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UA 505/90 - India: death penalty: Juman Khan, K Gurusamy

, Index number: ASA 20/026/1990

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 20/26/90
Distr: UA/SC
UA 505/90 Death Penalty 14 December 1990
Juman KHAN
On 4 December 1990, the Supreme Court rejected a writ petition by Juman Khan (sentenced
to death in November 1984 for the murder of a child) challenging the constitutional
validity of the death penalty in India and asking for his sentence to be commuted
to life imprisonment.
Juman Khan, a rickshaw-puller, the father of two and in his late twenties, is
from Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh. Appeals against his conviction have been rejected by
both the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court. The Allahabad High Court,
confirming the death sentence on 9 September 1985, stated that: "There is no eye-witness
of the occurence in this case. The conviction of the appellant solely rests on
circumstantial evidence". Since then he has been kept in solitary confinement on death
A temporary stay of execution was granted by the President after Juman Khan
submitted a petition to him in July 1988 in which he appealed for mercy and a retrial
on the grounds, among others, that during his trial, being unable to afford a lawyer,
he had a state-appointed lawyer - under the free legal aid scheme - who was too
inexperienced to provide him with an adequate defence. The President rejected his
appeal on 7 November 1988. The Supreme Court then stayed his execution on 10 November
1988 but on 4 December 1990 rejected Juman Khan's writ petition. It is not known
if a date has been set for his execution.
K. Gurusamy of Kila Ramandhi, Kamuthi, is now facing execution after spending ten
years in prison, seven of them in solitary confinement.
Gurusamy worked in the Kaliamman temple at Verkatachalapuram, Tamil Nadu. He
was sentenced to death on 5 February 1981 for murdering his aunt and uncle. He appealed
for mercy to the Governor of Tamil Nadu in 1981. His petition was forwarded to the
President on 19 March 1982 and rejected a year later, on 24 March 1983. The Supreme
Court dismissed his appeal on 26 August 1983 and since then his execution has been
scheduled to take place on three occasions: 22 September 1983, 21 October 1983 and
23 November 1990. His execution was postponed on each occasion. He has complained
about the delay in execution, saying it was a reason to commute the death sentence.
Although the Madras High Court found that "quicker action could have been taken much
earlier" by the executive, the court ruled the delay in execution to be not
The relatives of Gurusamy have also claimed that the delay, and repeated
postponement of execution while he was held in solitary confinement, had caused him
great mental anguish leaving him on one occasion in what they described as a "mentally
disturbed state".
When he was about to be executed on 23 November 1990 the Supreme Court stayed
his execution to allow his lawyer to bring one more petition to appeal against his
death sentence.
The Indian Constitution protects the right to life. Yet on average over a dozen Indians
are executed every year for criminal offences. Most of them are poor and illiterate.
The death penalty is usually carried out by hanging. An attempt to challenge this
method of execution failed before the Supreme Court, which stated in a 1983 judgement
that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity, humiliation or degradation. Amnesty
International believes it involves all these. Although India's higher courts have
ruled that the death penalty can only be applied in the "rarest of rare" cases, the
number of offences carrying the death penalty has been extended in recent years. In
1984, several judges of the Supreme Court repeatedly ruled that a death sentence,
if not carried out for more than two years, should be automatically commuted to life
imprisonment. Other Supreme Court judges, however, have ruled that no such rule could
be adopted.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/express and airmail letters:
- explaining that Amnesty International opposes the death penalty on the grounds
that it violates the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- urging that the death sentences of Juman Khan and K. Gurusamy be commuted to
life imprisonment;
- stressing that the length of time that both men, but particularly K. Gurusamy,
have spent awaiting execution is a strong humanitarian reason to commute their
death sentences;
- stressing that Juman Khan's conviction was based entirely on circumstantial
evidence and that in such circumstances there is always an element of doubt
about guilt and that executions should not be carried out if there is a
possibility that an innocent person may be killed;
- expressing concern at reports that Juman Khan was represented at his trial not
by a lawyer of his choice but by a state-appointed lawyer who he claims was too
inexperienced to provide him with an adequate defence.
His Excellency Mr R. Bhargava
President Ramaswamy Venkataraman Secretary
Office of the President Ministry of Home Affairs
Rashtrapati Bhavan North Block
New Delhi 110 004, India New Delhi 110 001, India
Telegrams: R Bhargava, Home Affairs
Telegrams: President Venkataraman, Ministry, New Delhi, India
New Delhi, India Telexes: 3161879 FRGN IN
Telexes: 31 66427 RBND IN or 3161880 FRGN IN
(via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Mr Subodh Kant Sahay Telegrams: Minister of State Home
Minister of State for Home Affairs Affairs Sahay, New Delhi, India
Ministry of Home Affairs Telexes: 3161879 FRGN IN
North Block or 3161880 FRGN IN
New Delhi 110 001, India (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of India in your country and to the Governors
and Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh (for Juman Khan) and Tamil Nadu (for K. Gurusamy);
Mr B. Satyanarayan Reddy Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
Governor of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Office of the Governor Office of the Chief Minister
Lucknow Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh, India Uttar Pradesh, India
Mr Surjit Singh Barnala Mr Muthuvel Karunanidhi
Governor of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
Office of the Governor Office of the Chief Minister
Madras Madras
Tamil Nadu, India Tamil Nadu, India
Some appeals should be sent in a personal or professional capacity.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 1 February 1991.

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