20 years in jail and still waiting...

20 years in jail and still waiting...

Initially, jail officials were wary of their conduct. But as time passed, their fears too were passe.

20 years in jail and still waiting...

Death row convicts are quarantined and kept in solitary confinement in a separate enclosure within the prison premises, but this has not been the norm with four aides of slain forest brigand Veerappan, convicted for the 1993 Palar bomb blasts in which 22 people, including four police personnel, were killed. They have access to other prison barracks, do chores and chat with other convicts.

Behaviour of Gnanaprakasham, Simon Antonyiappa, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, awarded death sentence for their heinous crime committed 20 years ago, is described, by prison staff, as “normal”. They are so pally with other convicts that they are not looked down upon as death row convicts. From dawn to dusk, they mingle freely and do prison work assigned to them.

The Supreme Court awarded the deadly foursome death penalty in  January 2004. They were lodged in the Hindalga jail in Belgaum, the only prison in the state with execution facilities, on February 10, 2004. Two days later, on February 12, 2004, they petitioned the President of India for clemency, which was rejected earlier this month.

A prison official, requesting anonymity said, initially officers were wary of their likely conduct. But, as time passed, their fears too were passe. The foursome, many a time, behaved better than other convicts and undertrials. During interaction with other convicts, all four plead innocence and do not show any remorse for the Palar bomb blast casualties.

Turn to God

Simon, Madaiah and Gnanaprakasham are assigned routine chores, while Bilavendran is mainly used for repair of  electrical fittings, wiring and other such work as he is skilled in the trade. However, after the President turned down  their mercy plea, they have been kept in solitary confinement under round the clock watch and ward as they are depressed and say their fate is now in God’s hands, the official added.

Now that they are spared from daily chores, all four spend their time in prayer. They do keep tabs on television news for the latest from the apex court on their plea for commutation of sentence.

Prison Deputy Superintendent C R Tallur certified the conduct of the four as good. Priests Joseph Alexander from Savadatti and Antonyswamy from Hidkal Dam, both in Belgaum district, Pommuswamy and Martin from Bellary district, reportedly relatives of the four convicts who met them in prison recently, said they were in good health and were happy to see them.

Close family members, however, have not called on them in recent times.
According to the priests, all four poured out their feelings and shared memories of their families, with the fear of sentence writ large on their faces all the while. 

The Supreme Court temporarily suspending the death sentence awarded to four aides of slain brigand Veerappan has set off a fresh debate whether executions are justified when a decision on mercy petitions of condemned convicts is inordinately delayed before being rejected. The judiciary ought to ensure that the entire judicial process up to the Supreme Court is completed within a reasonable time of not more than three years from the date of pronouncement of a death sentence by the trial court, argue experts. A report...

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