Bombay High Court commutes death sentence of Seema Gavit, Renuka Shinde to life imprisonment

By – Gautam Choudhary

In a case involving the kidnapping and murder of children between 1990 and 1996, the Bombay High Court modified half-sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit’s death sentence to life imprisonment on Tuesday.

Due to the government’s delay in deciding their mercy appeals, a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal agreed to commute the death punishment. The government machinery had shown “laxity and apathy,” according to the Court, and the mercy petition had not been considered so far because of their “casual manner.”

The Bench directed the Maharashtra government to make a decision on the sisters’ remission, who had been imprisoned for more than 25 years. The petition, filed under Article 226 by lawyer Aniket Vagal, sought commuting of their death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of an 8-year delay in carrying out their death sentence.

The sisters were arrested and charged with kidnapping youngsters and using them to conduct robberies before killing them.

During the course of the case, their mother Anjanabai, who was also a defendant, died. In 2001, the Sessions Court in Kolhapur found the two sisters guilty of kidnapping thirteen children and murdering six of them. The Sessions Court sentenced them to death, which was upheld by the High Court in 2004 and then the Supreme Court in 2006. In 2008, the offenders addressed the Governor with a compassion petition, which was denied in 2012-13.

Following that, the convicts filed a mercy petition with the President, which was also denied in 2014. He pointed out that the President had made a decision on the application in less than ten months, with no delays on their part.

Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, on the other hand, remarked that if the Court is considering reducing the death penalty to life imprisonment, it should specify life imprisonment till natural death because there is no room for change.

The petitioners had argued before the High Court that the executive, including the Governor of Maharashtra, the State Government, the Central Ministry of Home Affairs, and the President of India, was solely responsible for the delay in deciding their mercy pleas.

According to the plea, they have been in custody for almost 25 years and will be released on December 15, 2021. The Central government’s lawyer, Sandesh Patil, maintained that the mercy plea was delivered to the President as soon as it was received from the State administration.