President converts 4 tribals’ death sentences to life terms
President Pranab Mukherjee has disposed of all mercy petitions of death penalties pending before him till date. The latest was the case of Bara massacre accused of Gaya district, where 32 Bhumihar Brahmins were killed by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), a banned outfit. In 2001, Krishna Mochi along with three others, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Sing, alias Dharu Sing, were awarded capital punishments by a sessions court in connection with the massacre.
They were tried under the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty by a majority of 2:1 in a three-judge Bench. Justice M B Shah differed from the view of the majority. He acquitted Sing and commuted the death sentences of the three others to life.
All the four convicts have been lodged at Bhagalpur Central Jail. Their mercy petitions were dispatched from the jail on March 2, 2003. Since then, it was pending with the Union Home Ministry. Only in the month of August last year, the Home Ministry sent the mercy petition to President Mukherjee for his consideration.
The President sought legal opinion on the matter because of a recent landmark judgment of the Apex Court which overturned an earlier judgment and drew a distinction between murders related to terrorism and other kinds of murders.
After considering the merit of the case carefully, the President endorsed the view of the dissenting judge except for the acquittal of the accused. In the month of January this year, the President reduced the death sentences of those convicts to life imprisonment. This was the last mercy petition pending before him. During his tenure, President Mukherjee has accepted four mercy petitions and rejected 28.
Among them were high profile cases including dreaded Pakistan terrorists Ajmal Kasab, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and Afzal Guru of Jammu and Kashmir which drew international interest and was debated widely.