Two sisters from Kolhapur whose mercy petitions against capital punishment were rejected by the President recently, yesterday moved the Bombay High Court praying their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.
The sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit have, in their petition, contended that the President had taken more than five years to decide their mercy petitions when such a plea should have been disposed of within three months. On this ground alone, their death sentence may be commuted to life term, the duo prayed.
The petition, filed through their lawyer Sudeep Jaiswal, came up before Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode who posted it for hearing today. The judges also asked the petitioner’s lawyer to show judgements which empower the high court to entertain a petition when the Supreme Court has confirmed death penalty and the President has rejected the mercy petition.
The two sisters were sentenced to death in 2001 for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine of them between 1990 and 1996. They were assisted in the crime by their mother Anjana Gavit and Renuka’s husband Kiran Shinde. Anjana died in custody, while Kiran turned an approver. They used to force the children to beg, commit petty thefts and pick pockets.
After having sufficiently used the children in crime, they banged their heads against walls and killed them. The sisters, who could be the first women convicts to be sent to the gallows since independence, are currently lodged in Pune’s Yerwada prison and were recently informed about President’s decision. The 14-day buffer period before execution expired on August 16.