New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today welcomed the commutation of death sentence of four death row convicts i.e. Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh @ Dharu Singh by President Pranab Mukherjee. They were convicted in the Bara massacre case of 13 February 1993 in Bihar.
The State Government of Bihar and the Ministry of Home Affairs had recommended rejection of mercy petitions of Krishna Mochi and others. However, President Pranab Mukherjee set aside the recommendations of the MHA and the Government of Bihar in the light of the recommendation made by the National Human Rights Commission acting on a complaint filed by Asian Centre for Human Rights for commutation of death sentence on the ground of inordinate delay.
"That the President of India commuted the death sentence in the light of the recommendations made by the NHRC establishes one more layer of protection to the death row-convicts"- stated Asian Centre for Human Rights.
On 8 June 2001, the Sessions Judge, Gaya-cum-Designated Court under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 found Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh alias Dharu Singh guilty and awarded the death sentence. On 15 April 2002, the Supreme Court confirmed their death sentence though Justice M B Shah had dissented against the award of death sentence. Following the confirmation of the death sentence, these death row convicts filed mercy petitions with the President in 2003 and the prison authorities of Bihar forwarded their mercy petitions to the President of India on 3 March 2003. However, their mercy petitions were lost!
On 6th February 2014, ACHR filed a complaint with the NHRC against the refusal and/or failure to consider the mercy petitions filed by the four death row convicts, Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh @ Dharu Singh who are currently lodged in District Jail, Bhagalpur and seeking commutation of the death sentence. The NHRC issued notices to the MHA and the State Government of Bihar to submit their replies.
After perusing the replies of the MHA and the State Government of Bihar, the NHRC in its substantive recommended commutation of the death sentence.
“From a careful analysis of the facts and materials placed before the Commission it emerges that the four convicts in question had submitted their mercy petitions prior to 07.07.2004. This is clear from the admission of the Inspector General (Prisons and Correctional Services), Government of Bihar that the mercy petitions of the four convicts were forwarded to the Secretariat of Hon'ble President of India through the Home Department, Government of Bihar vide letter dated 07.07.2004. But according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and the Secretariat of the Hon'ble the President of India, the mercy petitions had not reached the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India or the Secretariat of the President of India. If the claim of the Inspector General (Prisons and Correctional Services), Bihar that the mercy petitions were sent to the President's Secretariat through the Home Department (Special) Bihar vide letter dated 07.07.2004 is correct, where did they go and what happened to those petitions? The fact remains that the mercy petitions submitted by the four convicts prior to 07.07.2014 were not considered by the competent authority even after 12 years. It is only after the intervention of the Commission that new mercy petitions dated 31.3.2013 along with the connected documents were sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs on 28.03.2016. Even these mercy petitions are still pending consideration by the competent authority.”
The NHRC further stated “In the case of Shatrughan Chauhan (supra), the death sentence of 15 death row convicts was converted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding their mercy petitions by periods ranging from 5-12 years. In the case of Ajay Kumar Pal, the delay involved was 3 years and 10 months. From the above mentioned judgments of the Supreme Court, it is clear that Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh, who are death row convicts and who had submitted their mercy petitions prior to 07.07.2004 have a strong case to get their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment as their mercy petitions remained un-disposed off for more than 12 years and their death sentences were not executed for more than 12 years. Even the new mercy petitions dated 31.3.2013, referred to in the letter dated 28.3.2016 of the Special Secretary (Law), Government of Bihar addressed to the Joint Secretary (Judicial), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India have not yet been disposed off, despite expiry of a period of three years and six months.
Hence the Commission recommends that their mercy petitions may be considered by the Government of India and appropriate proposals may be submitted to the Hon'ble President of India.”
The order of the NHRC is available at: http://nhrc.nic.in/display.asp?fno=684/4/5/2014