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NLU Delhi, Grover, Ramachandran get SC to quash death penalty of killing couple, 2 days after stay

NLU Delhi’s nine-month-old death penalty clinic helped death penalty convicts Shabnam and Saleem win relief in the Supreme Court, which quashed their death warrants on Wednesday after having stayed their execution earlier in the week.

The clinic, according to its press release, coordinated the legal representation for Shabnam and Saleem who in 2008 had, together as lovers, murdered Shabnam’s family and were sentenced to death in 2010 by a sessions judge in Amrohi. Their death penalty was later confirmed by the Supreme Court and six days after the confirmation their death warrants were handed down. They had filed criminal appeals before the Supreme Court which dismissed these appeals on 15 May 2015.

Senior advocates Raju Ramachandran and Anand Grover, representing the petitioners in Shabnam v. Union of India & Anr and National Law University, Delhi through Death Penalty Litigation Clinic v. Union of India & Anr, challenged the hasty award of death warrants and, according to the release, “emphasised the importance of adhering to constitutionally compatible procedures when decisions with an irreversible impact on an individual’s life are taken by the State”.

The death warrants were issued before Shabnam and Saleem could file review petitions or curative petitions, for which the law gives them 30 days, reported the Indian Express.

Justices AK Sikri and UU Lalit held that the death warrants were awarded in “undue haste and were unwarranted” and “ignored the legal and constitutional options (open court review petitions and mercy petitions before the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and the President of India) available to [Shabnam and Saleem]”.

The Supreme Court, through this judgment, has laid down a clear procedure for issuing death warrants which can only be issued after all legal and constitutional remedies have been exhausted. The court also noted that even when death warrants are sought principles of natural justice and due process of law cannot be ignored.

NLU Delhi’s death penalty clinic is currently working on the legal representation of around 30 prisoners sentences to death.

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