The Supreme Court has decided that any appeals in a case involving the death penalty will be listed before it within six months of the High Court verdict, PTI reported. The top court will set up a three-judge bench within that deadline to hear such a case, irrespective of whether the appeal is ready or not.
The court issued the guidelines for the handling of death-row cases through an office order on February 12. The order was made public on Friday.
The guidelines came weeks after the Centre moved the top court for more stringent rules for death-row convicts, so that they are not able to misuse legal options to delay their hanging. Such an instance has been seen lately in the case of the four men convicted in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, whose hanging has been delayed as they continue to file pleas in courts.
The order said that if a High Court has confirmed a convict’s death penalty, and the Supreme Court has admitted an appeal against the decision, the registry must immediately act to ensure that the original records are dispatched to the top court within 60 days of the filing of the appeal.
The order said that the Supreme Court registry may insist on the filing of additional documents by the parties involved within a 30-day deadline.
‘Convicts play with the law to delay hanging’
In a plea filed before the Supreme Court on January 22, the Centre had said the current rules were skewed in favour of the convicts, as they allowed them to “play with the law and delay execution”. The government had urged the court to set a seven-day deadline for death-row convicts to file mercy pleas before the president.
The Centre had also sought directions for death warrants to be issued within seven days after a mercy petition is rejected, and to hang the convict within seven days after that. Currently, the minimum time between a mercy plea being rejected and a convict’s execution is 14 days.
The government also urged the top court to declare that once a review petition against death penalty is dismissed, the convicts can file a curative petition only within a stipulated time period.
On January 31, a Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, agreed to examine the Centre’s application and sought responses from various stakeholders on whose petition the court had earlier laid down guidelines relating to the execution of death-row convicts.