Death in Kannada. They’re now waiting for English sentence

BM, 04-02-2013 04:39:00

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As many as 28 appeals by people sentenced to death by the lower courts are pending before the High Court. The current bench hearing the appeals (where one of the judges is not conversant with Kannada) has suggested the constitution of a special bench to dispose of these cases expeditiously


The shortage of official translators has prolonged the agony of death row convicts awaiting their fate in solitary confinement in various jails across Karnataka. As many as 28 appeals in such cases, some dating back to 2008, are pending in the High Court, which has to confirm the sentence. And regardless of earlier reasons for the delay in disposing of these appeals, the huge problem of getting voluminous judgments translated from Kannada to English has stymied the disposal of these cases in the last one and a half years.
Around five months ago, some cases were posted before a two-member division bench where one of the judges does not know Kannada. The bench in its order dated September 17, 2012 said: “It is undoubtedly a very disturbing state of affairs that these cases (for confirmation of death sentence) are pending for years for a final hearing when they are expected to be disposed of expeditiously, giving priority over all other matters.” For speedy disposal of such cases, the bench, among other things, suggested: a) the constitution of a special bench to hear the appeals, and b) placing at least two such cases before the bench hearing such cases where both the judges know Kannada.
The order came when the bench was hearing a case referred to it by another division bench. The case was an appeal for confirmation of the death sentence to six members of the Dandupalya gang. The bench’s order said: “These 28 cases are pending for final hearing since the last 1-4 years. The oldest appeal is of 2008. We are informed by the learned advocates on record appearing for the appellants that the entire evidence in all the referred cases is in Kannada, and in some cases even judgments are in Kannada.” In fact, in one case (1202/2008), the entire records comprising 5,000 pages are in Kannada.
The order said it was impractical to direct the translation of all records in all appeals, but even when it was required it could not be done. The order said: “On June 4, 2012, direction was issued to get the Kannada documents, in the paper book, translated within a period of two weeks. Despite the direction, the registry expressed its inability to get the Kannada documents translated into English since no separate official translator’s branch is attached to this court.”
There was only one official translator provided by the government who is attached to the office of the state public prosecutor, and he could translate only 5-6 pages per day, the order noted.
The order also said one of the counsel, Hashmath Pasha, submitted that advocates should be permitted to move the chief justice to constitute a special bench for hearing the referred cases. The SPP too made such a request.
In another case, counsel Younous Alikhan submitted to the court that he could get the translation done in 10-12 days.
The order said that in other cases, “learned advocates appearing for the parties, if they so desire, may move the honourable chief justice for constitution of a special bench for hearing confirmation cases.
“The registry is also directed to place at least two separate appeals (with connected appeals) at a time before the bench, whenever both the judges on the bench know Kannada, high on the board for the final hearing.”
However, as of now there is no special bench for hearing appeals of confirmation of death sentences.

In the five months since the division bench called for speedy disposal of such cases, only one appeal for confirmation has been disposed of. However, this was a case of the Dandupalya gang and those convicted are implicated in other cases. Eleven members of the gang have been awarded the death sentence and since all of them are implicated in multiple cases, they will have to wait for confirmation in all cases.

Another long list of convicts awaiting confirmation of the death sentence pertains to the serial church blasts case from 1999. Of the 29 accused, 11 were awarded the death sentence. There are four cases totally in this incident and all those convicted are waiting for confirmation. In 2008, Justice SR Bannurmath had called for out-ofturn hearings of confirmation cases so that they can be disposed of swiftly.

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