The PUCL said it was a historic judgment as it has held that – apart from delay – the mental health condition of the convict, including schizophrenia and mental illness, was a ground for commutation of the sentence.
“We hope this will mark a significant step towards eventually abolishing the death penalty from our law books,” said PUCL president Prabhakar Sinha.
The apex court, in a landmark decision Tuesday, held that if there was an inordinate delay on the part of the government in deciding on the mercy petitions of death row convicts, their sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment.
Sinha praised the court order for overruling of the April 2013 order in the case of Khalistani terrorist Devinder Singh Bhullar, where the court observed that terrorist crimes were different from other crimes for which the constitutional remedies and also delay as ground for commutation will not apply.
Sinha appreciated the court’s ruling for taking note of the controversy over the hanging of Afzal Guru, without informing his wife and family and ordering that a death row convict and his close family should be informed at least 14 days before the execution date.
He praised the ruling for making post-mortem examination of executed prisoners mandatory to ascertain the cause of the death.
Sinha said the court’s order will give a new lease of life to four death row prisoners in the Veerappan case and three in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case among others.