High Court seeks govt’s response on pleas of two death row convicts

New Delhi : The Bombay High Court Thursday sought responses from the Centre and the Maharashtra government on petitions filed by two convicts on death row to halt their execution scheduled on June 24.

The petitions filed last week by Purushottam Borate and Pradeep Kokate, convicted in the 2007 gangrape and murder of a woman Wipro BPO employee, have claimed that the “inordinate delay” in their execution has violated their fundamental rights.

In their pleas, the duo, currently lodged at the Yerawada prison in Pune, have urged the high court to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.

A division bench headed by Justice B P Dharmadhikari Thursday issued notices to the Union and the state government and sought their responses to the petitions.

The matter has been posted for hearing on June 14.

The two convicts have exhausted their appeals, and their mercy petitions were turned down by the President in 2017.

A sessions court in Pune had on April 10 issued warrants setting June 24 as the date of execution.

In March 2012, the duo was convicted and awarded death penalty by a Pune sessions court for kidnapping, raping and murdering the BPO employee in Pune.

The victim got into a regular cab contracted by the company to report for her night duty on November 1, 2007, in a Pune suburb.

The cab driver, Borate, accompanied by his friend Kokate, changed the route and took her to a remote place, where she was raped by the two, and strangled with her dupatta.They also disfigured her face, to conceal her identity.

In September 2012, the high court confirmed the punishment and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2015.

The Governor of Maharashtra had rejected their mercy petitions in April 2016 and the President of India in May 2017.

“Excessive and unexplained delay of over four years (1,509 days) in execution of the sentence of death causes unnecessary and unavoidable pain, suffering and mental torment that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violative of Article 21 (right to life),” the duo said in the petitions filed in the HC last week.

The petitions cited the Supreme Court judgments that said mercy petitions should be decided within three months.

In the pleas, the convicts said the delay in execution made them believe that the government intended to grant them mercy and let them live.

The petitions sought the court to stay the execution of the death penalty and consider the inordinate delay and seek an explanation from the authorities.

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