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Death sentence for sisters convicted of murdering 9 children in 1990s commuted

The sisters were sentenced to death by a Kolhapur trial court in 2001, and the ruling was upheld by the HC in 2004.

Death sentence for sisters convicted of murdering 9 children in 1990s commuted
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The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday commuted the death sentence of sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit to life imprisonment after the state delayed in having their mercy petition reviewed for seven years and 10 months.

The sisters were convicted for kidnapping 13 children between 1990 and 1996 in and around Kolhapur district to use them as a cover to snatch chains and purses. They were also convicted for murdering nine of them. Their mother, Anjanbai, who was also taken into custody, died in 1997 before the trial began.

The sisters were sentenced to death by a Kolhapur trial court in 2001, and the ruling was upheld by the HC in 2004. Subsequently, their appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2006 and their mercy petition was rejected by the president in 2014.

Advocate Aniket Vagal, who represented the duo in the HC, informed the division bench of justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal — which heard the sisters' 2014 petition that the two sisters had approached the HC against the inordinate delay on the part of the state to get the mercy petition decided by the president after the apex court had rejected their appeal.

The sisters claimed that the delay of nearly eight years between the SC's ruling on their death sentence and the state filing their mercy petition before the president was unfair, cruel, excessive, unexplained and arbitrary and the delay had caused immense mental torture and emotional and physical agony to the petitioners.

As per procedure, once the SC confirms a death sentence, the convict may file a mercy petition before the president, seeking pardon. It is the state government's responsibility to get a mercy petition heard and decided by the president.

The HC in its order on Tuesday observed, "Having considered the facts and circumstances in which the delay of seven years, 10 months and 15 days in the disposal of the mercy petitions has occurred, we find that it is entirely attributable to the officers of the respondent governments, more particularly that of the state government."

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