Expressing concern over the delay in deciding over mercy petitions of some
death row convicts, the Supreme Court has sought records of all such cases. The
development comes amidst reports of President Pratibha Patil emerging as the
most merciful in last 30 years.
As per the information received in reply to an application under the Right to
Information (RTI) Act, 91 convicts sought commutation of their death sentences
since 1981. Of these, 31 petitions were accepted.
Out of the total pardons given, 23 were during the tenure of Patil, which is 90
per cent of the total death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. However,
now the question being raised is whether the mercy selective in nature.
The last pardon given by the President was on February 9 to convict Sushil
Murmu. He was found guilty of sacrificing a nine-year-old boy in Jharkhand for
While ruling on Murmu's sentencing, the Supreme Court had said: "His crime is
an illustrative and most exemplary case to be treated as the 'rarest of rare
cases' in which death is and should be the rule, with no exception whatsoever."
Despite the scathing remarks from the Supreme Court, Murmu has now escaped the
noose. But there have been cases where Patil thought it fit to turn down the
mercy petition upholding death sentence awarded to five individuals.
Those whose mercy petitions were rejected included three killers of former
prime minister Rajiv Gandhi -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, Davinder Pal
Singh Bhullar who killed nine people in an attempt to assassinate Congress
leader Maninderjit Singh Bitta and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam who had murdered
the then secretary of Guwahati Truck Drivers Association, Harakanta Das.
However, on the other side, for 10 years the government has been sitting on the
mercy plea of Parliament attacker Afzal Guru. That forced the apex court to
take note of government's pick and choose policy over presidential pardon.
Expressing concern over delay in deciding over Guru's petition, the Supreme
Court has sought records of all such cases. A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi
and S.J. Mukhopadhyay said the home secretaries of all the states would send
the records of all cases of mercy pleas to the Centre within 3 days.
The Centre would then place the same before the Supreme Court. The SC also made
it clear that states cannot send the records "at their own risk". It wants to
know the process that unfolds the moment the plea reached the competent
The court brushed aside the Centre's contention that delay was caused due to
repeated petitions filed by condemned prisoners in courts.
These observations were made as the apex court was hearing a petition filed by
Bhullar challenging rejection of his mercy plea.
(source: India Today)