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Press Release on the Death Warrants for Shabnam and Saleem

Issued by

Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, National Law University, Delhi

25 May 2015

The Supreme Court today, through a Vacation Bench comprising Justice AK Sikri and Justice UU Lalit, stayed the death warrants to execute Shabnam and Saleem in the cases of Shabnam v State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. and The National Law University, Delhi through the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic v State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.

The death warrants were issued on 21 May 2015 by the Sessions Court, Amroha, after the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of Shabnam, the mother of a 7 year old son, and Saleem on 15 May 2015.

The current petitions filed in the Supreme Court challenge the validity and

constitutionality of the death warrants issued by the Sessions Court, Amroha on the grounds that these warrants contravene the fundamental rights of the prisoners and the guidelines issued by the Allahabad High Court in Peoples Union for Democratic Rights

v.

Union of India (Surinder Koli’s case) and the Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan

v.

Union of India & Ors.

The guidelines in the above cases lay down the procedure to be followed before a death warrant is issued. According to these guidelines Shabnam and Saleem have a fundamental right under the Constitution of India to be given sufficient notice before the death warrant is heard and also have a lawyer represent them in these proceedings. These basic constitutional safeguards were not followed in this case.

Another egregious violation of the fundamental right to life is that the death warrants do not mention the exact date when the execution will be carried out. Instead, it requires the jail authorities to carry out the execution ‘as soon as possible’. Shabnam and Saleem have been put under constant fear of their death due to this.

The stay is an assurance to death row prisoners that their lives are not subject to the whims of the State. It is a guarantee that the rights of persons under death row will be protected and reinforcement of the fact that they are entitled to full protection of the Constitution.

Justice Sikri and Justice Lalit will now hear detailed arguments challenging the constitutional validity of the death warrants on 27 May 2015. Senior Advocates Anand Grover and Raju Ramachandran appeared on behalf of the Petitioners Shabnam and the National Law University (Death Penalty Litigation Clinic) respectively.

The Death Penalty Litigation Clinic at National Law University, Delhi has been coordinating legal representation for Shabnam and Saleem after the Supreme Court’s judgment confirming their death sentences. The Clinic is currently involved in the legal representation of over 30 prisoners sentenced to death in India.

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