New Delhi - The Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence awarded to murder convict M N Das to life imprisonment.
The mercy petition of Das was rejected by former President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
Das had approached the apex court for commutation of his death sentence.
A bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi allowed the plea of Das on the ground that the President had taken eleven years to decide his mercy plea.
Das, while out on bail in another case, had beheaded a person at Fancy Bazaar in Assam and surrendered with the victim's head on April 24, 1996. In 1997, the sessions court had sentenced him to death. He is currently lodged in Jorhat Central Jail in Assam.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights has welcomed the apex court's decision, but simultaneously demanded that the death sentence imposed on Devinderpal Singh Bhullar also be commuted to life imprisonment
"The judgment of the Supreme Court is a step in the right direction for eventual abolition of death penalty in the country. It recognizes that life imprisonment remains an equally efficacious form of justice and death penalty is not the only form of justice," said Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
Considering that then President APJ Abdul Kalam in a communication on 30 September 2005 advised the Home Minister, "to consider extending the benefit of clemency to Mahendra Nath Das", there was no ground to recall the file for reconsideration in the first place, and then reject the mercy plea by then President Pratabha Patil.
Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Government of India to commute all death penalty sentences to life imprisonment, including that of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and declare a moratorium on death penalty.
On 30th September 2013, Asian Centre for Human Rights submitted a fresh mercy plea to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking commutation of death sentence of condemned prisoner, Devender Singh Bhullar to life imprisonment, among others, on the ground that Das's mercy plea was considered twice by the President and therefore, Bhullar's mercy plea too be considered afresh.