A second mercy petition has been filed before President Ram Nath Kovind by the 12-year-old son of Shabnam, a death row convict, seeking to convert her capital punishment to life imprisonment. If the President rejects the mercy plea, Shabnam will be the first woman to be hanged for a crime after Independence.
The matter caught media attention after hangman Pawan Kumar recently visited the Mathura Jail for inspecting the gallows where the hanging will be executed. Mathura Jail is the only jail in India which has the provision to hang a woman convict.
Shabnam, along with her lover Saleem, was convicted of killing seven members of her family including a 10-month-old child in Amroha in western Uttar Pradesh.
In January last year, the Chief Justice of India rejected their mercy plea, stating that the courts punish the crime not the person. This is the second mercy petition before the President of India, appealing to convert their punishment to life imprisonment based on the similar case of Renuka Shinde and Seema Mohan Gavit, sisters who were convicted of kidnapping and killing several children in Maharashtra towns between 1990 and 1996.
In 2010, the lower court found them guilty of mass murder and punished them with capital punishment, the judgment was also held by both the Allahabad High Court in 2013 and Supreme Court in 2015.
Shabnam’s first mercy plea was filed on the ground of her responsibilities towards her son, Mohammad Taj, which was rejected by then Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and then President Pranab Mukherjee.
Later, the legal remedies of both the convicts were exhausted, but the hanging was delayed because the court who issued the black warrant did not mention the date and time of its execution.
The court had said that convicts given capital punishment must be informed about the rejection of their mercy pleas and should be given a chance to meet their family members before they are executed. It had held that solitary confinement of a prisoner, including death row convict, is unconstitutional and it should not be allowed in the prisons.
The court had also stated that execution of the death sentence should be carried out within 14 days after rejection of the mercy plea. The prison authorities must provide legal aid to prisoners facing the death sentence so that they can approach courts for commutation of their sentence on the ground of their illness and delay in deciding mercy pleas by the government, it had added.