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UA 224/91 - India: death penalty: Sewaka Perumal, Essaki Muthu

, Índice: ASA 20/030/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: 20/30/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 224/91 Death Penalty 1 July 1991
Essaki MUTHU
Amnesty International is concerned that Sewaka Perumal and Essaki Muthu face
imminent execution following the rejection of their recent appeals by the
Supreme Court.
Sewaka Perumal and Essaki Muthu were convicted of murder and sentenced
to death in a Sessions Court trial in 1986. They, and a third man later acquitted,
had been charged with the murders of Athiappan in 1978, Chelladurai in 1981,
Hari Ramchandran in 1982 and Christ Odas in 1983. All of the murders took place
in the state of Tamil Nadu.
The High Court appeal in 1989 confirmed the death sentence for Sewaka
Perumal for two murders and for Essaki Muthu in relation to one murder, but
acquitted the third man. The remaining murder cases were either dismissed or
are still pending before the Madras High Court.
In May 1991, the Supreme Court also confirmed the death sentences for
Sewaka Perumal and Essaki Muthu. The court dismissed an initial special leave
petition sent from jail. Lawyers then brought a review petition to the Supreme
Court, but it was also rejected apparently without the Supreme Court giving
reasons for its rejection. Finally, the Legal Aid Committee petitioned the
Supreme Court stating that the procedures when the court dealt with the special
leave petition had been unfair for a death penalty case. The grounds for this
were based on the fact that when the court dismissed the appeal it did not
have the complete records relating to the case before it. The petition also
stated that the reasons for its decision should be given in the Supreme Court's
The Supreme Court heard the special leave petition again, this time after
calling for the records from the Sessions Court trial. In its final judgement
of 7 May 1991 the Supreme Court again dismissed the special leave petition
on the grounds that this was one of the "rarest of rare" cases, in which,
according to Supreme Court precedent, the death penalty can be applied.
The special leave petition had argued for clemency on grounds which
include: the victim's poverty; the fact that the two men should have been tried
separately for each murder on the evidence of each incident and not for multiple
murder; and, because of uncertainty about the identity of one of the murder
victims since the dead body was only identified by the mother of the victim
from a photograph a number of years after the alleged murder.
It is not known whether a mercy petition has been filed seeking
Presidential clemency.
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 from the
neck until death. 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 and airmail letters:
- explaining that Amnesty International unconditionally 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 Sewaka Perumal and Essaki Muthu be commuted,
stressing that the length of time that both men have spent awaiting execution
is a strong humanitarian reason to commute their death sentences.
His Excellency
(Salutation: Dear President)
President Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Office of the President
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 004, India
Telegrams: President Venkataraman, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 31 66427 rbnd in
Mr R. Bhargava
(Salutation: Dear Secretary)
Ministry of Home Affairs
North Block
New Delhi 110 001, India
Telegrams: R Bhargava, Home Affairs Ministry
New Delhi, India
Telexes: 31 61879 frgn in; 31 61880 frgn in
(via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Mr M. M. Jacob
(Salutation: Dear Minister)
Minister of State for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
North Block
New Delhi 110 001, India
Telegrams: Home Affairs Minister Jacob, New Delhi, India
Telexes: 31 61879 frgn in; 31 61880 frgn in
(via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Mr Bhismanarayan Singh
(Salutation: Dear Governor)
Governor of Tamil Nadu
Office of the Governor
Madras, India
Telegrams: Tamil Nadu Governor Singh, Madras, India
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of India in your country.
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 12 August 1991.

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