Former judges seek pardon for 13 prisoners on death row
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In their letter, the former judges have pointed out that two "wrongly sentenced prisoners" — Ravji Rao and Surja Ram — have already been executed. While Rao was hanged on May 4, 1996, Ram was hanged on April 7, 1997.
"The Supreme Court's admission of error has come too late for them," said the letter, adding that unless the President intervenes, the remaining 13 convicts, who were also wrongly sentenced by the highest court of the land, would also be hanged if their mercy petitions are rejected. They have asked the President to use his power to grant mercy under Article 72 of the Constitution on the ground that the Supreme Court, which sentenced them to death, has held on at least "three different occasions" that its judgments in their cases were "rendered per incuriam (in ignorance) and contrary to the binding dictum of rarest of rare" cases.
Among those who have signed the letter are former SC judge P B Sawant, former Delhi HC chief justice A P Shah, former J&K HC chief justice B A Khan, former Orissa HC CJ Bilal Nazki, former Patna HC CJ P K Misra and former Sikkim HC CJ S N Bhargava.
The convicts for whom mercy has been sought are Dayanidhi Bisoi, Saibanna, Ankush Maruti Shinde, Ambadas Laxman Shinde, Bapu Appa Shinde, Raju Mhasu Shinde, Rajya Appa Shinde, Suresh Shinde, Sattan, Upendra, Dadya Shanker Alhat, Bantu and Mohan Anna Chavan.
In its 1980 judgment in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab, the Supreme Court had emphasised the importance of giving sufficient weight to mitigating circumstances pertaining to the criminal along with circumstances leading to the crime.
However, in the case of these 13 convicts, smaller benches of the same court ignored the law laid down in the Bachan Singh case and awarded death penalties without considering the accused person's antecedents.
"Executions of persons wrongly sentenced to death will severely undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system and the authority of the state to carry out such punishments. We hope that now that former judges have written to the President, the death sentence of these wrongly convicted persons will be commuted," said anti-death penalty activist advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry, who initiated the appeal to the President.
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