Afzal Guru Hanged to Death

Execution violated almost every guideline set by the Supreme Court panel now


Mohammad Afzal Guru, hanged for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, could well have had his death sentence commuted if Monday’s Supreme Court judgment on mercy pleas had been delivered a year ago. Guru’s execution last February, carried out secretly, violates almost every guideline of the apex court. The ruling by a bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam commuted the death sentences of 13 prisoners on grounds of “unreasonable, unexplained and exorbitant delay” in deciding their mercy petitions. At least five of them had their mercy petitions pending for slightly less than that of Guru, who was hanged on February 9 last year after a delay of nearly six-and-a-half-years in deciding his plea.
“There is no doubt that if this judgment had come a year earlier, then the late Afzal Guru could have been saved from the gallows,” Congress leader and Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Saifuddin Soz told ET. Soz had complained to home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde last year about the way in which the execution was carried out. The apex court judgment makes clear that terror offences won’t come in the way of commuting a death sentence if the delay is unreasonable.
The new guidelines say the prisoner whose mercy petition has been rejected should be informed in writing along with his family. The person should be given 14 days to prepare for execution, prepare a will and meet family members and friends, among other things. G u r u w a s n o t t ol d o f t h e February 3 rejection of his mercy plea by the president until the night before his execution. There was no last meeting with the family either. The home ministry’s intimation to his family in Kashmir was sent by speed post on February 8 and reached the family on February 10, a day after the execution. “I strongly feel that Afzal’s family should have been informed of the impending execution well in advance and the family should have been called to Delhi so that they could have met him one last time,” Soz said.


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