India Supreme Court: Delay In Execution Requires Commutation

January 22nd, 2014

This is an interesting approach to the law–becuase it took too long to execute prisoners, the Supreme Court in Indian decided to commute the sentences to life in prison!

India’s Supreme Court commuted the sentences of 15 death row convicts on Tuesday, ruling that “inordinate and inexplicable” delays in their execution were grounds to change their sentences to life imprisonment.

Human rights lawyers hailed a decision which puts strict new conditions on carrying out the death penalty, and could dramatically reduce its use.

“Unexplained delay is a grounds for commuting death penalty to life sentence,” read a ruling from a three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Palanisamy Sathasivam.

The court clarified that delays needed to be “inordinate” and “inexplicable”, but it also said that mental illness such as schizophrenia and the use of solitary confinement could make a convict eligible for a reduced sentence.

“No death row convict can be kept in solitary confinement and it is unconstitutional,” it said.

I know absolutely nothing about Indian jurisprudence, but this could have a perverse consequence–the government moves to execute the prisoners¬†quicker so as not to wait too long so the sentences would be commuted.

Did Justice Brennan not think of this?