India's Supreme Court has stayed the death penalty of a man found guilty of beheading his five daughters by 24 hours.

The execution of Maganlal Barela, a resident of Sehore district in the northern Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, was to have been carried out on Friday morning. However, local reports say it has been postponed on orders of Chief Justice P Sathasivam.

Barela is being held at the state's Central Jail, which is in Jabalpur district. He was scheduled to die by hanging. The Deccan Herald says Barela's petition has been tagged, with several other death row inmates. It is understood that these petitions ask for cancellation of capital punishment on various grounds.

The stay order on the execution was issued after members of the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) approached the country's apex court. According to a report in the Business Standard, PUDR activists went on Thursday night to the residence of the Chief Justice, who ordered the stay at midnight.

Barela was found guilty in June three years ago, of killing his daughters, whose ages ranged from 12 months to six years. He killed them by beheading them with an axe, in a property dispute involving his two wives.

He was charged for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and awarded capital punishment in February 2011.

In July, Barela made a plea for clemency to President Pranab Mukherjee but it was rejected. A subsequent plea to convert the death penalty to life imprisonment was rejected by the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the Supreme Court.