President Pratibha Patil, it seems, has been the most merciful of all
presidents during the last 3 decades as she has commuted death sentences of 23
petitioners to life imprisonment during her tenure, which is over 90 % of the
total pardon granted since 1981.
On February 9, she accepted the clemency petition of Sushil Murmu, pending
since 2004, who was convicted for giving ‘bali’ (sacrifice) of a 9-year old boy
in Jharkhand for his own prosperity, an RTI response from Rashtrapati Bhavan
It said that since 1981, 91 convicts knocked the doors of Rashtrapati Bhavan
seeking commutation of their death sentences to life imprisonment.
Of these, petitions of 31 individuals were accepted out of which 23 were during
According to the reply provided to applicant Subhash Agrawal, 18 mercy
petitions were still pending before the president.
Patil, however, in exceptional cases, has rejected the petitions of 5
individuals which include the 3 killers of Rajiv Gandhi—Santham, Murughan and
Arivu—and Davinder Pal Singh and Mahedra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered
68-year-old Harakanta Das, the then secretary of the Guwahati Truck Drivers
Association at a roadside stall.
In Murmu’s case, his sentence was commuted to life by Patil even though he was
convicted for the killing, which was termed by the Supreme Court as “an
illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the ‘rarest of rare
cases’ in which death sentence is and should be the rule, with no exception
(source: Press Trust of India)