SC landmark judgment on mercy plea


Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
Important point from the judgment by Bench comprising Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh: 1. Delay in the decision of mercy plea is relevant ground for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment. 2. Death sentence to be commuted to life sentence if the person is suffering from mental illness. 3. Solitary confinement is unconstitutional. 4. Death convict and his family members must be informed after his mercy plea is rejected. 5. Death convict must be hanged within 14 days after the rejection of mercy petition.

Citation :
Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. (1980) 2 SCC 625 A.R Antulay vs. Union of India (1988) 2 SCC 602 R.D Shetty vs. International Airport Authority (1979) 3 SCC 489 T.V. Vatheeswaran vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1983) 2 SCC 68 Sher Singh and Ors. vs. State of Punjab (1983) 2 SCC 344 Triveniben vs. State of Gujarat (1988) 4 SCC 6PageĀ 7574 Kehar Singh vs. Union of India & Anr., (1989) 1 SCC 204 Epuru Sudhakar & Anr. vs. Govt. of A.P. & Ors., (2006) 8 SCC 161 Biddle vs. Perovoch 274 US 480 Kuljeet Singh vs. Lt. Governor (1982) 1 SCC 417

REPORTABLE 

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA 

 

 CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION 

 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 55 OF 2013 

 

Shatrughan Chauhan & Anr. .... Petitioner (s) 

 

 Versus 

 

Union of India & Ors. .... Respondent(s) 

 

 WITH 

 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 34 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 56 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 136 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 139 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 141 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 132 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 187 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 188 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 190 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 191 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 192 OF 2013 

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 193 OF 2013 

 

J U D G M E N T 

 

P.Sathasivam, CJI. 

1) Our Constitution is highly valued for its articulation. 

One such astute drafting is Article 21 of the Constitution 

which postulates that every human being has inherent right 

to life and mandates that no person shall be deprived of his 

life or personal liberty except according to the procedure  2

established by law. Over the span of years, this Court has 

expanded the horizon of ‘right to life’ guaranteed under the 

Constitution to balance with the progress of human life. 

This case provides yet another momentous occasion, where 

this Court is called upon to decide whether it will be in 

violation of Article 21, amongst other provisions, to execute 

the levied death sentence on the accused notwithstanding 

the existence of supervening circumstances. Let us examine 

the supervening circumstances of each individual case to 

arrive at a coherent decision. 

2) All the above writ petitions, under Article 32 of the 

Constitution of India, have been filed either by the convicts, 

who were awarded death sentence or by their family 

members or by public-spirited bodies like People’s Union for 

Democratic Rights (PUDR) based on the rejection of mercy 

petitions by the Governor and the President of India. 

3) In all the writ petitions, the main prayer consistently 

relates to the issuance of a writ of declaration declaring that 

execution of sentence of death pursuant to the rejection of 

the mercy petitions by the President of India is 

unconstitutional and to set aside the death sentence  3

imposed upon them by commuting the same to 

imprisonment for life. Further, it is also prayed for 

declaring the order passed by the Governor/President of 

India rejecting their respective mercy petitions as illegal and 

unenforceable. In view of the similarity of the reliefs sought 

for in all the writ petitions, we are not reproducing every 

prayer hereunder, however, while dealing with individual 

claims, we shall discuss factual details, the reliefs sought 

for and the grounds urged in support of their claim at the 

appropriate place. Besides, in the writ petition filed by 

PUDR, PUDR prayed for various directions in respect of 

procedure to be followed while considering the mercy 

petitions, and in general for protection of rights of the death 

row convicts. We shall discuss discretely the aforesaid 

prayers in the ensuing paragraphs. 

4) Heard Mr. Ram Jethmalani, Mr. Anand Grover, Mr. R. 

Basant, Mr. Colin Gonsalves, learned senior counsel and 

Dr. Yug Mohit Chaudhary, learned counsel for the 

petitioners and Mr. Mohan Parasaran, learned Solicitor 

General, Mr. L.N. Rao, Mr. Siddharth Luthra, learned 

Additional Solicitor Generals, Mr. V.C. Mishra, learned  4

Advocate General, Mr. V.N. Raghupathy, Ms. Anitha 

Shenoy, Mr. Rajiv Nanda, Mr. C.D. Singh, learned counsel 

and Mr. Manjit Singh, Additional Advocate General for the 

respondents. We also heard Mr. T.R. Andhyarujina, learned 

senior counsel as amicus curiae. 

5) Before considering the merits of the claim of individual 

case, it is essential to deliberate on certain vital points of 

law that will be incidental and decisive for determining the 

case at hand. 

Maintainability of the Petitions 

6) Before we advert to the issue of maintainability of the 

petitions, it is pertinent to grasp the significance of Article 

32 as foreseen by Dr. Ambedkar, the principal architect of 

the Indian Constitution. His words were appositely 

reiterated in Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors. vs. Union of 

India and Ors. (1980) 2 SCC 625 as follows:- 

“87. ….If I was asked to name any particular Article in this 

Constitution as the most important – an Article without which 

this Constitution would be a nullity – I could not refer to any 

other Article except this one. It is the very soul of the 

Constitution and the very heart of it.” (emphasis supplied)  5

The fundamental right to move this Court can, therefore, be 

appropriately described as the corner-stone of the 

democratic edifice raised by the Constitution. At the same 

time, this Court, in A.R Antulay vs. Union of India (1988) 

2 SCC 602, clarified and pronounced that any writ petition 

under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the validity 

of the order or judgment passed by this Court as nullity or 

otherwise incorrect cannot be entertained. In this light, let 

us examine the maintainability of these petitions. 

7) The aforesaid petitions, under Article 32 of the 

Constitution, seek relief against alleged infringement of 

certain fundamental rights on account of failure on the part 

of the executive to dispose of the mercy petitions filed under 

Article 72/161 of the Constitution within a reasonable time. 

8) At the outset, the petitioners herein justly elucidated 

that they are not challenging the final verdict of this Court 

wherein death sentence was imposed. In fact, they asserted 

in their respective petitions that if the sentence had been 

executed then and there, there would have been no 

grievance or cause of action. However, it wasn’t and the 

supervening events that occurred after the final...

To read the full judgment: Click here

 

Vineet Kumar
on 21 January 2014
Published in Criminal Law
Views : 2533


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