The desk of the President of India Pranab Mukerjee is clean. In the last four and half years, President Mukerjee has cleared as many as 32 mercy petitions – perhaps the highest number of mercy petitions cleared by any President of India in recent times.
Mercy petitions cleared by the President date back to 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2007 when President K R Narayanan, President APJ Abdul Kalam and President Pratibha Patil held office.
The President's office refused to comment on the disposal of mercy pleas.
Of the 32 mercy petitions cleared, 28 were rejected by the President. That's over 87 per cent of the total mercy petitions.
The rejected lot includes the mercy plea of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab – the lone 26/11 Mumbai attacker who was caught and that of Gurmeet Signh convicted in the 1986 for murdering 13 members of a family.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that advises the President on mercy pleas sent its first recommendation on Gurmeet's mercy plea in 2007 when President Kalam was in office. The plea wasn't decided upon by either President Kalam or his successor President Pratibha Patil – the first woman President.
President Mukerjee also decided on the mercy pleas of Mohammed Azfal Guru – convicted for the 2001 Parliament attack and that of Dharampal, convicted in 1993 for murdering five people. For Guru too, the MHA sent its recommendations twice. The first recommendation was sent to President Patil in 2011. She didn't decide on the plea.
For Dharampal, the MHA sent its recommendation as many as four times. The first recommendation was sent in 2000 when President K R Narayan was the President of India.
President Mukerjee also rejected the mercy plea of Simon, Gnanaprakash, Madaiah and Bilavendra who were convicted for engineering a 1993 landmine blast in which 22 policemen died. They submitted their mercy petition in 2005 when K R Narayanan was in office.
Four mercy pleas were also accepted by President Mukerjee. The last mercy plea accepted by President Mukerjee was in January 1, 2017. The President commuted the death sentence of Krishna Mochi, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Singh who were convicted under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for killing of 32 people in Bara in Gaya district. They were awarded the death sentence in 2001.
President R Venkatraman -who was in office between 1987-1992 - rejected as many as 44 mercy petitions, the most by any President of India.
President Pratibha Patil accepted as many as 30 mercy pleas. President Patil, it is understood, also asked the Government to change its view in favour of mercy in a number of cases. And, perhaps accepted the highest number of mercy pleas.
HOW THE MERCY PETITIONS ARE DECIDED UPON
- The Constitution of India – Article 72 – gives the power to the President of India to pardon, commute, suspend or remit a death sentence.
- The President, however, acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- The Minister of Home Affairs examines all mercy pleas and advices the President of India.
- There is, however, no fixed time for the President or MHA to decide on a mercy plea. Presidents have demitted office without taking any decision on mercy pleas.
- Once a convict has been awarded a death sentence by the Supreme Court – the highest court in India – anyone, even a foreign national can move a mercy plea.
- A mercy plea can be sent directly to the President of India or the Governor of the concerned state who then refers the issue to Minister of Home Affairs.
Also see on HuffPost: