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Explained: What the Centre’s push for timely execution of death row convicts means

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New Delhi, Jan 23: Amid the growing outrage over the delay in hanging of the four death-row convicts in the Nirbhaya rape-murder case, the government moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its January 2014 judgement that didn't specify a deadline for availing legal remedies.

The plea of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) assumes significance in view of as the hanging in Nibhaya case has been delayed due to filing of review, curative and mercy petitions over a period of several months, prolonging the agony the victim's parents and other family members.

Explained: What the Centre’s push for timely execution of death row convicts means

"Those punished for 'horrible, dreadful, cruel, abominable, ghastly, gruesome and heinous offences' like rape and murder should be not permitted to play with the 'majesty of law' and prolong the execution of the sentence awarded to them," the Centre claimed.

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The Centre submitted this was necessary in the larger interest of public and of the victims and their families.

Centre's claim

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    Seeking modifications of directions issued in 2014 in the Shatrughan Chauhan case, it said, 'all the guidelines provided...are accused-centric. These guidelines, however, do not take into account an irreparable mental trauma, agony, upheaval and derangement of the victims and their family members, the collective conscience of the nation and the deterrent effect which the capital punishment intends to make.'

    The Centre contended that it is found several years before and after the 2014 judgment, the convicts of heinous crimes under the garb of Article 21 (right to life) take 'the judicial process for a ride'.

    Article 21 states, 'No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.

    The plea said the apex court had opined that the delay in execution of death penalty has got a 'de-humanising effect' upon the death convicts.

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    In an application, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) sought a direction 'to mandate all competent courts, state governments, prison authorities in country to issue death warrant of a convict within seven days of rejection of his mercy petition and to execute death sentence within 7 days thereafter irrespective of the stage of review petition/curative petition/mercy petition of his co-convicts.'

    The MHA, in its application, made three prayers which also included a direction from the court that a time period be fixed for such death row convicts for filing curative pleas after the rejection of their review pleas.

    Shatrughan Chauhan case 2014

    In a landmark judgement on 21 January 2014, the Supreme Court held that there must be a minimum 14-day notice given to a convict on death row before the execution.

    "Some prison manuals do not provide for any minimum period between the rejection of the mercy petition being communicated to the prisoner and his family and the scheduled date of execution. Some prison manuals have a minimum period of 1 day, others have a minimum period of 14 days. It is necessary that a minimum period of 14 days be stipulated between the receipt of communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution," the three-judge bench had said.

    The bench noted, "this 14-day period would allow the "prisoner to prepare himself mentally for execution, to make his peace with God, prepare his will and settle other earthly affairs", besides giving him time to "have a last and final meeting with his family members".

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