‘Death penalty can`t be commuted to life term due to delay`
New Delhi: Convicts who are awarded death penalty cannot claim commuting of their sentence on the ground of delay in the judicial process, the Supreme Court Thursday said.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan cited an apex court judgement of 1989 which had ruled that "sentence can`t be commuted merely on the ground of delay alone".
The bench gave its view while dealing with the plea of the 11 persons who were given capital punishment by a TADA court in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
Though the bench commuted the death sentence of 10 convicts to life imprisonment, except that of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, it pointed out that no rule can be laid down that in every case where there is a long delay in execution of death sentence, the punishment must be substituted by that of life term.
"It is a settled law by a Constitution Bench in Triveniben vs State of Gujarat (1989) that sentence can`t be commuted merely on the ground of delay alone. It was further observed that no absolute or unqualified rule can be laid down that in every case in which there is a long delay in the execution of death sentence, the sentence must be substituted by the sentence of life imprisonment.
"Thus, no accused can claim as a matter of right to commute his/her death sentence on the ground of delay in the judicial process," the bench said.
The court, meanwhile, said that in the present case the "lengthy incarceration" of over two decades can be considered as an "exceptional scenario".
"Noting the lengthy incarceration suffered by the accused over a period of two decades, as an exceptional scenario, we are inclined to consider the long delay," it said.
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