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Supreme Court Judgement on Mercy Pleas

Supreme Court Judgement on Mercy Pleas


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Published by NDTV
Supreme Court Judgement on Mercy petitions
Supreme Court Judgement on Mercy petitions

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Published by: NDTV on Jan 21, 2014
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The right to life, as guaranteed under Article 21 of the

Constitution of India, provides that no person shall be

deprived of his life and liberty except in accordance with the

procedure established by law. According to learned counsel

for the Union of India, death sentence is imposed on a

person found guilty of an offence of heinous nature after

adhering to the due procedure established by law which is

subject to appeal and review. Therefore, delay in execution


must not be a ground for commutation of sentence of such

a heinous crime. On the other hand, the argument of

learned counsel for the petitioners/death convicts is that

human life is sacred and inviolable and every effort should

be made to protect it. Therefore, inasmuch as Article 21 is

available to all the persons including convicts and continues

till last breath if they establish and prove the supervening

circumstances, viz., undue delay in disposal of mercy

petitions, undoubtedly, this Court, by virtue of power under

Article 32, can commute the death sentence into

imprisonment for life. As a matter of fact, it is the stand of

the petitioners that in a petition filed under Article 32, even

without a presidential order, if there is unexplained, long

and inordinate delay in execution of death sentence, the

grievance of the convict can be considered by this Court.

32) This Court is conscious of the fact, namely, while

Article 21 is the paramount principle on which rights of the

convicts are based, it must be considered along with the

rights of the victims or the deceased’s family as also societal

consideration since these elements form part of the

sentencing process as well. The right of a victim to a fair


investigation under Article 21 has been recognized in State

of West Bengal vs. Committee for Democratic Rights,

West Bengal, (2010) 3 SCC 571, which is as under:

“68. Thus, having examined the rival contentions in the
context of the constitutional scheme, we conclude as

(i) The fundamental rights, enshrined in Part III of the
Constitution, are inherent and cannot be extinguished by
any constitutional or statutory provision. Any law that
abrogates or abridges such rights would be violative of the
basic structure doctrine. The actual effect and impact of
the law on the rights guaranteed under Part III has to be
taken into account in determining whether or not it
destroys the basic structure.
(ii) Article 21 of the Constitution in its broad
perspective seeks to protect the persons of their lives and
personal liberties except according to the procedure
established by law. The said article in its broad
application not only takes within its fold enforcement of
the rights of an accused but also the rights of the victim.
The State has a duty to enforce the human rights of a
citizen providing for fair and impartial investigation
against any person accused of commission of a cognizable
offence, which may include its own officers. In certain
situations even a witness to the crime may seek for and
shall be granted protection by the State…”

We do comprehend the critical facet involved in the

arguments by both the sides and we will strive to strike a

balance between the rights of the accused as well as of the

victim while deciding the given case.

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