PUCL Bulletin, July 2001

Amnesty International:
Ram Deo Chauhan is facing Execution

Ram Deo Chauhan (alias Raj Nath Chauhan) Ram Deo Chauhan is facing execution, after the Supreme Court on 10 May dismissed a petition seeking review of its July 2000 judgement upholding his death sentence. There is strong evidence that he was 15 at the time of the murder of which he was convicted. His only hope of escaping the gallows is a mercy petition that has been lodged with the Governor of Assam and a recent call by the National Human Rights Commission that his sentence be commuted.

Ram Deo Chauhan (son of Shri Fartu Chauhan, resident of village Mailoo, District Karbi Anglong, Assam) was convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court in Assam in March 1998, for the March 1992 murder of four members of a family he worked for as a domestic servant. The trial court rejected evidence from a team of medical experts, who examined Ram Deo Chauhan at the request of the court, that he was a minor at the time of the murder, arguing that on the basis of oral evidence it was likely that he was at least 16. In Indian law, persons under 16 may not be sentenced to death.

Ram Deo Chauhan's death sentence was upheld by the High Court in February 1999. The Supreme Court dismissed a further appeal in July 2000, and commented: "The awarding of lesser sentence only on the ground of the appellant being a youth at the time of occurrence cannot be considered as a mitigating circumstance in view of our findings that the murders committed by him were most cruel, heinous and dastardly".

The review petition that has now been rejected by the Supreme Court argued that there was strong evidence that Ram Deo Chauhan was 15 at the time of the crime, and that his trial and conviction were unsound, because under the Juvenile Justice Act he should have been tried by a Juvenile Court. It also presented evidence that he had not had access to competent legal counsel and that in violation of established law in India, the conviction and the sentence were pronounced on the same day

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