ought to be informed in writing as soon as their mercy petitions are rejected. It bars execution for the next 14 days so that they have the consolation of a final reunion. Speaking with moral clarity, the court has gathered the best of its extant jurisprudence on the subject and added nuggets of humaneness to elevate the existing body of law, as it were, to a higher humanitarian plane. That those who benefit from this judgment are guilty of heinous offences should not cast a shadow on the moral foundation on which the verdict stands. The principle that is reaffirmed is that be they terrorists or murderers, their fundamental rights are not extinguished upon conviction. The message that the executive should deal expeditiously with mercy petitions should, however, not propel authorities to the other extreme — making hasty decisions without considering relevant factors just to quicken the process. Constitutional functionaries face a dilemma in considering clemency for convicts who have caused multiple deaths or displayed great cruelty. Judicial guidance will humanise the process, but the real solution lies in abolishing the cruel and inhuman penalty of death.


Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Khar’s experimentation with Himalayan nettle brings recognition (downtoearth)

Nature never fails to surprise us. In many parts of the world, natural resources are the only source of livelihood opportunities available to people. They can be in the form of wild shrubs like Daphne papyracea and Daphne bholua (paper plant) that are used to make paper or Gossypium spp (cotton) that forms the backbone of the textile industry.

Nothing can compete with the dynamism of biological resources. Recently, Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan nettle), a fibre-yielding plant, has become an important livelihood option for people living in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

A Himalayan nettle value chain development initiative implemented by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiati…

The Chipko movement as it stands today

The idea behind the Chipko movement originated in early 1970s from Mandal, a village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Forty-three years later, Down To Earth travelled to Chamoli and Tehri Garhwal and spoke to the participants of this movement about its relevance today