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Verdict brought closure to legal battle (Case Study)

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Around 11 am on January 21, as the three-judge bench at the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts, Arun Kumar, thought he had not heard the verdict correctly.

According to the order, the death sentences of his elder brother Sanjeev Kumar and his wife Sonia had been commuted, on the grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions.

The couple, who have been in custody for more than 12 years, will now spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The verdict brought closure to the legal battle Arun and his family had been fighting since 2004, after the Hissar sessions court sentenced the couple to death for the murders of eight family members of Sonia’s maternal family in 2001.

“Ever since, we have been getting nightmares that the two would be hanged,” said 33-year-old Arun, a sales executive with a diagnostic lab in Delhi.

While exploring all possible options to save the couple, Arun realised that the wait for a response to the mercy petition could be endless. While the Haryana governor took eight months to decide on the plea, the President sat on it for almost six years. “Every activity of the government authorities related to death row convicts is shrouded in secrecy. 

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Hope at death's door: why it's good news for 400 convicts

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Few can understand the relevance of the January 21 Supreme Court (SC) verdict on death row convicts better than Arulselvi. The 40-year-old assistant professor at Tamil Nadu’s Annamalai University is the younger sister of Arivu, who, with two others, faces capital punishment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. 

The SC verdict will have a direct bearing on Arivu’s case as the group has been seeking to commute the death penalty served to them because of a delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions.

Hailed as a landmark judgement in capital punishment jurisprudence, the SC commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts on the grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President, and set out guidelines to protect the rights of condemned prisoners. 

The SC verdict will also impact the case of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted in a 1993 bomb blast case in Delhi, in which nine people were killed. “The verdict has given us a ray of hope. I am sure that while hearing the writ petition for my brother, the SC will consider the January 21 verdict,” said Arulselvi.

The pendency or the time lapse between the SC pronouncing capital punishment and the President deciding on the mercy petition has been 13 years in the case of Arivu, Murugan and Santhan. It has been 10 years in Bhullar’s case. 

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Supreme Court asks Centre, States to respond to a petition alleging "blatant violation" of fundamental rights of prisoners

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New Delhi, Sep 13: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre, all the states and Union Territories to respond to a petition alleging "blatant violation" of fundamental rights of prisoners, especially the indigent and juveniles in jails across the country.

A bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai issued notices and asked the Centre, state governments and UT administrations to file their replies within four weeks.

The PIL, filed by a Delhi-based HRLN lawyer Suma Sebastian, has said the 1983 Mulla panel recommendations on prison reforms have not been implemented in letter and spirit and despite the law being in force; the poor and juveniles are languishing in jails.

The petition has sought a direction for immediate release of those under trials who are "held solely on bailable offences and have been in jails for longer than one week."

Those under trials, who are in jails for longer than half of the maximum sentence, be released, it said, adding, if the probe continues beyond the stipulated period of "60 or 90 days" (depending on the nature of the offence), the accused may be released.

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Compensate Railways for loss in 2011 stir, SC tells Haryana

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Team set up to ensure return of families that fled Mirchpur

New Delhi, July 24
The Supreme Court today directed the Haryana’s Claims Commissioner to pass an order within four weeks on the Railways’ claim for a compensation of about Rs 34 crore for the loss suffered during a ‘rail roko’ stir at Jind for 11 days from January 15-26 in the year 2011.

A Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and Gopala Gowda asked the Railways to submit its claim within four weeks and the Claims Commissioner, retired District and Sessions Judge RC Bansal, to consider it and pass an order within four weeks thereafter.

The Bench passed the order after hearing arguments on a PIL filed by some victims of the anti-Dalit violence that took place at Mirchpur village in Hisar district on April 21, 2010.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for the petitioners, contended that the ‘rail roko’ agitation had been launched to demand the release of about 100 accused persons who had been prosecuted for the violence. This was disputed by Additional Advocate General (AAG) Manjit Singh Dalal, who said it was part of a larger agitation by the Jat community in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh seeking job quota.

According to the Railways, it suffered a loss of Rs 33.95 crore due to the agitation in Haryana. Of this, Rs 32 crore was accounted for by freight earning and about Rs 1.83 crore by passenger earning. The haulage loss was assessed at Rs 5.15 lakh and the damage to railway property at Rs 7.23 lakh.

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Explore bringing back dalit victims to Mirchpur: Supreme Court

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked legal experts and social scientists to explore the possibilities if Dalit victims of Mirchpur Village violence in Haryana could be brought back and resettled in their native place.

The court's observation followed the state government's statement that it would provide food grain and employment to the Dalit victims from Hisar district.

An apex court bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice V Gopala Gowda asked the president of the Hisar District Legal Aid Committee and representatives of Tata Institute of Social Sciences to explored the possibilities if the displaced victims could be brought back to the village or suggest other alternative options.

"We consider appropriate to request the Hisar Legal Aid Committee and the nominee of the director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences to conduct joint inspection with the assistance of other officers of the district to suggest available solutions," the court said.

Dalit settlements were targeted and torched by the members of dominant case April 21, 2010 in which a 70-year-old man his 18-year-old physically challenged daughter were killed.

The court's order to explore the possibilities of bringing back the displaced Dalits came after Haryana's Additional Advocate General Manjit Singh Dalal told the court that "resettling them outside Mirchpur was not possible".

The court said that those members of the victim families who need employment should approach the competent authority for employment under the rural job scheme.

"They are not coming" as they had found employment, Dalal told the court.

As senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for victim petitioners, told the court that they were scared of going back to their village fearing a backlash, the court said that things will change only with awareness and change of mindset.

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HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.