Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday commuted the death penalty of two convicts in the 2007 Pune BPO gang-rape and murder case to life term for a period of 35 years on the grounds that there had been an inordinate delay in executing them.
A division bench of Justice B.P. Dharmadhik-ari and Justice Swapana Joshi was hearing a petition filed by Purushottam Borate (38) and Pradeep Kokade (32). The convicts sought a stay on the execution of their death sentence on the ground that there had been inordinate delay in deciding their mercy petitions by the Maharashtra governor and the president, and also in issuance of the warrants for execution of the death penalty.
“Excessive and unexplained delay of over four years in execution of the sentence of death causes unnecessary and unavoidable pain, suffering and mental torment that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment violative of Constitution Article 21 (right to life),” they said in the petitions. The convicts were to be executed on June 24 but the high court had said on June 21 that the execution should not take place until further orders.
The state government during the hearing had vehemently opposed the petition and sought its rejection. It had said that while considering the rights of the convicts, the rights of the victim’s family and the collective conscience of the society would also have to be kept in mind.
The state had also put blame on the Pune sessions court that despite submitting several applications before the court to fix date of the execution, they received no response.
The court in its final judgment made it clear that “Merely writing letters to the sessions court seeking for a date to be fixed for execution of the death penalty cannot be seen as compliance.”
The court said in its order stated, “We find that the delay in executing the death penalty in the present case was undue, inordinate and unreasonable. There was unexplained delay from the part of both Central and state government in processing mercy petition and delay could have been avoided if the mercy petitions and execution process were dealt with some sense of urgency,” the court said.
On November 1, 2007, a Wipro BPO employee, who was then 22-year-old, got into the regular cab contracted by the company to report for her night duty in a Pune suburb. Cab driver Borate, accompanied by his friend Kokade, changed the route and took her to a remote place, where they raped and strangled her with her dupatta.