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'How could I have seen my son being hanged'

May 01, 2013 20:55 IST

The Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of Mahendra Nath Das, a condemned prisoner from Assam, to life sentence.

Das has been on the death row for the last 16  years and the long delay in deciding his mercy plea was considered as a ground for commuting the death sentence.

“Our prayer has been finally heard by the Almighty. I am very happy today. How could I have seen my son being hanged after he has already served so many years in prison,” said Kusumbala Das, mother of Mahendra Nath Das.

Mahendra’s sister Pratima Das said the family would request the authorities to shift Das from Jorhat jail to the Guwahati Central Jail so that their mother could meet him.

“We are poor people and cannot afford to travel 400 km to Jorhat to see our only brother,” said Pratima, an anganwadi worker.

The family of Harakanta Das, the man murdered by Mahendra Nath Das in 1996, has expressed  satisfaction over the Supreme Court’s order.

“We had earlier demanded the death sentence for him. But subsequently, after seeing the condition of his poor family and ailing mother, we are ready to accept such a verdict from the Supreme Court,” said Amal Das, son of Harakanta Das.

Mahendra Nath Das had moved the Supreme Court after the Gauhati high court turned down a writ petition filed by his mother to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment, on the plea that he had been kept confined in the death row for years due to the delay in disposal of his mercy petition by the President of India.

Das was awarded the death sentence by the Kamrup sessions court in August 1997 for the brutal murder of Hara Kanta Das at Fancy Bazar in Guwahati on April 24, 1996.

Immediately after committing the crime, Das had surrendered before the police, along with the murder weapon, a machete, and the severed head of the victim.

The death sentence was later confirmed by the high court in February 1998 and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court in May 1999.

But Das has been waiting for the execution of the death sentence for the past 14 years.

A mercy petition he sent to the President in June 1999 was rejected in May 2011.

But he soon obtained an interim stay order from the Gauhati High Court, which on June 17, 2011 served notices on the state and Union government, asking why it took more than 12 years to dispose of the convict’s mercy petition.

K Anurag in Guwahati