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Dated Nov 5, 2022

SC reprieve for mentally-ill man on death row

'Impact Of 10-Yr Solitary Confinement Is Evident'

New Delhi: Taking into account the plight of a condemned prisoner who became mentally ill after being kept in the solitary confinement for more than 10 years, the Supreme Court on Friday commuted his sentence to 30 years' jail term without remission.

A bench of Chief Justice U U Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha allowed the of the convict seeking commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment. The bench held that putting a convict under solitary confinement for a long time is violative of the apex court's earlier ruling that could be a ground to grant relief.

"Having considered the entirety of the matter, in our view, the impact of solitary confinement was obviously evident in the instant case, as would be clear from the letter given by the medical professional on 6.11.2011 and the communication emanating from the jail on 8.11.2011. The incarceration in solitary confinement thus did show ill effects on the well-being of the appellant. In the backdrop of these features of the matter, the appellant is entitled to have the death sentence imposed upon him to be commuted to sentence to life," the bench said.

"Considering the facts and circumstances on record, ends of justice would be met if while commuting the death sentence awarded to the appellant, we impose upon him sentence of life imprisonment with a rider that he shall undergo minimum sentence of 30 years and if any application for remission is moved on his behalf, the same shall be considered on its own merit only after he has undergone actual sentence of 30 years," the bench said.

The court, however, rejected the plea of the convict that there was inordinate delay of two years and three months in disposal of his mercy petitions. "The time taken by each of these authorities and the functionaries assisting them cannot be called or termed as 'inordinate delay'.