Supreme Court commutes death sentence to life imprisonment

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, R F Nariman and U U Lalit said that, “Though no time limit can be fixed within which the mercy petition ought to be disposed of, in our considered view the period of 3 years and 10 months to deal with such mercy petitions in the present case comes within the expression “inordinate delay.”

Supreme Court considering the period of 3 years and 10 months delay by the Centre in deciding mercy petition of a prisoner as “inordinate delay” has commuted the death sentence of the condemned prisoner to life imprisonment.

While granting relief to the convict, the Supreme Court also noted that the right of death convict was further violated by incarcerating him in solitary confinement for the last seven years ever since his death sentence was upheld by it in 2007.

The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that a death convict should never be put to solitary confinement till his mercy petition was disposed of.

It is a case where the convict Mr. Ajay Kumar Pal, who was awarded death sentence by trial court in April 2007 for killing 5 people including three children. Offence occurred in the year 2003. His conviction and sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on March16, 2010. Within a month he sent his mercy plea. Subsequently, his mercy petition was rejected by the President of India on November 08, 2013.

Convict thereafter moved Supreme Court for commutation of his death sentence on grounds of delay on the part of Government in deciding his mercy plea. Bench observed that, “the combined effect of the inordinate delay in disposal of mercy petition and the solitary confinement for such a long period, in our considered view has caused deprivation of the most cherished right. A case is definitely made out under Article 32 of the Constitution of India and this Court deems it proper to reach out and grant solace to the petitioner for the ends of justice. We, therefore, commute the sentence and substitute the sentence of life imprisonment in place of death sentence awarded to the petitioner.”