New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said the
government has a duty to decide on the mercy petitions of
those sentenced to death by courts without much delay.
Government`s failure to act on mercy petitions would
amount to doing injustice to convicts whose sentence may be
converted to life imprisonment, the apex court said, while
upholding the death sentence on Jagdish who murdered his wife
and five children in Manasa district of Madhya Pradesh.
Citing a number of its earlier observations, the apex
court said that if there was excessive delay in executing the
death sentence or disposing of the mercy petitions by the
government, then the prisoner is entitled to his sentence of
death commuted to life imprisonment, as otherwise it would
violative of Article 21 (right to liberty).
The apex court had said in 1971 in the Vivian Rodrick vs
West Bengal case "it seems to us that the extremely excessive
delay in the disposal of the case of the appellant would, by
itself, be sufficient for imposing a lesser sentence of
imprisonment for life under Section 302".
"The observations reproduced above become extremely
relevant as of today on account of the pendency of 26 mercy
petitions before the President of India, in some cases, where
the Courts had awarded the death sentences more than a decade