Guwahati: Murder convict Mahendra Nath Das, whose death sentence was on Wednesday commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court, thanked 'God for finally answering his prayers'. Das wept with joy when the news of the revised sentence was conveyed to him at the Jorhat Central Jail where he is currently lodged, jail officials said. "Atlast, God has answered my prayers. I am grateful to him", Das, who spends his time in jail reading the Bhagvad Gita, was reported to have said.
Das had beheaded Harakanta Das at Fancy Bazaar and surrendered with the victim's head on April 24, 1996 and in 1997 the sessions court had sentenced him to death. The Gauhati High Court and Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1998 and 1999 respectively.
Subsequently, Mahendra Das' family moved a mercy petition to the then President KR Narayanan in 1999 but the plea was finally turned down in May 2011 by the then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Das then filed a writ petition pleading for commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment since he had already spent about 14 years in jail during the disposal of his petition seeking presidential clemency.
Das also filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP), to commute the death sentence to life sentence which was dismissed by Gauhati High Court in January 2012. He had contended that the delay in deciding his mercy petition by the President and finally giving assent for the death sentence had resulted in excruciating agony and trauma for almost 12 years for no explainable reasons and this was a valid ground for awarding life sentence. Das had even gone a fast unto death in 2010 in protest against the delay in President's decision on his mercy plea.