NEW DELHI, Feb 9 � Mahendra Nath Das� fate would be decided by a bench of the Supreme Court to be assigned by the Chief Justice of India S.H.Kapadia. Das had pleaded for commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition.
The apex court bench of Justice A.K.Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar referred the matter to Chief Justice Kapadia after Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman told the court that another bench of the apex court was seized of the matter and let Mahendra Nath Das� plea be also referred to it.
Nariman pointed out to the court that eventually the senior counsel Shyam Divan appearing for the petitioner Mahendra Nath Das is going to argue that since there was an inordinate delay in deciding his mercy petition his sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
The Solicitor General told the court that since the same issue was being adjudicated by the bench of Justice G.S.Singhvi and Justice S.J.Mukhopadhaya in large number of other cases therefore Mahendra Nath Das� plea too should be referred to that bench.
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday taken up a Special Leave Petition filed by death-row convict Mahendra Nath Das, whose mercy petition was rejected by the President after an inordinate delay of 12 years and the plea for commutation to life imprisonment on this ground was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court.
A bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar, without passing any order on his petition seeking stay on execution of death sentence, posted the main SLP, against the High Court order dated January 30.
Das, in his writ petition, had contended that the delay in deciding his mercy petition by the President and finally giving the assent for the death sentence had resulted in excruciating agony and trauma for almost 12 years for no explainable reasons and this was a valid ground for awarding life sentence.
On Tuesday, it was submitted by senior counsel Shyam Divan that a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya had already listed for final hearing on February 22 the appeals filed by Devendar Pal Singh Bhullar and other connected matters relating to delay in deciding clemency petitions and that the appeal filed by Das be also listed before the same bench.
However, the bench said it would hear the matter and issued notice to Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman and the State of Assam and posted it for final hearing on February 9, when it is expected to take a decision to stay his execution or not.
In December last, a bench headed by Justice Singhvi in its order had said: �A perusal of the list enclosed with the information made available by the President�s Secretariat on June 2, 2011 shows that as many as 17 mercy petitions were processed. Keeping in view the importance of the issue arising in the writ petition and the fact that a large number of other persons may not be, due to sheer ignorance, able to file petition under Articles 72 or 161 of the Constitution or move the Court as has been done by the petitioner in this case, we request senior counsels Ram Jethmalani and T.R. Andhyarujina of this Court to assist us as �amicus curiae�.�
The bench had asked the Additional Solicitor-General to place before the Court a compilation containing details of mercy petitions received by the Government of India and the governments of different States and their status as on the date of preparation of the compilation.
The bench said that the copies of the compilation should be made available to counsel assisting Jethmalani and Andhyarujina.