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SC commutes death sentence: Mahendra Das gets life imprisonment

By SPl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, May 1 � In a major relief to death row convict, Mahendra Nath Das, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, but he has to remain in jail till his death. Awaiting his hanging since 1997, he is currently lodged in Jorhat Central Jail.

A bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice Ranjana Kumari Desai allowed the plea of Das on the ground that the President had taken eleven years to decide on his mercy plea. Das had approached the Supreme Court for commutation of his death sentence, since he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition seeking Presidential clemency.

Legal experts had almost written off his case after the apex court refused to grant a similar relief to Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.

After waiting for about 18 years for the authorities to carry out his sentence, Das had lost all hopes, when his mercy petition was rejected by the then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

He had moved his mercy plea in 1999, which remained pending for 11 years before the President finally rejected it in 2011.

Mahendra Das�s family had first moved a mercy petition with the then President KR Narayanan in 1999. The plea was finally turned down in May 2011 by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, setting the stage for his hanging. The Gauhati High Court, on September 8, 2011, dismissed a writ petition filed by the convict�s mother, Kusumbala Das, for commuting her son�s death sentence to life imprisonment, holding that she had no locus standi to file it on behalf of her son.

Das, while out on bail in another case, had beheaded a person at Fancy Bazar in Guwahati and surrendered with the victim�s head on April 24, 1996. His conviction and sentence was subsequently upheld by the Gauhati High Court in 1998 and the Supreme Court in 1999.

Das was sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge, Kamrup on August 18, 1997 in connection with the murder of one Harakanta Das in Guwahati on April 24, 1996. The death sentence was confirmed by Gauhati High Court on February 3, 1998, while Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on May 14, 1999.

Death row convict Das launched a �Gandhian� fast-unto-death in the Jorhat Central Jail last year, demanding abolition of capital punishment. He was shifted to Jorhat Medical College Hospital after his condition deteriorated.

�Capital punishment, like so many other things, is a legacy left behind by the British who treated us like slaves. I have been waiting in the prison with a death penalty for 17 years now. At this moment I pray to you to not only do away with my death sentence but also release me from prison as I have already served imprisonment more than a life sentence,� Das had said in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India.

In 2012, Das had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in Supreme Court after his mercy petition was rejected by the President and his plea for commutation to life imprisonment was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court. He had challenged the Gauhati High Court�s order

Das, in his SLP, 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.

In December last, a bench headed by Justice Singhvi in its order had remarked that information made available by the President�s Secretariat on June 2, 2011 show that as many as 17 mercy petitions were processed. The bench 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.

Even Amnesty International expressed concern over his imminent execution. In June 2011, Amnesty International had expressed concern over the imminent execution of Mahendra Nath Das of Jorhat in Assam following the rejection of his mercy petition by President Pratibha Patil.

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SC commutes death sentence: Mahendra Das gets life imprisonment

NEW DELHI, May 1 � In a major relief to death row convict, Mahendra Nath Das, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, but he has to remain in jail till his death. Awaiting his hanging since 1997, he is currently lodged in Jorhat Central Jail.

A bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice Ranjana Kumari Desai allowed the plea of Das on the ground that the President had taken eleven years to decide on his mercy plea. Das had approached the Supreme Court for commutation of his death sentence, since he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition seeking Presidential clemency.

Legal experts had almost written off his case after the apex court refused to grant a similar relief to Khalistani terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.

After waiting for about 18 years for the authorities to carry out his sentence, Das had lost all hopes, when his mercy petition was rejected by the then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

He had moved his mercy plea in 1999, which remained pending for 11 years before the President finally rejected it in 2011.

Mahendra Das�s family had first moved a mercy petition with the then President KR Narayanan in 1999. The plea was finally turned down in May 2011 by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, setting the stage for his hanging. The Gauhati High Court, on September 8, 2011, dismissed a writ petition filed by the convict�s mother, Kusumbala Das, for commuting her son�s death sentence to life imprisonment, holding that she had no locus standi to file it on behalf of her son.

Das, while out on bail in another case, had beheaded a person at Fancy Bazar in Guwahati and surrendered with the victim�s head on April 24, 1996. His conviction and sentence was subsequently upheld by the Gauhati High Court in 1998 and the Supreme Court in 1999.

Das was sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge, Kamrup on August 18, 1997 in connection with the murder of one Harakanta Das in Guwahati on April 24, 1996. The death sentence was confirmed by Gauhati High Court on February 3, 1998, while Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on May 14, 1999.

Death row convict Das launched a �Gandhian� fast-unto-death in the Jorhat Central Jail last year, demanding abolition of capital punishment. He was shifted to Jorhat Medical College Hospital after his condition deteriorated.

�Capital punishment, like so many other things, is a legacy left behind by the British who treated us like slaves. I have been waiting in the prison with a death penalty for 17 years now. At this moment I pray to you to not only do away with my death sentence but also release me from prison as I have already served imprisonment more than a life sentence,� Das had said in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India.

In 2012, Das had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in Supreme Court after his mercy petition was rejected by the President and his plea for commutation to life imprisonment was dismissed by the Gauhati High Court. He had challenged the Gauhati High Court�s order

Das, in his SLP, 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.

In December last, a bench headed by Justice Singhvi in its order had remarked that information made available by the President�s Secretariat on June 2, 2011 show that as many as 17 mercy petitions were processed. The bench 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.

Even Amnesty International expressed concern over his imminent execution. In June 2011, Amnesty International had expressed concern over the imminent execution of Mahendra Nath Das of Jorhat in Assam following the rejection of his mercy petition by President Pratibha Patil.

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