SC wants to examine all death row cases

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In the wake of questions raised in the Supreme Court on home minister P. Chidambaram’s assertion that mercy petitions are decided one-by-one and RTI information that 17 such petitions had been shuttling between the ministry and Rashtrapati Bhavan during past six years, the apex court on Tuesday broadened the ambit of entire issue seeking to examine the cases of all death row convicts across the country.

In view of the serious 'fallacy' found in dealing with the mercy petitions by the home ministry as was revealed in the RTI information placed on record, a bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyaya gave four weeks time to the Centre to collect data from all the states about all death row convicts languishing in jails for years.

The top court said in the cases of some high-profile convicts, mercy petitions were filed by multiple agencies and individuals, including some agencies even outside India but there were 'insignificant guys' whose cases were just forgotten after their conviction and they even did not know about their right of judicial process.

“Some people have access to judicial process some may not. Are they informed that they also have a right to make a representation (to the President and governor). It is not necessary that some agencies might come forward. He is an insignificant guy but in others, many quarters are interested. But we must consider all the cases,” the top court bench told additional solicitor-general Haren Raval, appearing for the Centre.

Describing the matter as “very urgent and of substantial importance”, the top court appointed senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and T.R. Andyarujina as amicus curiae to provide assistance to the court as well as all those 'insignificant' death row convicts languishing in different jail for years.

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