The Maharashtra government Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that there has been no "deliberate or inordinate delay" on its part in deciding and executing the death penalty imposed on two convicts in the 2007 Pune BPO employee's gang-rape and murder case.
The state home department and Superintendent of Yerwada jail in Pune, where the two convicts are lodged, filed their affidavits in response to the pleas filed by the duo seeking to halt their execution scheduled on June 24.
The petitions filed by Purushottam Borate and Pradeep Kokade have claimed that the "inordinate delay" in executing the sentence violated their fundamental rights. They urged the high court to commute their death sentence to life imprisonment.
In the affidavit, the government said the Pune sessions court delayed in issuing warrants for the convicts' execution despite several reminders sent by the Yerwada prison superintendent and Additional Director General, Prisons Department, Pune.
The home department, in its affidavit, stated that the superintendent of Yerwada prison was informed on June 19, 2017 that the convicts' mercy petitions were rejected by the President.
"The Yerwada prison superintendent informed the convicts about the decision on the same day and also wrote a letter to the sessions court concerned, intimating it about the rejection of the mercy petitions and seeking for appropriate orders to be passed regarding the death penalty imposed," the affidavit said.
From June 19, 2017 to December 2018, the Yerwada prison superintendent as well as additional director general, prisons, Pune wrote letters to the sessions court, requesting for appropriate orders to be issued.
"There has not been any delay... on the part of the state government as such, either in intimating the convicts, or in forwarding the documents to the government of India," the state government said in the affidavit.
The affidavit filed by the present superintendent of the Yerwada prison said no blame can be put on the then jailor as he had followed the procedure and had sent repeated letters to the sessions court in Pune, requesting for necessary orders for execution of the death penalty.
"It was entirely within the jurisdiction and totally in the absolute discretion of the sessions court to issue the death warrant. There is no delay in executing the death sentence of the two convicts by the state of Maharashtra," the affidavit said.
Meanwhile, the affidavit filed by the Union government Wednesday said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) received the mercy petitions filed by the two convicts on May 18, 2016 and these were decided on May 26, 2017 after taking into account all relevant considerations, such as the convicts' age, background, role in the offence and so on.
The convicts' counsel, Yug Chaudhry, claimed that this is the first case in the country that has witnessed such an inordinate delay.
A division bench headed by Justice B P Dharmadhikari will continue hearing arguments in the case on Thursday.
A sessions court in Pune had on April 10 issued warrants setting June 24 as the date of execution.
In March 2012, the duo was convicted and awarded death penalty by a Pune sessions court for kidnapping, raping and murdering a BPO employee in Pune in 2007.
The victim, a female Wipro BPO employee, got into the regular cab contracted by the company to report for her night duty on November 1, 2007 in a Pune suburb. Cab driver Borate, accompanied by his friend Kokade, changed the route and took her to a remote place, where they raped her and strangled her with her dupatta. They also disfigured her face to conceal her identity.
In September 2012, the high court confirmed the punishment and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2015. The Governor of Maharashtra rejected their mercy petitions in April 2016 and the President in May 2017.
"Excessive and unexplained delay of over four years (1,509 days) in execution of the sentence of death causes unnecessary and unavoidable pain, suffering and mental torment that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violative of Article 21 (right to life)," the duo said in the petitions filed in the high court last month.
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