The Supreme Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.
One Jayashri, wife of Maradi Subbaiah was found raped and murdered in her home in 1998, which led to the registration of Crime. The appellant was arrested in connection with said crime and has been in custody since then. After due investigation, the appellant was tried in Sessions Case on the file of Sessions Judge, Bengaluru for having committed offenses punishable under Sections 302, 376 and 392 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
He was sentenced to death for the offense.
The Petitioner submitted that he was kept in a single cell from 2006 to 2016 in a block called the Andheri Block. During this time, he was kept for most of the day inside the cell. The only other person he saw was the prison guard. He was made to eat and use the toilet within his cell and was not allowed to meet or speak to any other inmates, for the entire duration he was allowed to participate in a pooja and a yoga camp only in one instance. Therefore from 2006-2016 the Petitioner was kept in strict solitary confinement.
The three judges bench of The chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha observed that first and foremost, the time taken by each of these authorities and the functionaries assisting them cannot be called or termed as “inordinate delay” and secondly, it was not as if every passing day was adding to the agony of appellant. The order of stay of execution had put the matter in a different perspective.
The bench noted that from 2006 till 2016, the appellant was kept in solitary confinement in “Andheri Block” and it was only thereafter, some relaxation in the rigours of 30 the solitary confinement was effected and as the record shows, from 2016 onwards the conditions were gradually relaxed.
It was stated by the court that the law on the point, as declared in Sunil Batra is very clear and as was held by the Court in Ajay Kumar Pal, segregation of a convict from the day when he was awarded death sentence till his mercy petition was disposed of, would be in violation of law laid down by the Court in Sunil Batra.
It was viewed by the court that the impact of solitary confinement were obviously evident in the instant case, as would be clear from the letter given by the medical professional and the communication emanating from the jail.
“The incarceration in solitary confinement thus did show ill effects on the well-being of the appellant. In the backdrop of these features of the matter, in our view, the appellant is entitled to have the death sentence imposed upon him to be commuted to life imprisonment” the court said.
The court imposed upon him a sentence of life imprisonment with a rider that he shall undergo a minimum sentence of 30 years and ordered that if any application for remission is moved on his behalf, the same shall be considered on its own merits only after he has undergone an actual sentence of 30 years.
The court directed that if no remission is granted, it goes without saying that as laid down by the Court in Gopal Vinayak Godse vs. State of Maharashtra, the sentence of imprisonment for life shall mean till the remainder of his life.
It was observed that the instruction quoted in paragraph 3(f) of the Judgment leads to an incongruous situation. According to it, the mercy petition must be filed within seven days of the disposal of the appeal or dismissal of the special leave petition. A convicted accused is entitled to file a review petition within thirty days.
“An anomalous situation, like the present one, may arise where even before the review is filed, the mercy petition is required to be filed. The concerned instruction requires suitable modification so as to enable the convicted accused to file mercy petition after exhaustion of remedies in Court of law” the court stated.
Case title: B.A. Umesh v/s Union of India & Ors.
Citation: Criminal appeal no.1892 of 2022