In a rare gesture, President Pranab Mukherjee has set aside Union Home Ministry’s recommendation and commuted the death sentence of four persons convicted of killing of 34 upper caste people in Bihar in 1992.
The President gave a new lease of life on the New Year day to Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh alias Dharu Singh, by commuting their death sentence to life imprisonment.
The Home Ministry, based on the recommendations of the Bihar Government, had recommended on August 8, 2016 that the mercy petition of all the four be rejected.
However, the President took into consideration various facts relating to the case, including the delay in handing over the mercy petitions of the four accused by the state government and the observations made by the National Human Rights Commission.
The NHRC, in its order last year, had said that after an “analysis of the facts and materials placed before the Commission, it emerges that the four convicts in question had submitted their mercy petitions prior to 07.07.2004.
“This is clear from the admission of the Inspector General (Prisons and Correctional Services), Government of Bihar that the mercy petitions of the four convicts were forwarded to the Secretariat of Hon’ble President of India through the Home Department, Government of Bihar vide letter dated 07.07.2004.”
However, the mercy petitions neither reached the Home Ministry, nor to the President’s Secretariat.
It was only after the intervention of the NHRC that these were processed after 12 years.
The four were awarded death sentence in 2001 by a sessions court in connection with the massacre of 35 Bhumihars (a landed upper caste) by the Maoist Communist Centre.
On April 15, 2002, the Supreme Court confirmed their death sentence with a majority judgement of 2:1, with Justice M B Shah dissenting against such an award.