Bombay high court converts death penalty to life after delay, Commission says that’d be injustice to victim
Geetanjali Minhas | December 14, 2019 | Mumbai
The Maharashtra State Commission for Women has urged the chief justice of India to take suo moto action in the matter of the Bombay high court converting to life imprisonment the death sentence of the two persons convicted for the brutal rape and murder of a Pune BPO executive in 2008.
Challenging the high court judgment of July 29, 2019 on grounds of “procedural irregularity”, the commission has requested its recall by the apex court.
On November 1, 2007, a 22-year-old woman working in a reputed BPO company in Pune was raped and murdered by a cab driver named Purshottam Borate (38) and his friend Pradeep Kokade (32).They were sentenced to death by the Pune sessions court in 2012. This order was upheld by the Bombay high court on September 25, 2012 and later also by the supreme court on May 8, 2015. A mercy petition of the convicts was turned down by the Maharashtra Governor and later also by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in 2017.
As for four years, one month and six days, from May 8, 2015 till June 24, 2019, the death sentence was not executed, the accused filed a writ petition before the high court on July 20. The high court upheld on July 29 that the delay of 1,507 days on part of the administration is “unavoidable / unconstitutional” and it converted the death penalty into life imprisonment.
“After 8.5.2012 the sentence of death ought to have been executed within 90 days. Commutation of death penalty into life imprisonment only on the ground of delay caused by the administration is miscarriage of justice towards the victim. Commutation of death sentence into life imprisonment by Bombay high court judgment is wrong when the mercy petition of the accused was rejected by the President of India,” Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of commission, told Governance Now.
The issue of authority of the high court in quashing death sentence of whose mercy petitions are rejected under Article 72 of the Constitution of India is pending in Union of India vs. Sonu Sardar - SLP (Cri) no. 008357 -008357/2017, says her letter addressed to the chief justice of India, SA Bobde. It also cites the case of Shatrughan Chavan vs. Union of India and Others wherein it was held that unnecessary delay caused in execution of death penalty can lead to commutation of same only by the Supreme Court.
The commission says that high court has gone ultra vires in commuting death sentence. “Such arbitrary commutation would be abrogation of rights and gross miscarriage of justice towards the victim. The judgment is not only miscarriage of justice but it has also caused huge social discontent,” Rahatkar writes in her letter.
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