India top court commutes 15 death sentences due to delays
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Supreme Court commuted the sentences of 15 death row convicts on Tuesday, ruling that "inordinate and inexplicable" delays in their execution were grounds to change their sentences to life imprisonment.
Human rights lawyers hailed a decision which puts strict new conditions on carrying out the death penalty, and could dramatically reduce its use.
"Unexplained delay is a grounds for commuting death penalty to life sentence," read a ruling from a three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Palanisamy Sathasivam.
The court clarified that delays needed to be "inordinate" and "inexplicable", but it also said that mental illness such as schizophrenia and the use of solitary confinement could make a convict eligible for a reduced sentence.