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Former soldier on death row for 27 years without parole

Rai’s wife, through senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, narrated the Armyman’s pitiable story on Friday before a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

TNN|
Mar 24, 2018, 01.19 PM IST
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Agencies
Death-row
Lance Naik Devendranath Rai, from a remote village in UP’s Amethi, was taken into custody on June 15, 1991, for murdering two colleagues.
(This story originally appeared in on Mar 24, 2018)
Lance Naik Devendranath Rai was 33 years old when he was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering two colleagues while he was posted in Mathura in 1991. Today, as a 60-yearold, he is still lodged in Naini Jail in Allahabad. In the last 27 years, he did not get a single day’s parole to visit his family.

Rai’s wife, through senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, narrated the Armyman’s pitiable story on Friday before a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, which sought responses from the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government as well as Naini Jail authorities.

In fact, Rai has suffered a longer incarceration than those who were sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, in which the SC took their 25 years in jail as a ground to commute death sentences to life.

Rai, from a remote village in UP’s Amethi, was taken into custody on June 15, 1991, for murdering two colleagues. The general court martial convicted him and sentenced him to death on September 12, 1991, which was confirmed by the competent authority on November 11, 1992. Rai had challenged the GCM decision before the Allahabad high court in 1991. Nine years later, the HC upheld the conviction but quashed the death sentence while asking the GCM to re-examine and give special reasons for imposition of death penalty.

Armyman suffered from mental health issues: Wife
The Centre appealed against the HC order and the SC, in January 2006, remanded the case back to the HC and asked it to decide on the question of sentence after balancing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as required before categorisation of a case as “rarest of the rare” to warrant death penalty.

Back in the HC, the petition was dismissed as no one was present to pursue it when it was called for a hearing. An application for restoration of the case was filed before the HC in May 2007. But the HC registry could trace the file only in November 2013, more than six years later. The HC transferred the case to the armed forces tribunal in 2014, which was created in 2007 to deal with cases relating to armed forces personnel.

AFT, Lucknow, dismissed the case in March 2015 as the petitioner’s counsel was not present when the case was called for hearing. It was restored in May 2015 and again dismissed for non-appearance of counsel.

Rai’s wife Mithilesh Kumar told the SC that an RTI query in September last year revealed that her husband was regularly taken to a psychiatrist since 2003 and was also admitted to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. He was also on medication to treat schizophrenia/bipolar disorder.

The wife said in her petition, “His mental health has suffered and has been damaged due to protracted incarceration without any certainty of sentence and a constant fear of the noose.”
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